Modern Data Center: The Secret’s in the Software

Digital transformation is everywhere, and it’s a critical point in IT evolution—but there’s a whole ecosystem of companies that are forming, not transforming, and starting from scratch with their own modern data centers—using both open source and proprietary software.

A great number of today’s established data centers rely heavily on virtualization. And while virtualization has simplified consuming infrastructure and built an era of “software-defined” everything, new IT shops are driving data center strategy differently. This is largely through the evolution of applications and the impact of cloud.

Filling a data center with hardware and applying a software abstraction layer making it software-defined or cloud-like today is easy. But, applications running on single systems are being replaced with applications promoting scale-out behaviors. Serving this cloud-native landscape means applications are more opinionated, having more dependencies and more specific requirements. Simply assigning IP addresses to virtual machines no longer fulfills an application’s networking needs. Persistence layers introduced because of abstraction may prove inefficient and increases complexity. In this world, resource efficiency is important and control-plane integration among components wins over data-plane abstraction.

Modern organizations as well are relying on these new applications for growth and competitive edge. The benefit of emerging open source and cloud-native applications is real and embracing software-based infrastructure is critical to future IT strategies. For some pioneers the future is now, embracing an incremental evolution of tools and platforms focused on software in the data center.

Software is driving significant change in modern data centers. Organizations with a “build your own” thought process are avoiding hardware-based limitations and rapidly innovating by pairing commodity-based infrastructure or cloud services with freedom and flexibility from software infrastructure. Layers of abstraction and complexity get replaced with orchestration among highly integrated, purpose-built and composable tools. Applications become separated from their operating system and are run from portable containers. Platforms make applications more powerful through bridging domain specific needs with infrastructure services like storage. Open source and DevOps serve as the lifeline providing the glue and integration necessary to automate these environments. And we turn to software to drive software-based infrastructure instead of abstracting heterogeneous hardware.

Down the road, even physical data centers will become completely agile. Software will help operate software and snowflakes will become a thing of the past. Consuming infrastructure services will become the new norm instead of managing cloud and physical data center resources. This will enable the emergence of more intelligent management of applications that brings efficiency to the modern data center. Whether involved in digital transformation or not, right now organizations and vendors are shaping what’s possible in this new software-based world.

The moving pieces in IT today will lead all organizations to a modern data center at some point. It will look different for different companies and different industries, but once the ability to consume software becomes mainstream instead of a highly specialized skill, we’ll see the modern data center take off.

About the Author: Clint Kitson

Clint is the Technical Director for the {code} by Dell EMC open source initiative. His team focuses on contributing and building community around emerging trends in software-based infrastructure, containers, open source, and DevOps. He represents Dell Technologies as a CNCF governing board member. His technical background is from the Casino Gaming industry with a focus on operations and architecture where he lead transformational initiatives in automation, virtualization, storage, and networking.