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How the Software-Defined Data Center Enables Enterprises to Compete in the Global Market


 About Amanda Blevins:

Amanda has over 17 years of experience in the IT industry.  She has worked with organizations across many verticals such as manufacturing, energy, information, finance, engineering, retail, and healthcare.  Amanda began her IT career as a Windows server admin and quickly gained enterprise storage and BC/DR experience.  She has been an architect for multiple global companies and has consulted for others in creating better data centers, particularly from an infrastructure standpoint. 

Many companies are looking to expand their market share across the globe.  During the age of social media and cloud, most large enterprises have realized that a global presence doesn’t necessarily mean warm bodies in every physical location.  Often these companies leverage telecommuting and web conferencing technologies to fulfill a project’s needs regardless of where the project is physically executed.  However, I have many customers whose business does rely on being able to bring a remote location online efficiently, such as to build a new skyscraper, run a hospital, mine precious metals, or refine oil.  How can these companies continue to compete, be relevant, and attract top talent amidst the “app store mentality” population?  We want instant gratification in our technological lives.

There’s a lot of buzz in the industry around the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). And I’m often asked, what is it and is it relevant to the entire business or only to IT?  Many vendors have software-defined storage, software-defined networking, software-defined X solutions with varying definitions.  It is important to understand exactly what the SDDC is.

The SDDC extends the virtualization concepts you know – abstraction, pooling, and automation – to all data center resources and services.  With an SDDC, IT can provide improved functionality throughout all layers of the infrastructure (storage, networking, management, etc) compared to the physical world along with lower cost. By eliminating the need for niche hardware to achieve this functionality, IT can leverage less expensive physical assets.  With this technology, IT can proactively enable the business by improving agility, driving innovation, boosting performance, and providing increased security for virtualized applications.  This enables the enterprise to “move to the cloud.”  Cloud is the concept of complete virtualization and automation of the entire stack from infrastructure to application deployment while maintaining the security the business requires.  In addition, IT must also move to cloud management and monitoring, which is far different from traditional monitoring systems.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with a number of our US-based customers to talk about their plans for virtualization and cloud.  I was surprised to hear the same top-of-mind issues over and over.  These enterprises all want to be able to expand into and compete within global markets.  Often these new locations are without IT-ready facilities, skilled IT labor, and other resources that we are accustomed to in our traditional data centers.  If the customer can quickly enter and begin operating in these untapped markets, profits can certainly increase. These enterprises are also looking to compete in the global market while simultaneously cutting IT CapEx and OpEx spend by an average of 10%, also with the goal of increasing profitability.  As I heard these similarities, it quickly became apparent that the software-defined data center could play a huge role in IT being the hero of the business.  The software-defined approach is not just for the data center!

By leveraging our virtualized network and security platform, IT Network Engineers can quickly configure and provide networking and security services to remote markets from their current location.  There wouldn’t be a need to have this talent in each location to support the business’s expansion.  With virtualized networking, IT will purchase less expensive network hardware for these remote sites because the advanced functionality is moved into the software layer.  Virtualized networking means IT can choose commodity network hardware without the high support contract costs.  And with simpler hardware devices, a highly trained, paid support technician will not need to come onsite to perform troubleshooting.  A factory worker or mine operator could easily replace a broken switch while the skilled Network Engineers at headquarters could ensure that new switch swiftly provides the expected network services.  Due to the easy standardization of IT deployments, more can be accomplished with the same amount of people.  All of the above will contribute to the goal of reducing CapEx and OpEx by 10% at a faster pace than the business has previously experienced.

The same premise can also be applied to the storage layer for remote locations.  Traditional infrastructure usually involves expensive and complicated SANs for redundancy and performance.  IT usually deploys these SANs to remote locations even if they do not have the expertise on-site to manage and troubleshoot them.  However, by moving SAN capabilities to the software layer through our virtual SAN technology, arrays will not be deployed to these sites.  IT can leverage the existing servers with internal disks to build a redundant and high-performing storage network.  Once again, the business will be online faster and at a lower cost.  The virtual SAN will allow IT to manage it from a central location by people who perform those duties for the main data centers.  Previously in this situation enterprises had to spend a lot of money on support contracts for their remote regions to ensure a skilled technician could come onsite for troubleshooting.  With virtualized SAN, the centralized IT folks can leverage refinery workers or office secretaries to replace a hard drive in a server.  Also, replication technology built into our hypervisor allows for easy backups of remote sites to headquarters, including when virtual machines are running on a virtual SAN.  With this feature, application and data protection is provided without additional cost.  Doing more with less gives us reduced CapEx and OpEx spend, and IT is helping the business to obtain higher profits sooner than expected!

Allowing IT to mirror advanced technology that is already deployed in central and main data centers to remote sites allows for greater business agility.  As a friend once told me, “Technology should be so good that I shouldn’t even know I am using it.”  I thought this was very insightful.  While he was speaking of consumer devices, I believe that the same premise should apply to what IT does for the business.  If business operations are delayed because IT needs to buy a server, buy storage, buy network gear, etc, the technology is not transparent to the business.  By leveraging the software-defined data center model with self-service applications and infrastructure, technology no longer hinders the business.  IT will still need to buy this hardware, but it will no longer take weeks for a specific server build to be available.  They can leverage commodity hardware and through cloud management have better visibility into when resources will need to be augmented before the business even makes the request.  The SDDC allows full configuration and use of this hardware within minutes of its being deployed. Now the enterprise is free to innovate, increase profit margin, and expand into new markets!

Once the infrastructure is in place through the automated deployment of virtualized networks, security, and storage, IT can quickly deploy the business’s necessary applications from a central, pre-built catalog.  Part of this deployment process will include the correct monitoring and analytics to quickly identify and resolve any weaknesses in running business applications.  Even at the application layer, IT is helping the business to come online in new markets in a repeatable, standardized, and far quicker fashion.

This is only a teaser as we could spend a lot of time exploring how deployment, management, and monitoring of applications in a new way will enable the enterprises to expand in the global marketplace.  There will be more to come in a future blog!

What type of remote locations does your business need to be successful?  How will you use the SDDC when designing and deploying these sites?



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