November 9, 2017

Is software defined infrastructure for real?

Adam CatbaganAdam Catbagan
Sr. Systems Engineering Manager
Arrow ECS 

 

 

Since about 2013, the concept of software defined has really taken off and is becoming a reality in many organizations. How are these IT organizations accomplishing this feat? It’s been my experience that software defined storage, software defined networking and compute virtualization must all come together to deliver a software defined data center/infrastructure.

The best way to understand the meaning of “software defined infrastructure” is to think about it in the context of a data center. According to TechTarget, a software defined data center is a data center in which all elements of the infrastructure — networking, storage, CPU and security — are virtualized and delivered as a service (public or private cloud). Deployment, provisioning, configuration and operation of the entire infrastructure is abstracted from hardware and implemented through software.

Software defined is growing in popularity because of the benefits it can provide, like reducing total cost of ownership and improving productivity. I have seen savings from reducing physical hardware like servers, networks, racks and disk, lower power consumption, cooling and facilities costs. Previous manual tasks can now be automated by software, improving efficiencies within the IT organization. In addition a software defined infrastructure can lead to IT personnel having more available cycles to focus on bringing new IT solutions to the business, ultimately accelerating how the business delivers new value and services to its customer base.

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Why SDI?

Several scenarios come to mind where SDI can play an important role. Take healthcare for example. With the many regulations and tight budgets there also are new technologies coming into play that increase data. Think of all of the new technologies driving more personalized care, like wearables, IoT devices, tablets and telemedicine to just name a few. SDI can give the healthcare industry a leg up when it comes to meeting these new demands. SDI simplifies data center management and shifts the focus back to providing outstanding patient care.

Another example is the retail market, where an enterprise is challenged by analytic applications such as point-of-sale systems, loyalty programs, inventory tools and rich media – all of which must communicate with each other over communication lines that can vary depending on the internet services available at each location.

Gap is changing how it connects stores to one another in a corporate network. Before making the switch to software defined networking, large amounts of physical hardware such as switches or routers were being used. The company now routes traffic over the public internet using encrypted connections. Gap’s new software approach allows them to connect many more stores each night with 10 to 15 times the previous bandwidth. It also allows for network upgrades or changes remotely which eases administration and the new approach is about 50% less expensive than the conventional method of connecting stores together in a wise area network.

I really like what Intel has accomplished with their SDI implementation. I know it’s a very large organization, but I think everyone can apply the strategy they have used over the past several years as they evolved to an SDI. Their basic guidelines include:

  • Keep the current production environment stable.
  • Leverage the existing infrastructure.
  • New technology must provide measurable benefits such as cost savings, higher efficiency or more self-service.

Intel also uses three key performance indicators:

  1. Cost: A 10% year-over-year improvement in cost per service delivery.
  2. Utilization: An 80% utilization of infrastructure.
  3. SLAs: Greater than 99% of tier one and 95% of tiers two and three.

SDI is the future of IT infrastructures. When implemented correctly with a solid strategy and goals, there can be many cost-saving benefits. Remember, Arrow can help you with your planning and implementation. We have a team of experts to help guide you every step of the way.

This article was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.