SDN: The Network Piece of the SDDC

The software defined network is but a stepping stone on the way to the software defined data center.

By Arthur Cole | Posted Sep 12, 2016
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Much is being said and written about the software defined network (SDN), but the reality is that it is only a stepping stone to the larger prize that is the software defined data center (SDDC). As part of a larger whole, then, SDN deployments should focus not just on the virtualization and automation of the network but its integration into the wider data ecosystem.

New data from Allied Market Research pegs the SDDC market at $139 billion by 2022, giving it an average compound annual growth rate of 32 percent. As the newcomer in the software-defined space, SDN will exhibit similar growth – about 31 percent per year – due in large part to rapid adoption in North America and Europe. And while systems and platforms will make up a large portion of the SDDC market, so too will services, integration, migration and other operational factors, meaning there is plenty of work to go around as the enterprise shifts toward a more abstract data environment.

A key takeaway for enterprise executives at this point is that all software-defined infrastructure initiatives should proceed in a coordinated fashion. This can be difficult given the traditional segmentation between compute, storage and networking, but it is inevitable as top platform providers like VMware transition to a more cohesive approach to the overarching data environment. The company’s new Cross-Cloud Architecture is the latest effort to meld the SDDC with the hybrid cloud through tighter integration between vSphere, VSAN and the NSX virtual networking stack. At the same time, the company is incorporating SD-WAN capabilities into its vCloud Air solution to enable integrated SDDC architectures across geographically distributed resources.

Too often, however, SDDC development focuses solely on the data side of the environment and not on the mechanical or electrical support infrastructure, says Datacenter Dynamics’ Bruce Taylor. But without the flexibility of software-driven management, it will be difficult if not impossible for critical functions like power and cooling to keep pace with the highly dynamic workflows in the SDDC. There are many ways to address this problem, from emerging Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) platforms to the new class of Data Center Services Optimization (DCSO) systems, but no matter how you do it the focus should be on eliminating all of the silos that have proven to be such a burden in the physical data center.

It is also important to recognize that the SDDC is not likely to be wholly owned by the enterprise but will incorporate numerous third-party constructs as well, particularly on the network layer. This is what Glue Networks is trying to address with its Gluware SDN orchestration platform. While SDN and other forms of virtual networking introduce overlays that can be managed much more readily than traditional networks, the physical layer still needs to be addressed in order to maintain an optimized fabric architecture. By offering a multi-vendor, multi-platform control mechanism, Gluware allows enterprises to not only leverage the advantages of emerging virtual infrastructure but integrate legacy brownfield deployments as well. The initial release accommodates 13 vendor solutions, including Cisco IOS and IOS-XE, Fortinet and Palo Alto firewalls and Riverbed WAN accelerators, and it also features a dynamic network development kit to create customized solutions that can then be shared on the Gluware Community forum.

Although it is too early to declare definitively that “software is eating the world,” it is a pretty safe bet that before too long software will have eaten the data center. Networking is a critical element in this movement but with barriers breaking down up and down the data stack, it can no longer stand apart from the other pieces of the infrastructure puzzle.

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