Is the world ready for software-defined network architecture?

Man pressing a screen to choose software

During the last 20 years infrastructure has been the domain of the hardware vendors, where the choice of technology and vendor was everything.

Recently, however, we have seen a shift in the form of Software Defined Infrastructure, the oldest of which is Software Defined Networks (SDN) and very recently we have seen the emergence of the Software Defined Datacentres (SDDC).

So what are these new kids on the block, what do they allow organisations to do and ultimately are we at the beginning of the end for the big infrastructure guys?

Software Defined Infrastructure is a new wave of software-based technology that allows the creation and operations of infrastructure through software removing the need of vendor specific products and skills. SDN’s have been making a lot of noise in recent months with the OpenFlow project and start-ups like Nicira both of which offer the ability to create, deploy and manage network infrastructure through software.

The next evolutionary step in this new software driven infrastructure world is the SDDC, this builds on existing software based infrastructure technologies such as server and storage virtualisation and adds in SDN, the end result is an environment that is completely separated from the underlining hardware. The potential of which is unparalleled and what I believe cloud computing has been waiting for, so much so that I have fully embraced this concept within my own business.

The effects of SDDC will be felt across the industry, as for the first time IT departments, service providers and business decision makers will have the ability to design, implement and manage business systems and solutions totally through software. It allows the use of commodity based servers, networking and a mixture of storage all of which shifts the value mostly into the software, the physical infrastructure truly becomes irrelevant and the end customer never has to care about it and can focus on the service itself and what value its bring to the business.

From a technical point of view SDDC allows IT departments, either internally or within service providers, to build their core competences around the software layer and not have to skill up on a multitude of physical infrastructure technologies. This allows for a far more agile service at a cost base not seen before, from the day to day operations of running infrastructure to the complexity of on-boarding, migrating and off-boarding data/clients the processes become clicks of a mouse within a automated and scripted SDDC.

We are at the beginning of another rather large evolutionary step in the life of virtualization and cloud computing, which will allow IT to be delivered on demand without the need for IT as we know it today. SDDC will enable IT as a Service to become the standard for businesses around the world, irrelevant of whether delivered through an internal cloud, via an external cloud provider or combination of the two.

Is this the beginning of the end of the big vendors? Probably not, so long as they embrace this new software era and look to enhance the new standards through their own product lines.

This is a challenge for the established infrastructure vendors though, as the change involved cannot be underestimated and I do think it will have an effect on their long term revenue streams for those that struggle with this change, the successful organisations will be the ones that start now.

Julian Box is co-founder of Calligo, the Channel Islands only cloud computing specialist. 

Prior to Calligo, he founded and was Managing Director of VirtualizeIT Limited, a provider of virtualisation technology, including server, storage, and network virtualisation. From the time of its inception in 1995, VirtualizeIT won several industry awards in recognition of its ability to deliver specialised consultancy services and complex virtualisation projects.

In 2008 Julian co-founded Virtustream an enterprise cloud service provider where as CTO he led the design and implementation of their industry leading private multi-tenanted IaaS offering.