NexGen Cloud: Pressure To Adopt Software-defined Data Center Tech Mounting

IDC's Steve Elliot

Changes in the business environment and new pressures on IT are pushing businesses to consider moving away from traditional IT infrastructures and towards software-defined data centers where the data center functionality is separated from the underlying hardware to make it more flexible.

That's the message from Stephen Elliot, vice president of cloud and IT infrastructure at IDC, during his Wednesday keynote presentation at this week's NexGen Cloud Conference in San Diego.

Elliot told solution providers that pressures from a number of key IT trends, including increased mobility, a jump in the number of apps available, a move to adopt the devops model, and increased content and data generated by user is pressuring IT to change the way it builds data center infrastructures.

[Related: Software-Defined Data Centers: Should You Jump On The Bandwagon?]

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"There are tremendous pressures causing data center administrators to consolidate," he said. "Now they're talking about looking at new ways to do it."

Some industries such as networking and storage are still basically stuck in the past, which is unlike server virtualization which has exploded since 2005 to offer customers flexibility, efficiency and the ability to decouple apps from the server hardware, Elliot said.

"Now we're seeing similar trend lines across networking and storage ... When you think about networking and storage industries, these businesses are ripe for disruption," he said.

In IDC's definition, "software-defined data center" refers to a data center where all the infrastructure, including servers, storage, and networking, are virtualized, pooled, and delivered as services through intelligent control planes, policies, and programmable APIs.

Software-defined data centers have more and more intelligence built into the software layer, and typically include a couple of key components, Elliot said.

These include a virtualized server compute resource pool, software-defined networking that enables physical and virtual switches to automate the orchestration of network traffic, and software-defined storage which decouples the storage function from the hardware, he said.

The value proposition of software-defined data centers is pretty simple, Elliot said.

On the technology side, it improves speed and agility, reduces operational overhead, consolidates management controls, and leads to a service-oriented mentality. On the process side, it leads towards standardization of processes, faster application deployments, and streamline provisioning. And on the business side, it improves time-to-market and innovation, helps reduce compliance and security risks, helps reduce or even avoid capital expense, and reduces vendor lock-in, Elliot said.

NEXT: VAR Interest In Software-defined Data Centers High, But Few Ready To Move

Several solution provider attendees at the NexGen Cloud Conference said they are intrigued by the technology but are still too small to take advantage of the promise of software-defined data centers.

One solution provider said that customers still like to have control over their infrastructure, and so many are slow to adopt cloud computing or software-defined data center technologies.

Customers still prefer to keep their data regional, said Mike Walder, president of Secure Technology, a Honolulu, Hawaii-based solution provider.

"We're heading towards cloud and software-defined data centers," Walder told CRN. "But it takes time for customers in an insulated market to adopt."

A lot of solution providers are just now getting started in terms of software-defined data center technologies, Walder said. "Whether it's software-defined or 'ill-defined' or whatever you call it, it's still early," he said. "I would think that scale will drive customers to this eventually. If you want to scale your infrastructure four time or ten times, how do you do it with traditional infrastructures?"