Virtualization transforms physical systems into a virtual environment by creating a logical version of a device or resource. This includes anything from a server to an operating system. Virtualization helps solve problems with utilization and rapid scalability. Without virtualization, traditional server utilization is typically in only the 6 percent to 12 percent range.
Traditional hardware comes in fixed sizes and is difficult to scale and fully use. Virtualization allows organizations to purchase more powerful equipment with better performance and put many optimally sized virtualized resources on it. Technologies such as overprovisioning, automatic load balancing, clustering and parallel processing optimize resources and improve uptime. Virtualization technology emulates hardware by using software that hides details of the underlying physical hardware. Multiple hardware components and the functionality of that hardware can be efficiently emulated on less expensive, nonspecialized hardware.
Server virtualization has high adoption rates in data centers of all sizes. Storage virtualization groups physical storage from multiple storage devices so that it looks like a single storage device. Software-defined storage (SDS) includes storage virtualization and goes further to abstract all storage services from hardware devices using software to create, deploy, and manage storage resources and infrastructure. SDS replaces expensive proprietary storage solutions with software-defined storage that uses x86 technology. By using industry-standard x86 technology, SDS helps eliminate the need for storage area networks (SANs) and proprietary storage expertise. Organizations can also reduce their storage footprint, which lowers hosting and cooling costs.
Software-defined networking (SDN) is a system networking architecture that separates the data plane from the control plane through routers and switches. The control plane is implemented in servers using software and is separate from networking hardware. The data plane is implemented in networking hardware. In traditional networking, when a data packet arrives at a switch or router, the firmware tells the hardware where to forward the packet and sends all packets to that destination using the same path. All packets are treated the same. More advanced smart switches equipped with application-specific integrated circuits recognize different types of packets and treat them differently based on the ASIC programming. These switches, however, are expensive.
SDN decouples networking control from the hardware’s firmware. The network administrator can centrally configure network traffic without changing the settings of individual switches. The administrator can change network rules, prioritization, and selectively block packets with greater control. SDN provides better control of network traffic and offer better security options while using less expensive commodity switches as the underlying hardware layer.
Combining server, storage, and network virtualization together leads to a completely software-defined infrastructure. The Why, the What and the How of the Software-Defined Data Center (Osterman Research, May 2017) identifies the business benefits of the SDDC solution: