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Posted: 9 February 2017 By: JB Categories:

The Great Enabler

Jonathan Kaiser, Solutions Architect, Tech Data discusses how software defined computing is the power behind the cloud


The IT analysts may be describing 2017 as the year of virtual reality or machine learning and artificial intelligence. But in the real world of mid-sized and smaller businesses, another ongoing trend continues to gain momentum – the democratisation of business through technology.


When we talk about democratisation we immediately think of the cloud and, in particular, the hybrid cloud. This is because the cloud makes applications that were once only available to large enterprises accessible and affordable to smaller businesses, enabling them to compete above their size and grow.


Yet, behind the cloud  - and just as important in the democratisation process – is the new great enabler; software defined computing.


According to IDC, the worldwide software defined networking market — comprising physical network infrastructure, virtualization/control software, software defined network applications (including network and security services), and professional services — will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53.9% to 2020 and will be worth nearly $12.5 billion in 2020.


This is not surprising as to enable businesses to do some of the smart things they can now do in the cloud and, especially, to get on-premise equipment to behave like a cloud-based service, clever sub-systems are needed. Software defined computing provides this capability. Software defined computing means certain functions, most commonly networks and storage – are controlled by software applications which automate processes such as configuration that would have previously been carried out manually.


Take storage as an example. Historically, storage devices have been limited by the parameters of their design. Their code has been burnt on at the factory enabling them to serve one function only, so they are rigid, complex and inflexible. But software sits on the hardware and has API links to different areas such as the operating system or the virtualisation stack and, as a result, is capable of multi-tasking.


So despite its back office role, software defined computing is a star facilitator. For example, using legacy systems, it just wouldn’t have been viable for even a mid-sized company to adopt a hyper-converged virtualisation solution. But software defined storage makes this possible. It even enables the repurposing of hardware so that rather than having to go out and buy expensive new kit, businesses can partition up the same hardware using virtualisation and run multiple additional functionality.


The same is true of a software defined network. In a hybrid cloud set-up, a software defined network enables the movement of data beyond the local area network to cloud-based services with the same level of security as it would have within the network boundaries. It will also provide the ability to move data between platforms and will make networks far more efficient and far more resilient without the users having to go out and replace their switching infrastructure.


As long as switches are compatible with industry standards such as sFlow, a software defined network controller will make the network behave with the features and functions of a far more expensive and newer system.


It all comes down to agility. SMBs by their nature can move and respond faster to changing demands than larger organisations. However this flexibility is lost when the systems they deploy become more complex and begin to hold them back. Software defined computing restores this advantage and, because it is scalable, enables growth without significant further investment.

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