In my last post we discussed the ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) direct white box hardware; in this post we’ll discuss the concept of SDx (Software-Defined Everything – also abbreviated as SDE.) Software-defined everything is a marketing term that refers to the virtualization of all aspects of the data center. Various software-defined technologies such as SDN (Software-Defined Networking), SDS (Software-Defined Storage), and SDDC (Software-Defined Data Center) are included under the SDx moniker. At its heart, SDx is about the decoupling of software from underlying hardware – it’s a vision that strikes at the heart of the modern networking and storage industry. Interestingly, virtualization of computation, while revolutionary, is much less of a revolution than SDN, SDS, and SDDC because servers were already general-purpose compute engines. Compare that with the idea of your switch, router, SAN, or NAS being general compute engines with third-party software executing upon them and you begin to understand the magnitude of the change.
The concepts underlying SDx at its heart aren’t new. Bill Gates and Microsoft pioneered the concept of open hardware and software at Microsoft with Windows while Steve Jobs and Apple pursued a different vision in the vertically-integrated Mac. Today Apple continues to pursue the vision of deeply integrated hardware and software with iPhone while Google (and Microsoft) pursue the software that operates upon a variety of manufacturers hardware platforms. However, this consumer-side battle has been largely ignored by data center architects for the last few decades – SDx is about bringing this open hardware and open software approach not just to consumers but to IT staff as well.
This is part 14 of an on-going series. Part 1: virtualization isn’t the next big thing (NBT) because it was the last big thing (LBT); part 2: data center IP traffic growth; part 3: data center IP traffic sources; part 4: cloud workloads; part 5: large data centers and administrator to server ratios; part 6: strategy overview – adapt or be crushed; part 7: automation, agility, adaptability; part 8, automation vs agility and adaptability; part 9: virtualizing everything; part 10: bare metal cloud; part 11: bare metal cloud performance;part 12: SSDs; part 13: unified systems; part 14: commodity hardware.
In my previous post, I pointed out that unified systems are an important trend to consider for next generation data centers and illustrated with the chart above showing the success of Cisco’s UCS in the server market. However, when you look at the chart above (which was also shown in the prior post) you’ll find one category of server vendor whose growth far outpaces even Cisco – a category called “ODM Direct.” So what is ODM Direct – and why should you care when thinking about your next generation data center?
An ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) is a company that designs and manufactures a product as specified and eventually rebranded by another firm for sale. These are also called “white box” vendors. ODMs sell servers (they also sell server subsystems) into the market. IDC’s Kuba Stolarski summed it up when he said “Each year, ODM Direct growth is accelerating as large, established hyperscale customers begin new expansion phases of their infrastructure footprints, and as the customer base for ODMs continues to broaden. Capturing a majority of hyperscale demand for homogeneous environments, ODMs are well positioned for continued 3rd Platform infrastructure growth.”
In essence, the largest data centers are establishing direct relationships with ODMs to create their own internally branded servers. Quanta Computer is a good example of this – you can purchase servers directly from the company (their servers may be found here.) There are many such vendors. The major decision that you must make in building a next generation data center is whether you’re going to embrace white box hardware – which of course is much less expensive than their branded counterparts. If you choose not to do so, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to compete as as cloud pricing continue to decline and the larger vendors continue to drive cost savings using commodity white box hardware.
The white box revolution by major data centers is also one impetus for the Software-Defined Everything (abbreviated SDx or SDE) movement. I’ll discuss SDx in my next post.
This is part 13 of an on-going series. Part 1: virtualization isn’t the next big thing (NBT) because it was the last big thing (LBT); part 2: data center IP traffic growth; part 3: data center IP traffic sources; part 4: cloud workloads; part 5: large data centers and administrator to server ratios; part 6: strategy overview – adapt or be crushed; part 7: automation, agility, adaptability; part 8, automation vs agility and adaptability; part 9: virtualizing everything; part 10: bare metal cloud; part 11: bare metal cloud performance;part 12: SSDs; part 13: unified systems.