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Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

In looking ahead to the future of the data centre, a software-defined reality is emerging

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

“It’s a little smarter, a little quicker and a little different but business is still the same as what it was 30 years ago.”

Even though SDDC marks the next evolution in infrastructure and data centre automation architecture, customers today still rate partners on similar performance levels.

“SDDCs will continue to evolve, but customers won’t really care,” Sententia CEO JP Clemence acknowledged. “You’re solving business problems, so how you do it, most people don’t care.

“They put the SLAs and their budget on the table and service providers will just need to work with it.”

Irrespective of size or stature, customers across Australia require a service that’s rolled out in a budget- constrained environment, with the onus now on the channel to deliver.

“Shifting towards a data centric economy has both pros and cons regardless of which part of the channel you are in,” AdventOne strategy and business consulting executive director Joe Tasevski said.

“To remain relevant, you need to understand more about the requirements of your customer and make changes to your business to suit these needs.

“Businesses should question how the supply meets the actual drivers from a business perspective. We’re moving towards a sophistication conversation now that may or may not have been in place before.”

According to Maguire, many automation projects aren’t currently delivering on previous promises, and coupled with more variety and complexity, infrastructure is now lifting its game.

“The automation is isolated from the complexity of the infrastructure and you can now pull together the policy and deliver that to the infrastructure that delivers the requirements,” Maguire said. “And all that the automation now needs to do is understand the server requirements.”

In operating as a solutions provider, Jones said value can be found by bringing together the right solution, not the best of breed solutions combined, together for customers.

Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions)
Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions)

Furthermore, such a solution differs according to the needs of each individual business.

“I often say to customers the best of things doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution for them,” Jones explained. “Our job is to point out to the customer where we think the risk vs. reward is very beneficial.”

Channel challenges

Despite a motivation to provide clear business outcomes within the context of SDDC, the channel - and the expanding ecosystem of partners within it — remains challenged.

“By removing workloads, businesses need to ensure they maintain the same service level agreements (SLAs) and level of availability regardless of where the workloads are,” Veritas Pacific SE lead Dean Riach added.

“That comes down to not only understanding what it is, but where you place it in and that can be a challenge for some companies.”

According to Nexus IT managing director Sean Murphy, the question quickly moves towards standards and interoperation.

“If you pick a vendor and you make a bad choice around a key thing that you’re about to invest automation and orchestration effort in, people aren’t necessarily subscribing to the same set of standards,” Murphy explained.

“And even when they do, some vendors implement a standard that’s not quite the same as others.”

Meanwhile, Devlin said infrastructure vendors are challenged by risk and compliance discussions because in a SDDC conversation, there is little emphasis on the hardware that holds the solution together.

“What we’re saying at a SDDC layer is, take all the cool and exciting bits and put it in a software layer and do lots of business-critical things on it,” Devlin explained. “It sounds risky but what’s holding that up? That’s the challenge.

“No one wants to talk about the hardware because it’s not sexy but it is the lynch pin that holds it all together.”

Joe Tasevski (AdventOne) and Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric)
Joe Tasevski (AdventOne) and Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric)

While SDDC remains crucial to the long-term evolution of an agile digital business, today, challenges remain around extracting channel value.

Because currently, SDDC does not represent the right choice for all IT organisations.

Therefore, partners must assess when the business case makes sense, which models and IT projects are best suited and the technology characteristics required for success.

“Software-defined is good from an IT perspective that it drives CAPEX [capital expenditure] costs down but from the perspective of running a data centre, you get a spike in the electricity bill,” Clemence added.

“You must reach a balance somewhere between the amount of virtualisation versus how much you’re paying for energy and the outcome you’re driving for the customer.”

Continuing the financial implications of adopting an SDDC approach, Hanrahan believes the virtualisation of data centres is important because unlike a traditional data centre model, it reduces costs through only charging for what is consumed.

“But in a traditional data centre model, when I take rack space, the space and power allocated to it, I pay from day one regardless if I consume it or not,” he said.

Due to its current immaturity, the SDDC market is perhaps most appropriate for visionary organisations with advanced expertise in engineering and architecture.

Through operating as a data centre in which all the infrastructure is virtualised and delivered ‘as-a- service’, this enables increased levels of automation and flexibility that will underpin business agility through the increased adoption of cloud services and enable modern IT approaches such as DevOps.

Today however, not all organisations are ready to begin adoption and should proceed with caution, with a widening skills gap also creating new barriers to adoption.


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