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FCW : September 15, 2016
30 September 15, 2016 FCW.COM SDDC has rarely been fully and satis- factorily implemented at any sizable organization in either the public or pri- vate sector. I served as a consultant to a major commercial bank that was attempting a large-scale transforma- tion to SDDC. The effort failed despite the bank’s extensive resources. For this article, I asked numerous ven- dors to recommend federal clients who could comment for attribution; ultimately, they all declined. In the bank’s case, the hurdles were mainly organizational. Top manag- ers disagreed about which solutions should be used at the upper levels of the software stack and which firms should implement the work. As the project fell behind schedule, talented members of the design team found other work. Government, of course, is different. When national security or individu- als’ personally identifiable information is at stake, security is paramount. As with anything else in this age of hack- tivism and cyberwarfare, every effort must be made to avoid data breaches in an SDDC infrastructure. IT depart- ments must be able to verify that data is secure at rest, in transit and at any endpoint. Still, some challenges are not unique to any sector. And many of them stem from the tug-of-war between two philosophies of SDDC. The first, as represented by VMware and its partners, is that tasks originally handled by hardware will inevitably be performed by software, so the hardware choice ought to be incon- sequential. Alternately, Cisco and others start their solutions from the bare metal and use that native understanding of networking to inform their software. For those reasons, it is difficult to define the optimal solution, especial- ly at the orchestration level, which enables everything within the infra- structure to play together nicely. Leg- acy hardware might be expensive to write off, and vendor lock-in is a seri- ous issue. And, as suggested above, there is a dearth of real-world proof that SDDC works. Next steps There might well be such proof some- day. But so far nobody has completed the journey and used an SDDC infra- structure long enough to say that the projected savings and efficiencies have been attained. There is no “SDDC in a box” solu- tion. It is an evolutionary process. Typically, an agency will start by vir- tualizing its servers and, when that new state has solidified, go on to vir- tualizing storage. At that juncture, the major roadblock to true SDDC is the network. The decision point then is whether to go with the hardware-and-up route touted by Cisco or the orchestration layer-and-down route that VMware offers. The former provides an oppor- tunity to use existing hardware or the next scheduled refresh, thereby avoiding a big write-off. It also means that the investment in paying to train Cisco Certified Network Associates and Technicians will not become a sunk cost. But the agency risks hardware ven- dor lock-in, scalability could become an issue, and the long-term savings might not be as pronounced as what the VMware solution offers. VMware’s top-down approach, for its part, would probably require a steep learning curve on the part of the IT department. The hardware vendor lock-in disappears but is replaced by software vendor lock-in, which could be even harder to uncouple from. It is clear that the arc of history bends toward software, but even so, VMware is not the only game in town. There are any number of open- source solutions specific to particu- lar domains, but it would be difficult to find a suite whose elements work together optimally, no less a team of IT architects sophisticated enough to build the custom solution. So the IT manager contemplating a move to SDDC, willingly or not, must understand that it is a long road. Vir- tualizing computing, storage and net- work resources will probably need to proceed sequentially rather than in parallel. And above all else, before even thinking about the design phase, man- agers are well advised to determine what their true functional and security requirements are. Only then can they adequately define the target state and perform a feasibility study. Those efforts will lead to decisions about which ven- dors to screen, negotiate with and ultimately select. n ExecTe ch The IT manager contemplating a move to SDDC, willingly or not, must understand thatitisa long road. 0915fcw_029-030.indd 30 8/23/16 1:16 PM
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September 30, 2016