AUTHOR: W. Eric Ledyard
Modern CIOs are looking to transform the way they provide IT services to their companies. The expectation is to provide elastic services to the business without sacrificing security and reliability; all while maximizing the use of internal assets and leveraging external providers as it makes sense to do so. At the same time, company executives are starting to compare their IT department’s services to those that are available from cloud providers and are questioning why their internal systems are not providing similar types of services.
The complication that CIOs face is that they have legacy systems that do not provide the elasticity and scalability required to compete with services providers in the industry. Trying to adopt cloud policies and procedures alone is not enough because ultimately CIOs will find themselves hitting limitations of the physical infrastructure’s inability to keep up with the demands that are placed on them. Physical infrastructure is extremely limited in agility because of the efforts required to make any changes to the environment. Traditionally, CIOs would attempt to improve these areas utilizing virtualization at the compute layer of the architecture. However, even in a highly-virtualized compute environment, the ability to ensure configuration and security management while trying to scale and maximize agility becomes a daunting task and exposes the CIO to undue risk.
To build a highly-scalable IT service organization without first implementing a Software-Defined Datacenter (SDDC) solution implies that CIOs will be constrained at the physical layers of networking, storage, and security as well as management tools and processes. While the compute side of the architecture is able to rapidly grow and scale, the storage, networking, and security services that need to support that environment will not be able to keep up in their traditional physical implementations. I am not going to go into deep detail about everything that encompasses a SDDC infrastructure, others at VMware have already done that (learn more). What I wanted to provide was the business value that a SDDC brings to CIOs, and, give them true independence to build whatever services they need to support the business.
Walking back through the history of virtualization and abstraction, a pattern emerges—and at each intersection, the benefits that each transition provided the IT industry are apparent. First, physical resources were virtualized inside a system to the OS, allowing better utilization of the assets within the systems. Next, the OS was virtualized into a virtual machine and ran multiple virtual machines on a single physical host. This enabled higher density and the ability to rapidly deploy new VMs as needed, thus lowering CapEx and OpEx costs. The next transition was to create virtual apps, which was a collection of virtual machines that were required to host a single application instance. This puts each application and all of the VMs associated with that application into a single container, with the ability to capture and provision an entire application environment rapidly and ensure configuration consistency. This also introduced portability into applications by abstracting the entire application environment into a single container that could be “picked up” and transported to another virtual infrastructure.
The next evolution in infrastructure architecture is to define an entire virtual datacenter in software. This is the core of the SDDC message: To create a single container that captures the entire infrastructure environment into a software-defined object that removes dependency on any single physical infrastructure piece beneath it. This allows for seamless portability of the entire group of datacenter services from one physical infrastructure to another. While the end-state vision of this evolution is to be able to move entire datacenter services from one location to another or burst those services seamlessly to third-party vendors, the simplest implementation of this concept could be used to increase agility and flexibility of the internal physical environment. Stated simply, the agility and flexibility to freely make changes to physical infrastructure without affecting the definition of the datacenter services themselves. The graphic below depicts the major shifts in infrastructure “containerization” I’m describing:
As you can see in the image above, the industry has evolved from abstracting the physical components of a single host to wrapping a container around all the VMs in an environment that comprises a given application environment to defining an entire datacenter entity in software. What started as simply leveraging the capacity of existing servers moved into providing fully functional business solutions, now poised to encompass all aspects of the datacenter.
The call to action for CIOs today is to start looking at your environment and exploring the implications of implementing a Software-Defined Datacenter architecture into datacenter services you implement going forward. VMware has the ability to help you assess your environment and create an actionable plan for transforming your existing infrastructure. And, you can expect to reap the following key benefits for your IT organization:
- Free your environment from physical bonds in the areas of networking, storage, and security
- Exploit captured system assets within your environment to reduce costs (such as server-based flash, local disks)
- Increase agility and time to market for provisioning IT services while maintaining security and availability
- Leverage external providers to provide IT services by making your datacenter services portable and burstable, leveraging third-party provider infrastructure rather than having to build internally.
As the technology enablers become reality, the modern CIO has the ability to abstract entire datacenter services into software-defined containers, freeing them from the bonds of physical infrastructure limitations to create an environment that is agile, scalable, elastic, and efficient.
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