In preparation for the Software-Defined Data Center Symposium, which Tech Field Day and SDNCentral are presenting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, we’ve been interviewing some of the vendors and organizations developing SDDC technologies.
For the second installment of this two-part series, we spoke with:
- Doug Gourlay, VP of marketing, Arista
- Kelly Herrell, VP of sofware networking, Brocade
- John Vincenzo, VP of marketing, Embrane
- Chris Wright, Red Hat (representing the OpenDaylight Project)
- Nils Swart, director of technical marketing, Plexxi
What is the software-defined data center (SDDC), and what benefits does it promise?
John Vincenzo, Embrane: The most import thing to focus on is what problem it solves. For most enterprises it comes down to two things: agility and automation.
Doug Gourlay, Arista: The SDDC is about the automation of provisioning and orchestration to increase service velocity and create a more dynamic and flexible IT environment that can support the changing business requirements more easily.
Nils Swart, Plexxi: It’s a getting-together of resources in compute, storage, and networking in a way that you can ephemerally change the behavior of workloads and re-purpose that infrastructure depending on what workload comes in. It’s going to offer a vastly better utilization of your infrastructure and hopefully a lower risk of operating it, because there’s a more comprehensive view of the entire infrastructure.
What’s an example of an SDDC in use today?
Kelly Herrell, Brocade: The one that’s been the most public for us is Rackspace. Just recently they went into unlimited availability of this network-as-a-service offering, which is powered by Vyatta [which is owned by Brocade].
Nils Swart, Plexxi: It’s the Fortune 500 large enterprises looking at this and they’re copying the behaviors that early cloud infrastructure offered. The JPMorgan Chases, Barclays, and Citibanks of the world — they have to cope with both traditional applications and newer-generation applications. The likes of Facebook and Google are often quoted as being at the forefront of creating flexible data-center infrastructure, but those are categories of their own. If you have a large majority of traditional applications, then you’re looking for infrastructure that supports virtualization and container-ization of apps in silos.
Nils Swart, Plexxi: It’s very modern to SDN and NFV play together. The big question is: to what end? We’re seeing an upward trend toward more flexibility based on the requirments that are being put in. The execution of those requirements can absolutely be NFV-style, or it can take the shape of virtual appliances that are spun up as needed.
Doug Gourlay, Arista: SDN seems to have stratified into three vectors. 1) SDN enables flow-based switching and services, and controllers will take over: Yawn. That doesn’t help in an SDDC and quite possibly impacts the scale and reliability. 2) SDN enables white-box deployments: Still yawning. It will take years for the feature-set to catch up to cloud and enterprise customer demands. 3) SDN enables a programmatic interface for granular control over a distributed system — this is useful.
What’s the role of software-defined storage (SDS) here? What does that term even mean?
John Vincenzo, Embrane: Much like SDN does for the network, software-defined storage really is the way to deliver agility and automation to storage solutions. It’s still in the early days of creation and adoption.
Chris Wright, OpenDaylight: A scale-out software-defined storage solution is core to the SDDC, where orchestration needs to manage application service-level agreements (SLAs) against physical storage as part of workload placement. The core technology is not brand new; it’s working its way beyond early adopters. But integrated as part of SDDC, it’s sure to evolve.
Doug Gourlay, Arista: I believe software-defined storage is probably a bit more buzz than reality, as most storage vendors I have talked to have a flash strategy, use software to arrange data and migrate data intelligently, and see value in integrating into VMware, Openstack, and other platforms.
What does the SDDC mean for the people involved — the network operators or development-and-operations (devops) people?
Chris Wright, OpenDaylight: We should expect to see devops and netops worlds moving closer. The fundamentals of connectivity, protocols, and debugging don’t necessarily change, but the tools will adapt to SDN environments.
Kelly Herrell, Brocade: For network people, it’s an opportunity and a threat. The opportunity is to have a solid understanding of how networks work — they’re complex and there are a lot of artifacts involved there. But now they need to step up their perspective to have more of a devops orientation — things like RESTful APIs and JSON infrastructures. The focus is moving northbound. It’s moving up the stack, because the value is in how we manipulate the infrastructure, not just in the infrastructure itself. So they know the core; now they just have to broaden their horizons.
Doug Gourlay, Arista: I would tell every CCIE to go learn a real scripting language — and no, PERL and TCL probably won’t cut it. Take a course at Codeacademy on Python and learn how to write a real automation integration with one orchestration system. If you’re a network guy, deploy VMware or Openstack. Play with Puppet or Chef and learn what they do. If you’re a DevOps guy, take a class on networking and learn what you can and can’t do with STP, SDN, routing protocols, etc.
John Vincenzo, Embrane: Enterprises should take a network-centric approach to deploying virtualized network services. This way they leverage the value that SDN/NFV technologies bring but don’t require organizational disruption and operational complexity of moving the delivery and support of the network to other, less experienced teams.
Nils Swart, Plexxi: I don’t agree with the view that this will put people out of work. If anything, this will be an expansion of what people can work on. If anything there’s a need for more people who understand how the infrastructure works together, not fewer.
What should we be watching for at SDDC13?
Doug Gourlay, Arista: Play a little buzzword bingo. Watch out for hype and fluff, and ask vendors what the real use case is, and what is shipping today.
Nils Swart, Plexxi: What I personally would like to get out of this is a better understanding of how the bigger enterprises are changing — to get to know the exact experiences the likes of Boeing and Facebook have had in terms of the operations side.
Kelly Herrell, Brocade: Nobody rips and replaces. So now that we’ve seen a new horizon that we call SDx, look for those first examples where somebody’s knocked the risk off of them, where it’s not bleeding-edge. People are looking for some of those stories that are coming from the trenches and aren’t just billboards.
Tech Field Day and SDNCentral present the Software-Defined Data Center Symposium (#SDDC13), featuring discussions of OpenFlow, software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined storage, convergence, and the greater software-defined future. Scheduled for Sept. 10 in Santa Clara, Calif., the symposium will highlight key figures from the industry and end-user community.