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The Software-Defined Data Center: What is it, and why do we need it?

In 2014, the digital universe will equal 1.7 megabytes a minute for every person on Earth1. With explosive growth in user demand a practical inevitability over the next few years and widely pervasive adoption of cloud computing, development of the software-defined data center (SDDC) is a necessary step toward delivering cloud-based services with optimized capacity, efficiency, and flexibility.

The drive toward SDDC is enabled by the standardization of IT hardware infrastructure. Core IT resources (compute, network, and storage) are abstracted from the underlying hardware that resides in resource-specific pools, potentially across multiple physical locations.

These virtualized resources are overlaid with advanced management capabilities, which allow IT resources such as computing cycles, storage, and network to be allocated on-demand and at-scale for specific software requirements. Automated provisioning and orchestration functions boost the efficiency of cloud-based applications while reducing the burden on IT.

SDDC will enable IT administrators to efficiently allocate resources on demand and track usage for ease-of-billing to internal business units. It also offers developers potential time-to-market advantages with the ability to quickly release new software, rapidly scaling capacity up and down with demand over an app’s natural lifecycle.

Key benefits of SDDC

The primary technical objective of SDDC is to create a virtualized pool of the three main component silos in the traditional IT infrastructure stack (compute, network, and storage) with the ability to scale across these components as needed. This re-imagined data center architecture will allow IT managers to deploy hardware resources in support of applications and more effectively manage the lifecycles of individual hardware components, without ever disrupting application uptime.

Another benefit of a comprehensively virtual architecture is that it can offer capabilities beyond those of a top-down control structure, where the software merely simplifies the functions of subordinate hardware systems. Instead, SDDC offers a dynamic feedback loop between the resource layers of the data center and the operating software. These layers can interact through applied analytics enabling automated controls and real-time IT management. To achieve this, however, the underlying hardware platform must be sufficiently intelligent and have the capabilities to integrate with centralized software control.

SDDC will provide a standards-based, converged infrastructure that will offer new data center capabilities, greater efficiency, and improved flexibility for administrators of private and public cloud services.

1 Source: “The Digital Universe of Opportunities,” EMC and IDC, April 2014: http://www.emc.com/leadership/digital-universe/2014iview/executive-summary.htm​​