ZK Research: The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service


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Today’s IT leaders must transform IT from a cost center into the heart of growth. This means IT must dramatically change how it delivers services to the business. IT must move away from the monolithic static model, embracing a high level of agility, so it can immediately respond to business requirements.

Virtualization has been a game-changing technology in the data center. It has allowed IT to consolidate physical servers and create agility at the compute layer. Additionally, the rise of server virtualization has allowed companies to deliver compute as-a-service.

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ZK Research: The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service

  1. 1. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service August 2013 Prepared by: Zeus Kerravala
  2. 2. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service by Zeus Kerravala August 2013 º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º Introduction: IT-as-a-Service Becomes a Reality The role of the CIO has changed more in the past decade than any other position in business. Historically, the CIO and IT department have been responsible for managing and running the technology infrastructure, and had had little to do with driving the business forward. Today, CIOs and IT leaders must deploy technology to drive business growth and be catalysts for change. Nowhere has this change been more acute than in the data center. Legacy IT was built on dedicated, physical infrastructure. While this offered adequate performance and reliability, service delivery was slow and inefficient, and resource utilization was poor. Some new applications could take IT months to deploy, hampering competitiveness. Today’s IT leaders must transform IT from a cost center into the heart of growth. This means IT must dramatically change how it delivers services to the business. IT must move away from the monolithic static model, embracing a high level of agility, so it can immediately respond to business requirements. Virtualization has been a game-changing technology in the data center. It has allowed IT to consolidate physical servers and create agility at the compute layer. Additionally, the rise of server virtualization has allowed companies to deliver compute as-a-service. This is one reason there are currently more virtual workloads deployed than physical workloads today (Exhibit 1). Exhibit 1: Server Virtualization is Now the Dominant Compute Model What percent of your workloads are virtualized vs. five years ago? Source: ZK Research, 2013 The next wave of virtualization will create broader agility and flexibility across the technology stack to allow IT to be delivered as-a-service. ITaaS means better alignment between IT and business goals, and should be a top initiative for all CIOs. However, delivering on the vision of ITaaS requires IT to shed legacy provisioning and management thinking and migrate to a software-defined data center (SDDC). SDDC is the foundation and will be the first incarnation of ITaaS. ZK Research A Division of Kerravala Consulting zeus@zkresearch.com Cell: 301-775-7447 Office: 978-252-5314 Influence and insight through social media © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  3. 3. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service 3 Section II: Defining the Software-Defined Data Center Server virtualization has been a core technology in the data center for more than a decade. Decoupling the compute functionality from the physical platform allowed organizations to consolidate infrastructure but more importantly, enable a level of resiliency, agility and automation not possible with legacy infrastructure. It’s time for the data center to take the next evolutionary step forward — and that’s to transition to a SDDC. During the last decade, server virtualization brought an unparalleled level of automation, flexibility and agility to the compute industry. The vision of SDDC is to bring these attributes to the entire application delivery stack — from the network to applications. The SDDC is an evolutionary leap forward for the data center. The SDDC vision sees components that make up the data center as fluid resources that can be dynamically allocated to applications based upon prevailing business needs. Integrating the many components of service delivery and combining them with holistic orchestration capabilities enable the fluidity that can deliver on the vision of ITaaS. The SDDC changes the traditional relationship of service components as separate silos to that of peers (Exhibit 2), and can enable creation of new services or modification of existing ones as a single event rather than a number of discrete ones. Juxtapose this with the highly error-prone, time- consuming multitask processes of legacy data centers and it’s clear the SDDC delivers a level of operational efficiency and speed of service creation that cannot be accomplished without this shift. Exhibit 2: Resource Silos Evolve to Peer Relationships Source: ZK Research, 2013 Organizations that adopt SDDC will realize the following benefits (Exhibit 3): • Faster time-to-service: The provisioning time for new services creation or service modification within legacy data centers can be several months. Historically, the independent deployment and provisioning of servers, storage, network and other resources has been highly disjointed and lacked any kind of holistic control. The introduction of server virtualization has brought some efficiency to this process and provisioning time can be reduced to weeks or even days. However, the SDDC can reduce provisioning time to just hours, or even minutes. © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  4. 4. