There is a lot of information out there on the part that Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) concepts will play in the upcoming revolution to existing IT infrastructures. These have grown over recent decades in more than 99% of all companies around the globe.
But what about the impact of SDDC on IT organizations?
A viable SDDC strategy will have a significant impact on IT organizations. It will change the way infrastructures will be provisioned, operated, enhanced and maintained. Over the last 15 years, server and storage virtualization have matured and are now the sweet spot of state-of-the-art technology for IT infrastructures. Now the network part of the infrastructure stack is also subject to a similar type of innovation. Network infrastructures had previously been developed in an era in which users had to be connected to physical servers. With server virtualization, users have to be connected to resources hosted in different locations, and so, the concept of physical connectivity has become obsolete. In order to ensure market adoption of virtualization, vendors started with workarounds based on virtual switches as an integrated part of the hypervisor technology. Nowadays, SDDC has developed to the point where it is mature enough (from a technical perspective) to run business-critical workloads, and scale-out scenarios will become too complex – and more importantly, very expensive – with a traditional core-based-network strategy based on an assumption of having north/south network traffic instead of east/west traffic, which is best practice for SDDC software.
We don’t need to go into the technical details of a software-defined and automated provisioning of network resources. And here’s why: because it works. A lot of very large and well-known companies are demonstrating this on a daily basis. It’s much more about how CIO’s can “sell” the new concept to their IT organizations. We have to keep in mind that network administrators are usually highly-skilled, well-trained and CERTIFIED professionals. As a consequence, their personal market value is significantly dependent on running a specific hardware from a specific vendor, which is also a great marketing instrument from a vendor perspective, too. So a win-win situation, except for the employer. SDDC is not limited to a specific hardware or exclusive to specific vendors: it is the key to avoiding this type of vendor lock-in.
Companies have to recognize that the value of their highly-skilled network administrators is not in updating switches during the night or over the weekend, not in writing configurations for core switches, and certainly not in promoting a network concept made for another era of IT-infrastructures developed more than 40 years ago. There is also the security aspect of who can really ensure that all existing firewall and network rules fit perfectly into the underlying infrastructure? With that in mind, it is the worst-kept secret in the industry that most companies are facing security issues that have lain dormant thus far.
In today’s scenarios, companies are facing cybercrime, attacks to their infrastructures, the need to have highly secure connections with customers, partners, sub-vendors etc. SDDC solutions such as PRIMEFLEX for VMware Cloud Foundation provide mechanisms in terms of network-auto-configuration capabilities and lifecycle management, to allow administrators to concentrate on the most business-critical aspect of infrastructures, namely security.
So the challenges facing IT departments and business units today are
- Improving skills to ensure business continuity, supported by rock-solid security concepts,
- Gaining insight into the rapidly developing market and the relevant solutions, and
- Learning how to implement or adapt new strategies in terms of security, and the safe use of applications and connectivity to various device types.
The next step forward for organizations is to take IT on a journey from an approach that treats it solely as a cost center towards one where IT is measured as business value.