This is a guest post by James Bowling, VCP-DCV/IaaS/Cloud, vExpert 2013.

software_datacenterOver the years we have all seen the trend of new acronyms that pop-up in our industry. We have seen x86 virtualization grow from infancy to mainstream within our datacenters. These wonderful words that are brought forth are always funny to me at first. Sometimes thinking to myself, how does one come up with these? The new one is the SDDC, or the Software-Defined Data Center.

What is the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC)?

VMware defines this as:

“The Software-Defined Data Center is a unified data center platform that provides unprecedented automation, flexibility, and efficiency to transform the way you deliver IT. Compute, storage, networking, security, and availability services are pooled, aggregated, and delivered as software, and managed by intelligent, policy-driven software. Self-service, policy-based provisioning, automated infrastructure, and application and business management complete the picture. The result is a data center optimized for the cloud era, providing unmatched business agility, the highest SLAs for all applications, dramatically simpler operations, and lower costs.”

Some of the key characteristics of the SDDC are Standardized, Holistic, Adaptive, Automated, Resilient. These characteristics can be defined as such:

  • Standardized—Homogeneous infrastructure delivered across pools of standard x86 hardware, to eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Holistic—A unified platform optimized for the entire data center fabric, to flexibly support any and all workloads.
  • Adaptive—Self-programmable infrastructure that dynamically configures and reconfigures the environment according to changing application demands, for maximum performance, agility, and efficiency.
  • Automated—A management framework with built-in intelligence to eliminate complex and brittle management scripts, for cloud-scale operations with less manual effort and significant cost savings.
  • Resilient—A software-based architecture that compensates for failing hardware, delivering unprecedented resiliency at minimum cost.
  • These characteristics are pretty self-explanatory but lets touch on them a little bit. In order to reach the goal of having a SDDC one must set in motion standardization of commodity hardware throughout your infrastructure. The holistic piece stems from the ability to provide a unified platform enabling a simple convergence of all workloads, ie flexibility. The infrastructure needs to be able to dynamically create, extend, remove, and reconfigure itself to the changing structures within the workloads and environments as a whole. Resiliency would then be provided by software that can make up for the possible hardware failures we can see within these infrastructures.

    If you notice, I didn’t touch on the automated characteristic. There is a good reason for me leaving this out…well, not leaving it out…but, rather, leaving it for my personal endeavor with this post. The SDDC is not possible without the ability to programmatically create, extend, decommission, and dynamically change. Think of this like an actual cloud (cumulus, cirrus, nimbus types). Clouds that we see in the sky magically form and dissipate based on the conditions in the atmosphere. This is a great example of how nimble the SDDC must be. There shouldn’t be any real interaction with an engineer causing him to react to things in the environment, but rather be alerted to the changes happening knowing that this is happening because of the conditions in the infrastructure. I stress this because too often the case is with some decision-makers that they currently have a cloud when really they have a default vSphere environment or they have a SDDC because they deployed vCloud Director. Yes, I understand, vSphere and vCD are part of the SDDC but they do not make up a complete SDDC. vSphere is the foundation that makes the initial piece functional.

    So after that little rant, I digress, the key to a solid SDDC deployment is having in place the automation to enable the software-driven environment to dynamically mold itself to the requirements of the infrastructure.

    What are the Key Tools for SDDC Enablement?
    What are some of the key tools for SDDC enablement? In our industry we are spoiled in that we have a plethora of automation tools available to us with only more coming in the near future. Start to look at things like PowerCLI, vCenter Orchestrator, and vCloud Automation Center. These tools will be key to the success of creating a solid SDDC. Without these you will only have a vSphere deployment or a vCD deployment…not a true cloud environment for the SDDC.

    I have been asked numerous times, “What is the benefit of cloud or the SDDC?” I typically answer with a question, “What do your engineers spend most of their time doing?” A pretty standard answer to my query is they are fighting fires or deploying new equipment or VMs/vApps. A fully functional SDDC will enable architects/engineers to start looking at the future-state of the infrastructure and addressing future business needs/requirements instead of the business dollars being spent on highly skilled individuals fighting fires or deploying VMs. The cost savings in this itself can be huge. How great would it be to no longer be the long colored block on the project plan and instead sit back saying, “What is taking [legal, accounting, management, fill in your favorite business unit] so long on this project?”

    I could go on for days about this topic but I want you to truly think about what it means to have a SDDC. So I leave you with this, think of the SDDC as a true cloud environment capable of the wonderful nimbleness of real clouds in the sky. This truly puts us in a place to say that the sky is the limit!

    About the Author
    bowlingJames Bowling is a Cloud Infrastructure Architect/Engineer, VCP5-DCV, VCP5-IaaS, VCP-Cloud, vExpert and the Houston VMUG Leader. He currently works for General Datatech, LP as a Cloud Architect. He is also an avid golfer, bowler, DJ, Producer/Remixer, all-around good guy, and a Freemason.

    Greg W Stuart
    Greg is the owner and editor of He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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