The “Software-Defined” movement may represent a major innovation in the way we provision, manage, and automate IT infrastructure resources. A recent IDC study estimated that the worldwide software-defined and virtualized network functions infrastructure market reached $7.8 billion in 2018 and predicts it to reach $18.6 billion in 2022.
The idea of cleanly separating what’s done really well in hardware (like fast packet switching in the case of networking) from what’s better done in software (like routing updates and quality of service management) is at the heart of the movement. Known as Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC), Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Software-Defined Storage (SDS), and generically Software Defined Anything (SDx), the Software-Defined trend does seem to be improving the pace of innovation in traditionally hardware-centric areas. A Deloitte University Press publication, Software-Defined Everything: Breaking Virtualization's Final Frontier, states:
"Technology advances now allow virtualization of the entire technology stack — computer, network, storage and security layers. The potential? Beyond cost savings and improved productivity, software-defined everything can create a foundation for building agility into the way companies deliver IT services."
Yet, a lot of complex pieces need to come together for this particular technotopian dream to become a reality, and some critics still say it’s all just marketing hype. Either way, the fundamental strategy behind SDx definitely has legs: virtualizing through software much of what has typically been done with hardware and, in the process, giving hardware and software enough freedom from each other so they can independently develop in their own specialty.
In SDN, for example, the separation of the control plane (the part of the network responsible for routing and directing) from the data plane (the part that carries the traffic itself) allows network resources to be virtualized and much more easily adjusted to meet growing business needs. “The hope is that by separating the smarts from the brawn, the underlying hardware can become cheaper and interchangeable (avoiding vendor lock-in) while the overarching software becomes more capable and faster-evolving,” said Mat Mathews of Plexxi in an article for Wired.
“Software-Defined Content Exchange (SDCX)” as we speak about it in this blog is a new category in the software defined movement, but top innovators in the space are embracing the architecture for greater agility and scalability.
As we continue to track the expert’s predictions into the future of IT infrastructures, we’re sure to see differing opinions on whether or not something like Software-Defined Data Centers and other large-scale applications of the software-defined trend will be applicable to all but the most advanced IT departments. However, the underlying strategy is already tried and true, so it’s bound to yield vast improvements one way or another.