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service 4 Exhibit 3: The Benefit of the Software-Defined Data Center Legacy Data Center Virtual Data Center SDDC Clearly defined IT silos Forced integration of silos No IT silos Poor infrastructure utilization (30%) Improved infrastructure utilization (50%) Optimized infrastructure utilization (70%+) No virtualization Virtualization enables consolidation Virtualization enables automation People are 40% of data center TCO People are 30% of data center TCO People are 20% of data center TCO No orchestration Server/network orchestration Full infrastructure orchestration Provisioning time is months Provisioning time is days Provisioning time is hours/minutes Source: ZK Research, 2013 • Centralized management: One of the keys to a successful SDDC and fulfillment of the vision of ITaaS is having a centralized point of control. Typically, management of infrastructure has been done in silos where each functional area of IT (server, storage, network, etc.) had no visibility into, or awareness of, another area. This made troubleshooting and resolving user issues very difficult. This is one of the reasons 75 percent of trouble tickets are initiated by users and not the IT department. AN SDDC enables a single point for visibility, control and manageability. • Improved resource utilization: Historically, the utilization of data center infrastructure was poor, below 30 percent in some cases. This is because hardware was deployed in silos so there was no ability to share infrastructure. In an SDDC, infrastructure is deployed, virtualized and pooled, and accessed when and as required. This can deliver resource utilization of over 70 percent — a marked improvement over the current low utilization experienced by many mainstream businesses today. • Process automation: The largest cause of downtime in traditional data centers is from human error caused by repetitive but complex tasks required to create or modify services. SDDC automates many processes required to run a data center, lowering human touch points, reducing errors and allowing IT to focus on more important, strategic initiatives. • Path to ITaaS: The vision of ITaaS is to deliver any IT resource to any application or service whenever required. An SDDC is a key enabler and a foundation for the vision of ITaaS. The transition to a SDDC is a critical initiative for CIOs and IT leaders today. The journey to a SDDC requires evolving not only the compute and application infrastructure but also the network. It’s crucial IT organizations fully understand the role of the network in the SDDC. Section III: The Role of the Network in the Software-Defined Data Center Legacy data centers were built on a concept of best- effort application delivery. In this case, the network played a tactical role by connecting various IT resources. Compute resources were given much greater strategic value than the network. The SDDC is a network-centric compute paradigm, which means the network evolves from a tactical element that connects application service resources to a strategic one. The network is the single IT resource that spans the entire data center and connects various components. As the data center evolves to an SDDC, data center resources are virtualized and reside in general purpose pools, and the network acts as the connectivity fabric. In a legacy data center, a server contained compute resources, storage, I/O, memory and other functions. In an SDDC, these resources are interconnected via the network, so the network takes on the role of the backplane for a next-generation data center. Additionally, IT resource orchestration is best served from the network as it’s the single component that ties all other components together and spans multiple data centers, where these exist. © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  5. 5. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service 5 Traditional data centers use Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to prevent loops and broadcast radiation by disabling redundant ports. The disabled ports are only made active in the event of a failure of one of the active paths, meaning network managers need to overbuild the network to accommodate for the passive ports. SDDCs are built on modern, optimized protocols, such as Shortest Path Bridging (SPB). This shift to network-centric computing puts the network in a position to take on a new, more strategic role, one that requires a higher level of intelligence, integration and automation. The network enablement of the SDDC means virtual workload migrations can trigger provisioning of storage or network resources, enabling IT to maximize investment in virtualization technology today, while also laying the foundation for IT to shift to an as-a-service model. Additionally, the network is rapidly being virtualized through various overlay technologies using protocols such as VXLAN. The network can seamlessly integrate the various overlay protocols to enable the dynamic creation of virtual wires to interconnect any two or more service components. This provides seamless and automated integration between the network and other data center resources. Lastly, the SDDC can deliver the performance associated with dedicated infrastructure without the high overhead, combined with the operational flexibility and scale of software defined networks (SDNs), all while running on commodity hardware (Exhibit 4). This provides IT with the best attributes of the different compute models but optimizes total cost of ownership. Exhibit 4: Software-Defined Data Centers are Optimized for Cost and Performance Source: ZK Research, 2013 © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  6. 6. