What is Software Defined Infrastructure?

The rapid growth of cloud and virtualization technologies over the past several decades has seen the emergence of news ways to innovate and optimize infrastructure management. Software-defined infrastructure (SDI) turns the traditional hardware-centric approach to infrastructure management on its head. 

Traditionally, servers, storage, and networking are managed and provisioned through manual and hardware-oriented processes. With SDI, these infrastructure resources are managed through software control and automation. At our Houston data center, for example, we support SDI through virtualized storage resources.

In this article, we’ll look at how SDI works, explore the key ingredients in its success, highlight the benefits, and examine its role in modern data centers.

How does Software-Defined Infrastructure work?

The foundation of SDI is virtualization – the abstraction of hardware resources as software. Instead of interacting directly with the hardware, we interact with virtual instances of servers, storage, and networking components in a hyperconverged infrastructure. With the ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and high throughput of modern networks, this arrangement enables a far more flexible and scalable infrastructure.

SDI is an umbrella term that includes software control of key areas of infrastructure, which have their own related methodologies:

  • Software-defined networking (SDN): SDN separates the control plane from the underlying network hardware. Network resources are controlled and managed centrally, giving administrators greater agility and efficiency when configuring and provisioning large networks.
  • Software-defined storage (SDS): Similarly, SDS abstracts storage resources and gives us a unified view of storage infrastructure. SDS enables administrators to pool storage capacity, so they can manage it across multiple devices. It also leverages techniques like data deduplication, replication, and automated tiering to optimize storage efficiency and utilization.

Finally, a key principle underlying SDI is the notion of infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Treating infrastructure configuration and management as code enables a programmatic approach to deploying infrastructure resources, where administrators define infrastructure resources and their configurations with programming languages or declarative formats. With IaC, organizations can define and execute complex automated workflows and provisioning tasks, speeding up deployment and improving operational efficiency.

What’s required to make SDI a success?

One key requirement of a software defined infrastructure is that the data center has sufficient compute, storage, and networking capacity to support business requirements. To successfully manage and allocate that capacity, an organization must embrace several key concepts and practices:

  • Intelligent Virtualization: SDI relies heavily on intelligent virtualization techniques to abstract and manage hardware resources. Hypervisors, also known as virtual machine managers (VMMs), create and allocate virtual instances, ensuring efficient resource utilization and isolation.
  • Redundancy: Redundancy is crucial in SDI to ensure high availability and fault tolerance. By implementing redundant hardware components and employing techniques like load balancing and failover mechanisms, organizations can minimize the impact of hardware failures and maintain uninterrupted service delivery.
  • Monitoring: Comprehensive monitoring solutions are essential to keep track of the performance, health, and utilization of SDI resources. Real-time monitoring enables proactive identification of issues, capacity planning, and optimization, ensuring optimal resource allocation and performance.
  • Awareness of context: SDI implementations should consider the context and specific requirements of the organization. This includes factors such as workload patterns, security policies, compliance regulations, and business objectives. By aligning the SDI solution with the organizational context, it becomes more tailored and effective.
  • Open Source: Open-source technologies play a significant role in SDI. Open-source solutions provide flexibility, community-driven innovation, and cost savings. Open-source projects like OpenStack, Kubernetes, and Ansible are widely adopted in SDI environments, offering robust and scalable solutions for infrastructure management and orchestration.

The Benefits of Software-Defined Infrastructure

Organizations can realize several significant benefits by implementing a software-defined infrastructure:

  • Agility: SDI enables organizations to respond quickly to changing business needs by facilitating dynamic resource allocation, scalability, and rapid provisioning. This agility allows businesses to be more responsive, competitive, and adaptive in the digital landscape.
  • Flexibility: With SDI, organizations can easily adapt their infrastructure to suit diverse workloads and requirements. Virtualization and software-defined layers provide the flexibility to allocate and reallocate resources on-demand, leading to improved resource utilization and cost-efficiency.
  • Scalability: SDI allows for seamless scalability by abstracting physical resources and enabling the addition or removal of virtual instances based on workload demands. Scaling up or down becomes a more straightforward process, ensuring optimal performance and reducing unnecessary costs.
  • Cost Efficiency: By leveraging virtualization, SDN, and SDS, SDI optimizes resource utilization, reduces hardware requirements, and minimizes manual intervention. Organizations can save money on hardware procurement, power consumption, maintenance, and operational expenses.

The Role of Software-Defined Infrastructure in Data Centers

Software-Defined Infrastructure transforms traditional data center operations. It empowers data centers with enhanced agility, efficiency, and scalability, aligning them with the evolving demands of digital business.

With SDI, data centers are able to provision and allocate resources dynamically, catering to varying workloads and application requirements. Virtualization and abstraction of storage, networking, and compute resources streamline resource allocation and utilization, optimizing data center operations.

Furthermore, SDI facilitates automation and orchestration, allowing data center administrators to define infrastructure configurations as code. This approach improves consistency, eliminates manual errors, and accelerates deployment. It also enables data centers to embrace DevOps practices by aligning infrastructure provisioning with agile software development processes.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) enables centralized management, control, and automation of network resources. This flexibility simplifies network provisioning, enhances security, and allows for the creation of isolated network segments, facilitating multi-tenancy within data centers.

Software-Defined Storage (SDS) brings scalability, resilience, and efficient data management to data centers. SDS abstracts and pools storage resources, enabling organizations to scale storage capacity based on demand. It also introduces features like data deduplication, replication, and automated tiering, optimizing data center storage efficiency and performance.

In Summary

Software-defined infrastructure (SDI) is a transformative approach to infrastructure management in the era of cloud and virtualization technologies. By decoupling hardware resources from manual management processes, SDI enables organizations to achieve greater agility, scalability, and efficiency in their data centers.