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Software-defined technology that you should know about

No matter what word follows the phrase "software defined," it catches IT professionals' attention. Here's a deeper look at the different software-defined options.

"Software defined" is one of the most common buzzwords in IT today, but do you know what it really means?

When talking about software-defined anything, we're really talking about the ability to abstract the control plane from the underlying hardware. Then it depends on what exactly is software defined.

Either way, software-defined technology brings advantages, whether it be with software-defined networking and its ability to change on the fly or the software-defined data center, which pools together resources from the physical hardware and distributes them to applications as needed.

These are the software-defined terms that you need to know.

Software-defined storage (SDS)

Instead of focusing on the storage hardware, software-defined storage is managed by software and puts the emphasis on replication, deduplication and snapshots. It keeps the programming that handles storage-related tasks separate from the physical storage hardware.

Software-defined storage (SDS) uses abstraction to separate the storage services from the underlying hardware. Without being tied down to the physical system, storage resources can be used more efficiently, and automated policy-based management can help to simplify administration tasks.

SDS is often associated with virtualized storage, but they have a key difference. Software-defined storage separates the storage capabilities and services from the hardware while virtualized storage decouples capacity.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

When you separate the control of network from physical hardware and give it a software application known as a controller, you have software-defined networking (SDN).

SDN allows administrators to mold traffic from a control console instead of having to shape each individual switch. A regular network has switches that send packets in the same direction, along the same path, in the same exact manner. With software-defined networking, administrators can alter the network switch's rules based on different requirements. It can change the priority of packets and also block certain packets. The flexibility is a big perk for administrators who need to efficiently manage traffic loads, and it can save money with cheaper switches.

Software-defined networking controller

As mentioned previously, SDN decouples the control of the network from the physical hardware and gives it to the software-defined networking controller. The SDN controller manages flow control to allow for smarter networking and gives servers permission to tell switches where to send packets.

Controllers are in the middle of network devices and applications and handle any and all communication between the two. The SDN controller uses protocols to configure devices and choose the ideal network path for application traffic.

Software-defined data center (SDDC)

Where can you get all elements of an infrastructure delivered as a service? A software-defined data center (SDDC) is a facility that virtualizes networking, storage, CPU and security, and delivers them as a service.  In an SDDC, provisioning, deployment, configuration and operation of the entire infrastructure is abstracted from hardware. Those tasks are then implemented through the software.

There are three major parts of a software-defined data center, starting with network virtualization, which combines the available resources in a network. Storage virtualization pools physical storage from multiple network storage devices into a single storage device, and  server virtualization abstracts workloads from physical hardware.

This was first published in July 2014

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