[Avnet] Software Defined Solutions – Friend or Foe?

‘Where is virtualization going?’ Both experts and students of the industry have formed their opinions on this and are aggressively moving forward with new virtualization solutions that fit their strategic plans. As organizations move to increase their reliance on proven virtualization solution stacks and broaden their use of virtualization techniques to IT initiatives beyond data center operation, they ask about the number of ways a virtualization practice can be developed.

Software Defined Solutions – Friend or Foe?

There is a constant request for software defined solutions use cases and evidence of how these solutions move an IT organization closer to becoming a Digital Business versus merely adding an additional layer of complexity that holds the client team back.

A related article provides 16 elements of an effective software defined infrastructure (SDI). To start the conversation we have narrowed down to the following SDI characteristics that are relevant to providing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): server(s) that provide compute resources [1], distributed storage resources [2], and ‘a hypervisor running on the metal’ [7].

In terms of an IaaS discussion, server virtualization was the first consolidation initiative supported by virtualization hypervisors. Using proprietary methods to attach to storage subsystems, these hypervisors provided the IT community with the opportunity to increase the resource utilization of the physical servers by ‘hosting’ several copies of operating systems on the same physical server. The value to IT budgets was that fewer servers needed to be acquired in a budget year versus anticipated spending.

IaaS as we know it today

Without a doubt, virtualization initiatives are increasing inside organizations as the hypervisors become more robust and we see added features such as support for high availability and virtual machine relocation. As the hypervisor providers added more storage attach topologies the number of hosts that could be re-platformed onto the hypervisors, and the number of applications that could be included inside the virtual machines increased again. As hypervisors extended to include storage network support, IT organizations discovered that the cost savings found in ‘Tape Area Networks’ could be extended to virtual Storage Area Networks, again extending the cost benefits of investments in hypervisor virtualization. The combination of enhanced availability and the adoption of industry standard storage attach functionality created the hypervisor market as we know it today.

From an IaaS perspective, hypervisor virtualization enabled IT organizations to manage more infrastructure with fewer staff members, and gain visibility into a wide swath of the infrastructure under management. The consolidation of infrastructure ‘command and control’ of the underlying hardware components became the primary activity that we today refer to as IaaS.

What we are seeing today is that organizations are adopting multiple hypervisor solutions in their organizations. Whether that second hypervisor is supported by Microsoft, Citrix, IBM, or the Open Source Foundation, organizations are now taking advantage of the research and development investments to address ‘data center tiering’ where a second hypervisor provides either lower cost, application specific functionality, or line of business support for specific organizational goals. Just as mainframe systems used virtualization to support legacy operating systems and still provide encapsulated partitions for new business requirements, the virtualization industry is replicating that with offerings that span a wide range of IT requirements.

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