To me, the Q1 2015 launch of VMware products is the culmination of releases in the past 6 months. Together, they are making it closer for us as IT professionals to architect a data center that is defined in software. In the past, we typically limit our scope to around Compute component of the data center. Perhaps we did Compute + another component, but we did not normally architect the entire data center. We were not The Data Center Architect. I said we limit, as no one will typically complain if we go beyond that self imposed limit.
Going forward, it’s becoming a reality. You can take advantage of this and rise to become the SDDC Architect. VMware has been advocating the idea of Virtualization Center of Excellence. This team needs a lead, which is the SDDC Architect. An SDDC Architect uses the physical layer as resource provider, and virtual layer to define the actual data center.
A data center has several major components. We all know that, so let’s just summarise them in a table below:
|Compute||I prefer to call Compute than Server. With the converged infrastructure like EVO:Rail and Nutanix, the boundary between Server and Storage is not clear anymore|
|Storage||This includes back up, data replication, archive, snap shot, and other storage services|
|Network||This includes both the core network functionality (routing, load balancing) and security services (Firewall)|
|DR and DA||A data center should not be stand alone. If a disaster strikes, the services should fail over to another data center which is physically apart.|
|Management||Managing all the components above. Management has to be built-in into the SDDC itself, not a separate, distant tool.|
|Security||Securing all the above component.|
From the above table, it’s clear that your circle of influence and your circle of concern is wide. You can tackle many areas now with software and virtualization. It is no longer bound to Compute. What can you use? The table below summarises the key products you can use. I’ve only listed softwares, keeping in line with the principle of Software-defined. I’ve listed some partner products as they value add by providing enhanced or missing functionality. They also integrate well into the respective VMware products.
|Storage||VSAN, VVOL, VDP Advanced (no longer charged)|
|Network||NSX and 3rd party (e.g. Palo Alto, F5) who uses NSX API|
|DR and DA||SRM (with vSphere Replication or Array Replication)|
|Management||vRealize Suite with 3rd party add on (e.g. management packs, content packs)|
|Security||NSX (distributed firewall)
Hypervisor-based Partner solution that extends NSX, such as TrendMicro and Palo Alto
The above is the software. What about the hardware? There are many hardware now that is geared towards virtualization. They are not only virtualization aware, they integrate deep into VMware. I’ve used products such as Nutanix and Arista (in fact, still using Arista). There are also products such as Simplivity and Tintri. From VMware and partners, you have certainly seen EVO:Rail and the upcoming EVO:Rack.
What about cost? We are all expected to do more with less. There are a few progress that is your favour as an SDDC Architect:
- The rapid improvement at the CPU level. In Q4 2014, Intel released an 18-core Xeon E5-2699 V3. This means a 2-socket ESXi host has 36 cores, 72 threads. This lets you consolidate more VM, or put hypervisor-based services. I’m seeing customers move towards 30:1 as global average. That’s a lot of savings. Beside hardware, space, power, cooling, VMware, you need to work out your Windows saving, Oracle saving, RedHat saving, etc. Know the total saving that entire company saves, not just your department.
- The rapid growth of Distributed Storage. This is fueled by 4 factors:
- on-going price reduction of both SSD and 10G ethernet.
- the shrinking of disk form factor (from 3.5″ to 2.5″ to 1.8″). For example, you can get 24 SSD in a 1RU rack mount server. An example is Dell R630, which gives 23TB via 0.96TB hot-plug SATA SSD.
- the enhancement on the motherboard enable Distributed Storage.
- the cost and complexity of centralised array.
- The on-going innovation on IP Storage. Distribute storage does not use FC. Enhancements on filesystems, VSAN, NFS make non-FC a more viable option than ever.
How does the role fit into an IT organisation? I guess it depends on the size of the company. Below is an example. The SDDC Architect plays a key and strategic role. It has a direct report to the CTO, or CIO. It has a wide span of responsibility and typically lead a team of specialists. Because it leads a team of experts, the role does not have to be an expert. In VMware context, the role does not have to be a VCDX, but it has to have sufficient hands-on knowledge with some level of troubleshooting.
What’s your take? Are you already an SDDC Architect? Are you seeing the window of opportunity to become one in 2015? I’m keen to hear your thought!