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service 6 Section IV: What to Look For in a Network Solution Provider The network requirements of a SDDC create the need for a change in architecture and infrastructure. IT leaders must evaluate their strategic data center vendors carefully; particularly the network where historically best-effort has been good enough. Today there can be no compromise between performance, scalability, agility, security and performance. A rock- solid network foundation is a key to enabling an SDDC, ushering in the era of ITaaS. Key attributes for the network foundation are as follows: • Built on an open standard for broad cross- vendor interoperability: There are many ways for solution providers to meet the challenges of the SDDC. Many vendors will likely use proprietary protocols and solutions to develop new products and enable features quickly. While this approach may have some short-term appeal, IT leaders must think long-term and understand that the proprietary approach can lead to vendor lock-in and impair a customer’s ability to choose best-of-breed products. A standards-based solution guarantees interoperability with other best-of-breed products and enables the widest variety of choice. • OpenStack support: The solution provider should offer a standards-based controller that can integrate with northbound OpenStack orchestration platforms. Integration between OpenStack’s open middleware and data center resources is a key enabler of the SDDC. Likewise, the availability of a real-time, software-definable and service-orientated networking infrastructure, it could be argued, is a fundamental prerequisite. The solution should also offer southbound integration through network APIs to maximize network agility. • Built on a network fabric: The underlying network supporting the SDDC should follow fabric principles. A network fabric is a next- generation networking solution optimized for the growing amount of east-west traffic seen in data centers today. A network fabric is significantly simpler to manage and can allow network operations to focus on more strategic tasks. • Low-risk deployment: The network must be able to run alongside traditional technologies to minimize the risk of a forklift upgrade. Organizations should have the ability to start small and migrate to a broader network fabric over time. • Multitenant network capabilities: In many companies, policy or legislation requires the total separation of traffic. This can be the case where IT supports subsidiary companies or where separate business units require isolation. This is very common for verticals such as state and local government, education and financial services. The network must be a single physical network that looks and acts like several logical networks, each with its own unique needs and requirements. For this to operate efficiently, the network must automatically separate traffic into distinct virtual networks but have access to a common set of data center services. • End-to-end view of the data center: An SDDC can create many blind spots for the network manager. Abstraction of the logical service from the physical layer is not something most management platforms can handle today. The network should provide an end-to-end view of network flows, allowing IT to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds and removing the blind spots from the IT department. © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  7. 7. The Software-Defined Data Center is Key to IT-as-a-Service 7 Section V: Conclusion and Recommendations CIOs must enable a higher degree of IT agility, while at the same time lowering the cost of running IT and improving application performance. This may seem like a daunting task, but the SDDC is a game- changing development which transforms data center operations from highly manual processes to automated orchestration. This is a critical step toward migration to an ITaaS model. An SDDC puts the network in a position to become the key point of competitive differentiation for organizations, as they look to capitalize on the flexibility and cost-efficiencies of virtualization and cloud computing. This introduces new requirements for network design and choice of solution provider. To realize its full potential, the network must undergo a major shift in strategy. With this in mind, ZK Research makes the following recommendations for companies looking to migrate to an SDDC, and migrating to an as-a-service model for IT: • Choose a standards-based, open solution: The typical data center is an ecosystem of solution providers. A network built on proprietary technologies may not integrate with individual ecosystem vendors, significantly limiting long-term choice. A standards-based, open solution should be considered one of the most critical decision factors for an SDDC. • Evaluate networks vendors on next- generation network principals: An incumbent vendor or the market share leader may seem like a safe and easy choice. However, the data center is evolving rapidly and decision-makers should choose a vendor that best supports the SDDC and ITaaS principals, even if this means moving away from the incumbent. The network plays too important a role to not do the proper due diligence and choose the vendor offering the best choice. • Automate processes where possible: Automation will play a crucial role in IT’s migration to an as-a-service model. The creation of new services, or modification of existing ones, should be enabled through a centralized management console. For this to happen, the processes required to make the necessary infrastructure changes needs to be automated, allowing companies to make changes without running the risk of unnecessary downtime. © 2013 ZK Research: A Division of Kerravala Consulting All rights reserved. Reproduction or redistribution in any form without the express prior permission of ZK Research is expressly prohibited. For questions, comments or further information, email zeus@zkresearch.com.