Next Generation Data Center and Cloud Trends - Software Defined Everything

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.

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Next Generation Data Center and Cloud Trends - Servers and Cisco UCS

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.

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Unified Systems and Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System)

August 19, 2014

There’s a revolution going on in the server market.  No – that’s an understatement.  There are two revolutions going on in the server market.  And both dramatically impact the next generation data center.  We’ll talk about the first of these revolutions in this post – the impact that unified systems are having with respect to […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Solid State Drives

August 13, 2014

Solid state drives (SSDs) aren’t new in the data center for high performance use cases.  What is changing rapidly is cost – which is increasingly enabling IT staff to use them in a more ubiquitous fashion. The chart above, which is from SanDisk, outlines the historical and projected cost trends associated with SSDs.  It doesn’t […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Containers

August 12, 2014

Containers are being touted by many as the next big thing.  What are containers? Containers are a form of lighter weight virtualization that allows the sharing of the operating system among the host and all guest operating systems.  In short, containers run in the same operating system as the host. Google is the most famous […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Cloud and Bare Metal Cloud Workload Performance

August 11, 2014

The chart above, courtesy of Cloud Spectator, illustrates quantitatively the points made in my last post (part 10: bare metal cloud) regarding the reason that physical servers continue to be so pervasive within data centers.  As you can see from this – and as you would expect given the nature of hypervisor-based cloud servers – database […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Bare Metal Cloud and Physical Servers

August 7, 2014

One of the major problems with the mantra of “virtualize everything” is the stubborn refusal of physical servers to disappear.  This of course is a major irritant to virtualization companies; it’s easy to picture Pat Gelsinger at VMware screaming “die already!” at physical servers.  The chart above illustrates the issue.  IDC predicts that in 2016, […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Keep Calm and Virtualize Everything

August 6, 2014

What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?  Make me one with everything. I think of this joke every time someone tells me that they have a single answer to a complex problem.  Unfortunately, there are few such “silver bullet” answers in real life.  Virtualization, however, has been an enormous boon to many […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Automated vs Agile/Adaptive

August 5, 2014

Henry Ford once famously said of his incredibly successful Model T that a customer could have their car painted any color – as long as that color was black.  What’s not quite so famous is why Ford said this. The Model T was introduced in 1908.  Model T’s were available in other colors at that […]

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Backup, Virtualization, and the Next Big Thing: Agile, Automated, Adaptive

August 4, 2014

The essence of what we’ve discussed to date is the problem – dramatically rising numbers of virtual and physical servers, exploding data traffic and at-rest data – all managed by a relative handful of IT administrators and operations personnel.  So what’s the solution?  It is agility, automation, and adaptability. The movement toward cloud-based workloads has […]

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