As many of you likely already know, Interop opened this week in Las Vegas. What you might not know is that it hosted a one-day Software-Defined Architecture Summit that focused on everything from what is software-defined technology to how to manage the migration from hardware- to software-based technology, and everything in between. If you missed the event, don’t worry. You can still get access to the Summit presentations here.
I spoke to one of the Summit’s presenters, Jack Poller, a lab analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, and he had an interesting take on how software-defined everything—software-defined networking, storage and data center—is revolutionizing the IT industry or more aptly, transforming IT from Communism to Capitalism.
The way Poller explains it, computers have evolved over time from systems defined by chips—hardware computing—to something now defined by software; in other words, software computing, which is really just virtualization. He further adds that, “This transformation from hardware to software has played out over and over again; first with computer systems, then with storage and networking. Each time, we’ve evolved from viewing the world as based on our hardware architecture and using that to solve a specific problem to a more general view of using a software architecture to solve our problems.”
As that technology evolution occurs, it flips power and control from one group to another. Poller points out that this flip is something that’s occurred throughout history, a recent example of which can be seen in the music industry.
Years ago, musicians made their money off of albums and performed concerts as a way to generate interest in people buying those albums. Today; however, with modern Internet and free music downloads, recorded music is no longer scarce. Instead, what’s become scarce are live musical performances. So now, musicians use their recorded music as a form of promotion to drive consumers to their concerts, and their concerts are where they make money.
As Poller explains, the technology of the Internet inverted the power structure in the music industry. He sees the same thing happening to the IT industry because of software-defined technology. “Computers used to be these big, very complex, very expensive machines, and because they were such capital- and resource-intensive things you ended up with a centralized resource and centralized control structure, which is essentially what communism is. Now, with software-defined technology, there is still a centralized block of resources, but those resources can be divvied out as necessary.”
In other words, as the evolution to software-defined technology takes hold, IT will transform from being the people in control of the resource and defining what it is, to the people who push the authority, responsibility, control, and decision-making regarding the resource down to the people actually using it; those who are closest to the problem they are trying to solve.
Poller suggests thinking of it this way: “Traditionally, IT says the company needs a storage system, we’re going to invest X amount of dollars in the system and it has to meet the needs of most of the company—even though it doesn’t necessarily meet the particular needs of any one group in the company. With software-defined technology, IT can now get a software-defined storage system and build it exactly to the needs of any group in the company.”
This is a critical point, as in the past, the only way to tailor a storage solution to the needs of a particular group was to buy specific storage units to meet those requirements. With software-defined technology, groups can say I need a chunk of storage that has this response time quality or this level of capacity and IT can control that through software. Furthermore, IT can delegate administrative control to the group who needs that property most so they can use it however they want.
By inverting the power and control, software-defined technology is making IT less like Communism and more like Capitalism. And according to Poller, this is a transformation that’s already begun to take place, although as he points out, “It’s just the beginning of the revolution.”
For more information on Poller’s perspective, check out his Software Defined Architecture Summit presentation, “Software Defined: Transforming IT from Communism to Capitalism.” In the meantime, don’t forget to check back here for future blog posts on a range of IT-related issues.
This blog is sponsored by Microsoft.
Cheryl J. Ajluni is a freelance writer and editor based in California. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of Wireless Systems Design and served as the EDA/Advanced Technology editor for Electronic Design for over 10 years. She is also a published book author and patented engineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online publications. Contact her at [email protected] with your comments or story ideas.