One phenomenon of digitization is that it increases the demands placed on a modern, high-performance IT infrastructure and at the same time provides the answers. One of these answers is software-defined architecture (SDA), which in turn forms the basis of software-defined storage systems (SDS), software-defined networks (SDN) and hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI).
The SDA involves a virtual control plane between users on the one hand and hardware and complex software relationships on the other. The intelligence otherwise residing in the individual hardware units such as routers and hard disk/storage systems is shifted to this virtual control plane.
By virtualizing the IT infrastructure, network, storage and servers, companies can react much more flexibly to demand: to the users’ need for services, which results in a demand for the IT services behind them and requires resources ranging from bandwidth to processing power to storage space. Without a flexible software-defined architecture, this demand could not be satisfied, the necessary scalability could not be achieved.
The software-defined architecture is relevant for a variety of application areas. It helps applications that must scale over the Web, supports cloud providers and forms the backbone of corporate data centers.
What are SDN, SDS and HCI?
SDN, or software-defined networking, responds to the growing complexity of networks, which increases the demands on their management. Via software-defined architecture, the control of network devices such as switches or routers can be decoupled from the function of data forwarding. The resulting central control layer can freely assign data packets to the devices according to bandwidth availability. The dynamic control enables a stronger automation and thus real-time changes in the network.
SDS or software-defined storage offers an alternative to separate storage systems of conventional data centers. Their monolithic storage systems (Storage Area Network, SAN or Network Attached Storage, NAS) with their own storage software are replaced by a software-defined architecture that establishes a virtual control layer between data request and physical storage. Hard drives and SSDs (“Direct Attached Storage”, DAS) connected to the servers are used. This allows any attached storage unit to be used for data storage. The software-defined storage system automatically adapts to the storage requirements.
HCI or hyper-converged infrastructure focuses on the virtualization of the IT infrastructure, which enables the centralized monitoring and control of the entire IT infrastructure of a company. This improves IT control, security and stability as well as responsiveness to business requirements. In the meantime, HCI systems are also offered as pure software appliances that access an Infrastructure-as-a-Service.
Automation, optimization and speed
The SDA enables a higher level of automation than traditional IT architectures. Many recurring manual processes can be automated. Thus, it is no longer necessary to configure each router or switch individually, including the associated sources of error. As a result, the entire system works faster and is less prone to errors. Configuration and interaction of the IT infrastructure is optimized.
The overview of the entire IT infrastructure allows resources to be allocated in a targeted manner and workloads to be optimally distributed. Applications have a higher mobility and can be scaled according to requirements. An SDA dynamically provides user applications and data with processing power, bandwidth and storage capacity so that they can be used to their full capacity.
Simplification, individualization and collaboration
Thanks to the intelligent software, less previous knowledge is required to control even complex functions and configurations no longer have to be changed manually. Tasks that were previously reserved for IT administration can now be shifted to the business departments, relieving the burden on the former and giving the latter the initiative to take the initiative that was already taken – keyword “shadow IT” – and caused the IT department quite a few headaches.
Users can perform all necessary tasks via a separate dashboard, which offers functions and access rights tailored to the user. Behind the customizable dashboard, the complex IT processes disappear without the user having to see which complex measures were triggered by which specific services were activated or hardware configurations in the network changed.
Desktop computers and mobile devices can access devices, applications and data decentrally via the SDA. All workstations are networked together and data can be processed more easily together. Business requirements can be implemented quickly and new workstations and user accounts can be set up easily.
Better management, more security and stability
The SDA makes administration easier because control and management are handled by a central management software. This enables easy integration of all users, devices and data. Software services can be offered and controlled in virtualized form. The monitoring of hardware and software is simplified. The software-defined structure makes the IT infrastructure clearer and easier to manage. Changes can be tracked in real time.
Thanks to the networked system of computing power, network connections and mass storage, isolated failures can be quickly absorbed so that affected services remain available. If the targeted storage cannot be reached or a switch is defective, the data packets can be automatically redirected. This increases network and service stability and the consequential costs of a failure are minimized or avoided altogether. Backup, recovery and disaster recovery can be set up relatively easily without large special investments, security regulations can be enforced in all areas of the SDA.
Good for business
Customers want digital solutions, demands are increasing and the competitive pressure is great. This is why an appropriate corporate culture and IT architecture is necessary to be able to adapt flexibly to changing customer and user needs. It should be possible to scale up quickly when necessary and avoid wasting resources by downscaling. If employees quickly get the resources they need and service users are satisfied, more profit can be made.
The SDA enables a high degree of flexibility, agility and scalability. It enables companies to offer their customers a very good user experience while serving masses of users. Where resources are needed, they can be added quickly for profit, and where they are no longer needed, they can be withdrawn in a resource-saving manner. The efficient use of resources enables a sustainable and waste-free economy.
New projects can be quickly mapped by IT, applications can be activated for employees and collaboration tools simplify collaboration. Work processes are accelerated in the company, goals are reached earlier and friction losses in collaboration are minimized. Because business requirements can be responded to so well, the business responsiveness of software-defined architectures is very good.