I am writing this blog as I return home from the Software-Defined Data Center Symposium (thanks to Gestalt IT for a great event!). Attending and presenting at the symposium gave me an opportunity to speak with a lot of folks who are thinking about Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) and how it fits into their environments.
Okay, so the title is a little over the top. However, there is an important point that is getting lost in the SDDC hype: Virtualized does not equal software-defined. Virtualization is only part of the story. The SDDC must also provide policy-driven automation, hardware abstraction, and simplified management.
Software-defined systems are not only about the software. When is the last time a piece of software ran without a piece of hardware? Software-defined solutions often include hardware components as well. For example, the 10GbE ports in modern servers offload a huge amount of workload to the networking chipset. Without this ability to offload the host CPU, the host performance would suffer due to higher CPU consumption—and networking performance would be dramatically reduced. The hardware accelerator makes high performance 10GbE possible.
Flash is another example of hardware acceleration. Throughout the industry, flash is used to make systems faster. The CPU in the laptop I am using is two generations old, but the flash-based storage inside it makes it very responsive. Storage systems, servers, and all sorts of infrastructure appliances use flash in one form or another to hardware accelerate the data center.
Software-Defined Networks (SDN) are becoming more common by the day, but they do not eliminate the network infrastructure. Instead, they change the way the network infrastructure is managed. A policy can be created that defines a network policy and associates it with a virtual machine (VM). This VM-centric policy is abstracted away from the underlying infrastructure and allows the VM to move within the infrastructure without need for reconfiguration. The hardware is essential in facilitating this VM-centric policy.
We may live in a software-defined world, but every system we use is accelerated by hardware. Perhaps we should call it Software-Defined, Hardware-Accelerated Data Center? It is a far more accurate description, but SDHADC doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like SDDC.