Understanding SDDCs

by December 27, 2014 0 comments

With an SDDC solution enterprises can build a robust and scalable multi-tenant networking infrastructure that delivers secure virtual slices of readily consumable compute, storage and networking instantaneously


What we call “cloud computing” today will be a regulated utility sometime in the future, just like water and power. Just like water and power, cloud computing is a (progressively) critical economic production enabler and its consistent availability and quality are essential for ensuring predictability in business planning, capitalistic activity, and economic output.

Server virtualization was the first critical enabler for cloud computing. Software defined networking (SDN) is the last part of the puzzle that will enable the evolution of “the cloud’ to “a utility.” Many service providers and enterprises are busily deploying Software Defined Datacenters (SDDC) today. Their immediate technology choices will have dramatic consequences for the IT industry that will ripple into the future.

Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) refers to a data center where all infrastructures – networking, storage, CPU and security – are virtualized and delivered as a service. Deployment, provisioning, configuration and operation of the entire infrastructure is abstracted from hardware and implemented through software. With SDDC, the entire data center will be controlled using a single virtualization layer. This means that all aspects of the infrastructure can be managed and controlled from one end to the other.

The concept of the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) picked up tremendous traction in 2013 and it is safe to predict that the SDDC will become one of the dominating trends in enterprise IT in 2014. At the core of the SDDC there is the belief that with SDDC solution, cloud service providers, web-scale operators and large tech enterprises can build a robust and scalable multi-tenant networking infrastructure that delivers secure virtual slices of readily consumable compute, storage and networking instantaneously across thousands of tenants and user groups.

Understanding limitations of today’s cloud datacenters

The value of cloud services lies in the rapid and cost-effective instantiation of applications that can be consumed as needed by users anywhere. With cloud services, enterprises can broadly deploy applications very quickly to meet their business needs while enjoying the benefits of simplified operations.

Datacenters are at the heart of the cloud, where powerful compute and storage resources reside. The networks that interconnect them must operate in harmony to deliver cloud-based applications ever more efficiently. The watershed event that made compute resources much more dynamically consumable was server virtualization. This change in compute resources also triggered a profound impact on the datacenter network infrastructure.

For cloud services to thrive, the networks within and across datacenters must evolve to become as virtualized and readily available as the compute infrastructure. For the business value of cloud services to be delivered, compute and network resources must be both dynamic and instantly available. This is not the case with today’s datacenters. Applications running on virtual machines that come up in minutes must wait hours or days for network services to be established. The datacenter network infrastructure is cumbersome to operate, requiring multiple levels of configuration within and across operational support and change-control systems. These static, configuration-driven processes compound the delays in turning up new applications and services, diminishing customer experience while dramatically increasing operational costs.

A new model for networking cloud datacenters

With that in mind, let’s talk about what the network must do for the applications.

For applications to be deployed rapidly, all of the appropriate servers and appliances within and across data centers must be connected together at Layer 2 and Layer 3 with Layer 4 enforcement, regardless of whether they are virtualized or bare metal assets. This means the network must be highly automated. For users to on-board applications rapidly, service templates that draw on proper network abstraction are imperative, making it easy to specify network behaviors in simple, IT-friendly language. In addition, the ability to have the same consistent treatment for the application in terms of connectivity, QoS, and most importantly security within and between datacenters with proper end-to-end policy and control framework is essential. Finally, network visibility with analytics capability is crucial for measuring and reporting on the behavior of applications, for performing show-back & charge back, and most importantly for troubleshooting the network.



The ideal Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC) network infrastructure MUST provide four key attributes in order to be viable:

  1. Automation and Customization

Network shall respond immediately to application needs, and evolves over time with a close fit to application lifecycle. Network automation is the key to making data-center networks self-service. The networking industry was presented a very similar challenge of automation for mobile networks, and it delivered. Today, mobile devices can be connected instantly anywhere, any time and to any network. Why can’t we do the same for virtual machines? If we can maintain the same mobile ID and have the same SLA consistently enforced anywhere, anytime, over any network, then why can’t virtual machines have the same IP address and move anywhere within or across datacenters, or over to a private cloud over the WAN, all under a common policy framework?

  1. Abstraction

Underneath, the network is doing the heavy lifting to ensure that each virtual machine (VM) for each application is “plumbed” correctly: that it is in the right network, it is assigned the correct IP address, and that the virtual switch that the VM connects to is programmed with all the necessary forwarding information. The VM’s reachability information is then conveyed to all other relevant VMs for that application. This is all done automatically and instantly when the VM comes up – just like in the mobile network. The network does this not for few hundred VMs or a few hundred tenants, and certainly not within the confines of a single data center, but rather for millions of VMs and thousands of tenants within and across data centers and over WANs to include all branches of all tenants.

  1. Control and Performance

The potential of cloud is in the business agility it can offer. However, gains in business agility cannot come at the cost of losing control over users, applications, and sensitive data. It is imperative for CIOs and IT admins to have complete control and deterministic service behavior over their slice of compute and network regardless of the type of workload (virtual or physical) and regardless of the type of cloud (private or public). This guarantees that any user can only access and consume resources based on the permissions granted, and that any application that is deployed is in line with the security and compliance rules set by the CIO and the IT admin.

  1. Visibility

The key questions that CIOS and IT admins want answered are: How are my applications performing? How efficiently is my network running? What are the proactive and reactive operations, administration, and maintenance (OA&M) tools available to me at the application level, at the network level, and at the tenant level? What tools are available for show-back and charge-back, by tenant by application? How do I deploy, operate and manage my private and public cloud infrastructure as one? Rich OA&M tools at the application layer and the tenant layer, accompanied by analytics capabilities that allow for collection of data that measure the behavior of each application, are imperative for any solution to be complete.


Software-defined data center (SDDC) is the ideal architecture for private, public, and hybrid clouds. SDDC extends the virtualization concepts you know— abstraction, pooling and automation — to all data center resources and services. The software-defined data center approach will force IT organizations to adapt architecture software-defined environments, which requires rethinking many IT processes—including automation, metering, and billing—and executing service delivery, service activation, and service assurance.

To truly fulfill the promise of cloud computing, the compute and network have to be in sync. For enterprises to adopt cloud services, it is imperative that the network can be consumed as rapidly as the compute. Overall, the idea of the SDDC is to provide true business agility and help enterprises deploy applications very rapidly, the network must provide abstraction and automation along with control and visibility for all applications of all tenants, and it must do this within and across data centers.

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