No matter what part of the data center you're talking about, the term software-defined continues to pop up. At...
this point, most admins and IT staff know what software-defined is and what it does. The next hurdle to overcome is figuring out if you even need to venture down that path. When it comes to software-defined technology, there are plenty of benefits that accompany it.
Why do we even need "software-defined" technology, and what are its benefits?
Today's data centers are often plagued by static hardware configurations that are usually managed by disconnected silos of IT specialists. This complicates and slows new provisioning, sometimes introducing errors or unforeseen consequences that might need remediation before the new workload can enter production. This is an unacceptable mix of circumstances for any business seeking rapid, flexible provisioning with a high degree of automation. Many IT professionals see software-defined technologies as a means of overcoming these problems and achieving the speed and flexibility that new users (and workloads) require from IT in the role of a service provider.
Software-defined technologies promise numerous benefits. The most obvious and often-repeated benefits include provisioning speed and flexibility -- IT silos disappear and resources can be provided, changed and recovered for reuse in a matter of just a few mouse clicks. The close corollary here is the promise of automation, allowing end users to request and provision their own resources without direct IT involvement. This frees IT time for work on more strategic endeavors which can yield more benefit to the business than addressing user provisioning requests.
There is a strong potential for lower hardware costs. For example, a technology like software-defined networking provides a common traffic control schema for more efficient network traffic handling, yet results in simpler -- and potentially less expensive -- physical switches since all that remains is the actual data plane. For network functions virtualization, the use of virtual appliances provides software-only network devices like firewalls, WAN accelerators and so on; which can be considerably cheaper and easier to deploy than physical appliances to do the same jobs.
Integrated management can be more streamlined, with better insights into total resource availability and usage across the data center. This can help with capacity planning and ensure ample resources to meet expected demands. Since resources are abstracted from underlying hardware, there is less chance of inadvertent changes to individual device configurations which might be hard to spot or difficult to troubleshoot.
And software-defined initiatives will build momentum for more common APIs or protocols like OpenFlow. This translates to better software design and superior interoperability between different vendors' products.
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