The term 'software defined' is now so over used it may have no meaning at all. Yet there are key factors to bear in mind for your SD deployment.
“X” is also being used to describe “Marketing” for Software Defined Marketing, “Sales” for Software Defined Sales, “Hype” Software Defined Hype (or FUD) or – as Ed Saipetch of Speaking in Tech podcast pointed a year or two ago – “BS” for Software Defined BS.
All Software Defined Snark or Software Defined Humor aside, while there are actual good and valid use for Software Defined, there is a challenge: the over usage of the term. This over usage has lead to the Software Defined Jump The Shark (SDJTS) syndrome. The result of SDJTS is that many vendors and VARs loosely use ‘Software Defined’ in marketing ways that leaves customers or prospects scratching their heads as to what the solution or product is, or how it differs from others.
Some Software Defined perspectives
First, hardware is not very effective without software that defines how general-purpose processors, servers, PCIe cards, ASIC, FPGAs and other components function. That software may be packaged as firmware fixed in an ASIC, or flashed (e.g. it can be changed) with an FPGA, stored in a ROM (that can be flashed) for BIOS, or tin wrapped (e.g. software deployed on or with a server hardware) as a solution.
Naturally the software could also be deployed using a cloud or virtual machine. I have had both sales people and some wanna-be industry pundits try to tell me this eliminates the need for hardware. Keep in mind that cloud and virtual do not eliminate the need for hardware, rather they relocate where the hardware is, along with how it gets used. What this all means is that software needs hardware and hardware needs software, both of which get defined using software tools to exploit feature functionality along with enabling management of the solutions.
Something that I’m not hearing for the most part is the industry (vendors, vars, press/media, analyst or other pundits) talking about Software Defined “X” Management.
For example, Software Defined Networking Management, or Software Defined Data Center Management or Software Defined Storage Management, among other variations. The challenge with Software Defined Management, particularly Network Management, is that some people will assume that means legacy uber frameworks such as those from CA, HP, IBM, Symantec and others. Some tools may in the past been known as storage resource management or systems resource management (SRM), or systems resource analysis (SRA). On the other hand, there are newer Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools that are cross platform and technology aware spanning cloud, virtual and physical.
Some of these are startups, some have been around for a while, some are known, while others are not known or may come from a different adjacent technology area. For instance, tools from Dell, EMC, Hotlink, HP, IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, Puppet, Solarwinds, Splunk and VMware, among many others.
Another challenge with the software defined management perspective is that you might jump to the conclusion it simply means orchestration or something else. My perspective is that if the software unlocks the full potential of other software and hardware along with services (e.g. cloud) than that opens the door for being software-defined management. Keep in mind, however, that management of IT resources encompasses many different aspects, not to mention leveraging automation, intelligence, metrics that matter among other things.
Is Software Defined a different way of saying Virtual?
When you hear software defined “x,” in some cases it’s referring to virtualization, such as the virtual data center, virtual storage or storage virtualization along with virtual servers. Not surprisingly, the use of the software defined data center has had VMware out front carrying the software-defined flag.
The answer is simple, in that it would make more sense for them to lead with virtual, many people would associate virtual with VMware and thus see things as a VMware-led movement. This would cause some competitors to not want to support the cause. On the other hand, by using software as the rallying cry, it comes across as more neutral and far-reaching and thus almost everybody is now using it.
Also keep in mind that the Virtual Data Center was one of the industry rallying cries a few years ago, which means some with industry buzzword attention deficit disorder needed something new to talk about, or a way of talking about the same thing.
What this all means?
Simple, you may see software defined as brilliant or BS, hype or hope, realistic or ridiculous, passing fad or continuing trend, product or prophecy, which may also vary depending on who is pitching or telling the story and given solution.
Start asking vendors how their software defined solution addresses and enables management of other software and hardware vs. simply adding another layer of technology complexity and cost.
Software defined should work for you, and you should not have to become a programmer or developer in order to deploy and use Software Defined Anything (SDA). Also, keep in mind that software is created and defined in many different ways that, in turn, is deployed in various forms. Hardware requires software, software requires hardware, the next true industry “unique first” will be hardware that no longer requires software, or software that does not require hardware (sorry cloud and virtual or marketing based do not count).
What say you regarding software defined? Provide your perspectives in the Software Defined Comment Section below.