Trends in Software-Defined Infrastructure

by Andrew Mullen on November 28, 2017

A fully software-defined data center (SDDC) -- an idea that seemed impossible just a few years ago -- is now becoming a reality for many organizations. Here's a look at the software-defined technologies that are making SDDC possible.

A software-defined data center is one in which all compute, networking, storage and other resources are abstracted away from the underlying physical infrastructure through software.

By decoupling resources from physical infrastructure, applications and databases are no longer subject to the limitations of physical components. Scaling is much easier because resources can be allocated instantly using software, rather than attached manually by adding hardware. Applications and data are more mobile because they are hosted in virtual environments that can run anywhere in the data center, rather than being dependent on a specific physical host.

In short, an SDDC delivers significantly more agility, flexibility and scalability than traditional computing environments.

Techn**ologies that Enable Software-Defined Data Centers**

Some software-defined technologies, such as server virtualization (which abstracts compute resources from underlying hardware) and virtual private networks (VPNs) (which perform certain networking functions in a virtual software environment), have been widely used for over a decade.

Over the past several years, however, a new generation of software-defined technologies have extended the agility of software-defined computing to other areas. Those technologies include:

  • Software-defined networking (SDN). SDN goes beyond traditional VPN networking by performing all packet routing, firewalling, load balancing and other network functions in software, rather than directly on physical switches and routers. In an SDN environment, it is much easier to treat different types of network traffic differently depending on priorities, as well as to maintain network performance even when parts of the physical infrastructure fail.
  • Software-defined storage (SDS). SDS abstracts data storage devices away from the file systems and databases that are used to manage data. Technically, all file systems involve a certain degree of software-defined storage, because file systems are a software layer that exists on top of hardware. However, modern SDS solutions totally decouple storage from hardware so that data can be moved around and replicated without being complicated by the way storage devices are configured. SDS also makes it possible to add and remove physical storage infrastructure without interrupting data storage.
  • Containers. Virtual machines created using software like VMware and KVM provide more agility than physical servers, but they have performance drawbacks because they require a significant number of system resources to be devoted to the virtualization environment. Containers offer a more lightweight solution for creating software-defined environments in which to host applications and, in some cases, entire operating systems. Container technology has existed ever since the introduction of the chroot call to Unix in 1979, but it was only with the launch of Docker in 2013 that containers became mature enough for widespread production use.
  • Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC). Configuring infrastructure manually is a time-consuming and error-prone task. Increasingly, organizations are turning to IaC tools as a way to automate infrastructure provisioning. IaC tools make it possible to describe using code how the servers, networking devices and storage resources within a data center should be arranged. The IaC tools then implement the configuration automatically. IaC is not itself a service or resource, but it is a way to use software to automate what would otherwise be a burdensome task for data center administrators.

When combined, these technologies enable completely SDDC -- or hyper-converged infrastructure, to use another term that applies to infrastructure where all functionality is abstracted from physical infrastructure.

Talon's suite of software solutions makes it easy to leverage software-defined technologies in order to gain the agility, flexibility, and scalability of next-generation data centers. To learn more, check out this Talon FAST video.

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