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Unexpected Impact of Software Defined Data Center

Software Defined Data Center

Data centers are no longer just about hardware.

The Software Defined Data Center, where all storage, computing, and networking are virtualized and delivered “as-a-service,” is rapidly becoming critical to the overall performance and efficiency of a data center’s operation. By 2020, Gartner predicts that the capabilities of a Software Defined Data Center will be a requirement for 75% of Global 2000 Enterprises. In the same timeframe, a report from Research and Markets predicts that the size of the Software Defined Data Center market will reach $77.18 billion.

Software Defined Data Centers will have a major impact on the lifecycle and utilization of a hardware asset. Although Gartner cautions that the right time for many organizations to move to a Software Defined Data Center “may be years away,” they believe that it will come sooner than most organizations are prepared for. In this case, however, Gartner is referring to the skills and culture required to transition to a Software Defined Data Center. IT organizations also need to understand the preparation required in physical data center infrastructure in order to support the Software Defined Data Center environment.

Impacts of the Software Defined Data Center on Physical Data Center Infrastructure

Hot Spots

The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) leverages virtualized workloads and drives the utilization of a given piece of hardware at a much higher rate than we see in a typical data center today. This will create an increase in per-rack density and create hot spots in many legacy data center environments. Without proper planning, cooling infrastructure will become a constraint that doesn’t allow an IT team to fully utilize all hardware assets in their data center.

As part of the planning process for transitioning to a SDDC, IT organizations should conduct a data center assessment to evaluate the capacity of their cooling infrastructure to support the highly virtualized workloads in a SDDC environment. For many legacy data centers, properly enabling the SDDC will require augmentations to their cooling infrastructure in the form of aisle containment, in row cooling, or other modernization strategies.

Power Density

In many existing data centers with low utilization rates on their IT hardware, their per-rack power density (kW/rack) remains low. IT organizations need to be prepared for how increasing their asset utilization in a SDDC will impact their power draw per rack. Properly supporting the power requirements of a SDDC may require an increase in rack Power Distribution Unit (PDU) capacity (i.e. – increasing from a 5kW rack PDU to a 10kW rack PDU) or even an increase in the capacity of your data center Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

Data Center Infrastructure Management

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) has been widely discussed but not widely adopted (see our recap of the Critical Facilities Summit for more information). However, the need for DCIM will likely increase with the adoption of Software Defined Data Center environments. Organizations like the Distributed Management Task Force are developing interoperability standards for the Software Defined Data Center and we believe that integration with DCIM will be critical to optimization an SDDC environment. Because a SDDC will shift workloads around the data center to areas that have sufficient capacity, an integration with DCIM will be needed to verify that the chosen hardware asset (and the rack it resides in) have sufficient power and cooling capacity to take on the proposed workload. The SDDC and your DCIM system should be communicating in this case, asking your DCIM system questions like “what is the current kW draw in this rack and how does that compare to my threshold for total capacity” to determine if a workload can be delivered to a given hardware asset.

The Software Defined Data Center will become a reality for IT organizations. The challenge will be having the foresight to create a plan that encompasses both the skills and culture changes needed to support a SDDC but also one that evaluates how physical data center infrastructure will be impacted by the major changes a SDDC will create.

Are you adopting Software Defined Data Center infrastructure? Please share your experiences with us below.