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SDDC and SDN: Similar Sounding, But With Unique Meanings

Manon BuettnerLiana AntanovichBy Manon Buettner and Liana Antanovich

The two new concepts in modern IT are software-defined datacenter (SDDC) and software-defined networking (SDN). While sounding very similar they actually assume unique meanings.

SDDC: Software-Defined Data Center

Software-defined data center (SDDC) is the phrase used to refer to a data center where the entire infrastructure is virtualized and delivered as a service. Yes, it is actually a data center-as-a-service! We are talking not about just your private cloud sitting in some place, we are talking about an entire data center that has its entire infrastructure virtualized and delivered as a service. Who would want to buy that? The shoppers are large enterprises and service providers.

Now, why “software-defined”? Control of the data center is fully automated by software, meaning hardware configuration is maintained through intelligent software systems. This is in contrast to traditional data centers where the infrastructure is typically defined by hardware and devices. Software-defined data centers are considered by many to be the next step in the evolution of virtualization and cloud computing as it provides a solution to support both legacy enterprise applications and new cloud computing services.

According to Torsten Volk of EMA, there are three core components of the software-defined data center: network virtualization, server virtualization and storage virtualization. A business logic layer is also required to translate application requirements, SLAs, policies and cost considerations.

The phrase software-defined data center (SDDC) was coined by VMware’s CTO, Dr. Steve Herrod. Software-defined data center is a relatively new enterprise computing phrase, but a number of vendors have announced software-defined data center products, including the VMware vCloud Suite, an integrated offering for building and managing a VMware vSphere private cloud based on the software-defined data center architecture. It was designed to enable IT to rapidly provision infrastructure, applications and complete IT services to shorten the time-to-value of new IT services from weeks to minutes. The result is increased productivity that enables IT and the business to focus on innovation and high value-add activities. It is not designed for adding a new virtual data center to enterprise’s existing pool of data centers as a response to rapid scale demand, but it is about using this suite of products to more efficiently manage existing data centers and to more quickly deliver IT service to internal clients.

TechNavio’s analysts forecast the global SDDC market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 97.48 percent over the period 2014-2018. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the increasing demand for cloud computing. The global SDDC market has also been witnessing the increasing growth of structured and unstructured data. However, the uncertainty in the market due to early adoption stages of SDDC could pose a challenge to the growth of this market.

TechNavio’s report, “Global Software Defined Data Center Market 2014-2018,” has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. The report covers the Americas, and the EMEA and APAC regions; it also covers the global Software Defined Data Center market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years and includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.

The key vendors dominating this market space are Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., NEC Corp., and VMware Inc.

Other vendors working in this space are Adara Networks Inc., Arista Networks Inc., AT&T Inc., Big Switch Networks Inc., Broadcom Corp., Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Chipstart LLC, Citrix Systems Inc., Cumulus Networks Inc., Dell Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG, Embrane Inc., Enterasys Networks Inc., Extreme Networks Inc., Google Inc., Infoblox Inc., Intel Corp., IP Infusion, Juniper Networks Inc., Linerate Systems, Metaswitch Networks, Midokura, Netgear Inc., Netronome Systems Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Pertino Networks, Pica8 Inc., Plexxi Inc., PLUMgrid Inc., Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, Varmour Networks Inc., Vello Systems, Verizon Communications Inc., and Vyatta Inc.

SDN: Software-Defined Networking

A reinvigorated enterprise technology called software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy because of networking complexity that is much more vigorous than server abstraction layers in a data center, yet it has already created some billion-dollar success stories, capturing the imagination of Silicon Valley’s savviest investors and inventors. Consider the $1.26 billion acquisition of Nicira by VMware last summer. VMware NSX is the network virtualization and security platform for the SDDC. NSX brings virtualization to an enterprise’s existing network and transforms network operations and economics. Or consider the $176 million acquisition of Contrail Systems by Juniper Networks in 2013, a mere two days after Contrail came out of stealth mode. The Contrail Networking software helps network engineers define how networks look and run, who can have access and which services should run on the network. And the Contrail software does the work of programming the networking appliances and hardware — such as switches and routers — based on the parameters determined by the network administrators.

SDN changes the way companies build their IT networks. Instead of buying expensive routers and switches with a lot of fancy features from the likes of Cisco, companies can buy simpler, cheaper hardware, and less of it, and those fancy features are handled by a new layer of software.

Essentially, SDN takes the virtualization phenomenon that’s been sweeping data centers around the globe for the past several years and extends it from computing hardware and storage devices to network infrastructure itself. By inserting a layer of intelligent software between network devices (such as switches, routers and network cards) and the operating system that talks to the wire, SDN lets an IT professional or administrator configure networks using only software. No longer must he travel to every physical device and configure — or, in many cases, reconfigure — settings.

This creates several areas where startups can play: the “control plane,” which is the new SDN software, and the “data plane” which is the hardware, like routers and switches. On top of the control plane is another area of opportunity: networking apps. These weren’t previously possible to write for proprietary networking hardware and software, but SDN enables this capability for developers.

The main enabling technology today for the control plane is called OpenFlow. It was created by the founders of Nicira, the startup bought by VMware in 2012. But there are alternatives to OpenFlow, too, and startups are making money creating them.

Microsoft’s SDN product enables network control via software. It gives customers the ability to configure and reconfigure their networks to match the changing requirements of their workloads, without compromising multitenant isolation and performance that would be expected from traditional networking. Which Microsoft products are at the heart of this SDDC approach? Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1, Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). Within Windows Server 2012, Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor and the new Hyper-V Extensible Switch that is part of the Windows Server release are the keys to Microsoft’s SDN offering.

The global SDN market is projected to grow from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016, according to market researcher IDC, with a CAGR of 62.3 percent over the period 2013-2018. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the acceleration of cloud computing. SDN will continue to be a hot area for startups for years. The global SDN market has also been witnessing increasing divestments from traditional networking solutions; however, the technological complexities could pose a challenge to the growth of this market.

Key vendors dominating this space are Cisco Systems Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., NEC Corp., Juniper Networks Inc., Microsoft Corp. and VMware Inc.

Other companies working in this space are 6Wind SA, Arista Networks Inc., AT&T Inc., Big Switch Networks Inc., Broadcom Corp., Citrix Systems Inc., Extreme Networks Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., International Business Machines Corp., IP Infusion Inc., LineRate Systems (acquired by F5 Networks, Inc.), Metaswitch Network, Netgear Inc., Netronome Systems Inc., Nicira Networks Inc. (acquired by VMware Inc.), Pica8 Inc. and Plexxi Inc.

It is undoubtedly an advantage when enterprises use SDDC and SDN technologies in their private data centers to enhance operational efficiency. When a service provider is equipped with one of the above, it speaks to their operational sophistication and standards, and surely elevates them in the provider selection list for cloud projects.

Authors’ note: This blog is written in consultation with some ISVs mentioned in the article, as well as practicing cloud and networking professionals.

Manon Buettner is founder and principal of Nuvalo, a data center and cloud services consulting firm. She has nearly 20 years of experience designing, selling and implementing network, data center and managed solutions for enterprises. She is also founding co-chair of Cloud Girls.

Liana Antanovich is a research analyst for Nuvalo. A recognized expert in the field of business opportunity evaluation, she drives marketing for the company and with Manon Buettner is responsible for cloud market screening, identification of trends, and opportunity and situation analysis.

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