The software-defined data center (SDDC)—one where all the infrastructure (e.g., server and storage hardware, etc.) is virtualized and delivered as-a-service—is a topic we’ve touched on a number of times this year, most recently in a discussion of why the SDDC should underpin your hybrid cloud. But let’s suppose you’ve already bought into the idea of a SDDC and the cost savings and operational efficiencies it can bring you and your organization. What then? How do you proceed with making the transition without incurring too much hardship or getting in over your head?
Like anything in life, probably the worst thing you can do is to jump in feet first with no regard for planning. In fact, a much more advisable approach would be to make slow and measured movements. Start small, with a single project, and preferably one that is non-mission-critical. See it through to its completion, and along the way be sure and document lessons learned and best practices that you’ve refined. Once you’ve been through this exercise, you can begin to replicate the process on a bigger scale. This approach not only minimizes risk to your organization, but can also help you gain critical buy in from senior management who will have a chance to see what the quantifiable benefits of the SDDC can be.
There are other things you can do to ensure SDDC success as well, and avoid common pitfalls along the way. These include:
- Take the time to ensure the SDDC is the right choice for your organization. Despite the fact that the SDDC is a key buzzword these days and offers a number of highly advantageous benefits, it is not right for every organization. Don’t buy into it just because you think everyone else is. Find out what specifically it can do for you and how, and make sure that is something you actually need and will benefit from. If there is no real business case for why you should implement a SDDC, don’t do it.
- Make sure you have the support in place before you start transitioning. Regardless of how much outside help you can get with implementing a SDDC solution, you will still need highly trained IT professionals to help implement, monitor and manage the technology once it’s in place. The time to secure those professionals is before any work begins, not after. And make sure they not only have a good understanding and skills for working with SDDCs in general (e.g., orchestrating and automating repetitive tasks), but are also trained to work with the specific solution from the specific vendor you have selected. After all, not all SDDC solutions are equal. You can’t assume that because an IT professional has skills with one solution from one particular vendor, those skills will translate to another solution from another vendor. For some organizations, it may even make more sense and be less risky to choose a SDDC solution based on the existing skillsets available in house.
- Consider using open source standards. If you want to avoid being locked into using one vendor’s software then working with open source standards might be the way to go. Don’t think you can avoid all lock-in; however. But, if you take the time to select a SDDC vendor carefully, you can minimize how locked in you become with any one vendor.
- Be open to changing the way things are done. Like the hybrid cloud, the SDDC is changing the way things are done today. Organizations are beginning to turn away from the use of traditional IT infrastructure in favor of one where the functionality is separated from the underlying hardware. The benefit, of course, is automation, flexibility and increased scalability. It can also help reduce data center complexity and lower cost, which in the end, makes organizations much more agile and competitive. To fully embrace these benefits though, organizations have to rethink the way they operate. Rather than operating in separate silos, organizations need to come together as one big integrated IT team, with team members learning to communicate and work together in a new, more cohesive way. Putting the processes in place to make this happen before making the transition to SDDC can minimize any problems once the solution is in place and ensure you reap the full benefits of the SDDC sooner rather than later.
- Set a measurable business goal and work toward it. Doing this means you need to be able to measure what you’ve done so that you have a way to monitor and improve it as you go. That doesn’t necessarily mean monitoring performance. On the contrary, with the SDDC, what you deem important to measure may not be the same as that being measured by another organization. For example, you may decide that power is essential since the more power you use, the more money you spend. Or, speed may be your key metric; whether the speed of deployment or of diagnosing problems. The point is that you should establish which metrics you want to measure before implementing the SDDC. Then, by monitoring them you can see if you are achieving your business goals and in the process, gain more fuel for the fire to be able to prove the success of your SDDC implementation to upper management.
- Decide whether your SDDC will be used in conjunction with a hybrid cloud, public cloud or private cloud. Whatever solution you chose, make sure that it will work well with your SDDC and help you achieve your organization’s business goals.
If you’re making the transition or have made the transition to a SDDC, drop me a line at [email protected], with your thoughts on any tips you’d like to add to the list. In the meantime, 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.