Is the software defined data center a VMware only concept?

A good question to ask after coming from the Software Defined Data Center Symposium 2014  hosted by the fine folks at Tech Field Day, has the industry outside of VMware embraced the idea of SDDC. Yes, I know I called the idea of the SDDC vaporware, which I stand by the statement. I’m well aware that SDDC isn’t a product in itself but a design concept. However, if a CIO wanted to implement this idea in a green field, the underlying technology isn’t mature enough to support the vision. The industry at large would need to accept the overall data center vision and build proper API support for whatever solution orchestrates the underlying infrastructure. SDDC originated as VMware’s marketing term for the abstracted data center.

VMware introduced the “SDDC” marketing term a couple of years ago at VMworld. Has VMware done enough to prod the rest of the industry into embracing their vision and branding of the concept? Today, VMware would market a core set of data center products that include vSphere, NSX and VSAN coupled with their orchestration tools that include vCenter Automation Center (vCAC) and vCenter Operations (vCO) as key parts of their SDDC strategy. There are still gaps in VMware strategy in even the whitest of implementation canvas. Add the complexity of today’s data center that still includes a large number of non-virtual workloads you get further away from the pure vision of SDDC.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

At Storage Field Day 5 (SFD5), several vendors showed products that had some type of SDDC marketing angle. Two interesting products were EMC’s ViPER and SolidFire’s all-flash storage array. The two vendors attack SDDC from two different ends of the control plane. EMC tackled the actual orchestration of storage while SolidFire enables orchestration of their platform via RESTful APIs.

EMC has been preaching about the strength of the partnership with VMware via their “Federation” of companies, the third being Pivotal. I’ve question if any real high level of collaboration between the organizations. I’m still on the fence as to if this is more lip service to impress investors versus actual conversations being held between the three companies at every level of product management and engineering. This seems difficult enough within the two separate large companies. Either way EMC showed the potential of ViPER as a platform for orchestrating storage in a large environment. To their credit ViPER supports open standards for managing 3rd party arrays (NetApp only currently) via the SMIS storage protocol. In theory, any vendor storage supporting SMIS can be managed by EMC’s ViPER solution.

So, not only has VMware’s parent at least addressed the topic of SDDC it has a product geared toward supporting the SDDC via software-defined storage. The solution is a bit green, but it’s shipping. This of course makes sense as EMC has a vested interest in the success of VMware’s strategy. The industry at large seems to be corralling around OpenStack to provide both a platform for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and SDDC. The OpenStack community may or may not call it SDDC but the basic concept is the same. The goal is to abstract and manage the data center.

Read: Is the SDDC a security project?

From the other side of the control plan is SolidFire’s deep open API approach to managing their array. SolidFire spoke at length about their support of OpenStack and their contribution to the project. SolidFire seems to believe heavily in the vision of OpenStack as a method of abstracting the data center (the ultimate goal of SDDC). The delegates at SFD5, myself being one, seemed impressed by the fact that SolidFire’s own management platform used the same RESTful API’s that are exposed to solutions such as OpenStack or even ViPER if EMC chooses to support the array.

The abstraction of the data center’s control plan is the core to the concept of SDDC. As I listened to vendor after vendor talk about the various components of the data center and their approach to abstracting the control plan it seemed clear to me that SDDC is a thing. It may be a thing that’s for whiteboard discussion at this point, but it’s a thing that the industry as a whole is pursuing.

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

4 thoughts on “Is the software defined data center a VMware only concept?

  1. “I’ve question if any real high level of collaboration between the organizations. I’m still on the fence as to if this is more lip service to impress investors versus actual conversations being held between the three companies at every level of product management and engineering. ”
    Daily. Literally.

  2. I think you have summed up the SDDC definition quite well although i would beg to defer to your closing comment in its entirety – “The abstraction of the data center’s control plane is the core to the concept of SDDC” – I believe the core to SDDC concept is the three core components of the software-defined data center: network virtualization, server virtualization and storage virtualization. So, the overall concept has shifted from decoupling of control plane to automation and orchestration of datacenter infrastructure platform in order to be flexible and deliver to changing business demands.
    From that perspective, Cisco has potentially a good story to tell against VMware in terms of SDDC if “as the romour mill says” that if it could acquire Citrix, that would immediately boost Cisco’s business via the integration of Netscaler into Cisco’s product line. It would further significantly strengthen Cisco’s hand in positioning vs VMware SDDC strategy. It would also pretty much cement the position of VMware and Cisco as two competing vendors of Software Defined Data Centers.
    But yes, personally i believe, at the end of the day, the credit goes in a lot of ways to VMware in coining the term SDDC and have leading vendors respond to their strategies.

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