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Virtualization’s Software-Defined Future

In the first two parts of this series, we looked at both the history of virtualization and the new set of problems it’s introduced into our infrastructures. In part three, we’ll investigate its evolution and how it will continue to be part of our technology deployments.

A Software-Defined Future

The future for virtualization, in my opinion, comes in looking beyond our traditional view. Thinking about its basic concept could give us a clue to its future. At its base level, server virtualization takes an environment made up of applications and operating systems installed on a specific hardware platform and allows us to extract the environment from the hardware and turn it into something software-based only, something software-defined. Software-defined is a growing movement in modern IT infrastructure deployments. Extracting all elements of our infrastructure from the underlying hardware is key when we want to deploy at speed, at scale, and with the flexibility to operate infrastructure in multiple and differing locations. For this to work we need to software-define beyond our servers.

Software Defining Our Infrastructure

Storage and networking are now widely software-defined, be it by specialist players or major vendors. They’ve realized the value of taking things previously tied to custom hardware and packaging them to be quickly and easily deployed on any compatible hardware. Why is this useful? If we look at what we want from our infrastructure today, much of it has been defined by what we see of how hyperscale cloud providers deliver infrastructure. None of us knows, or really cares, about what sits under the covers of our cloud-based infrastructure—our interest is only in what it delivers. If our cloud provider swaps its entire hardware stack overnight, we wouldn’t know, but if our infrastructure continued to deliver the outcomes we had designed it for, it wouldn’t matter. Without software-defining our entire stack, there’s little chance we can deploy on-premises with the same speed and scale seen in cloud, making it difficult for us to operate the way businesses increasingly demand.

Is Software-Defined Virtualization?

This article may raise the question, “Is software-defined really virtualization?” In my opinion, it certainly is. As discussed earlier, virtualization is the separation of software from hardware dependency, providing the flexibility to install the software workload on any compatible hardware. This really is the definition of software-defined, be it storage, networking, or more traditional servers.

The Benefits of Software-Defined

If virtual, software-defined infrastructures are to continue to be relevant, they need to be able to meet modern and future demands. The infrastructure challenges within the modern enterprise are complex, and we’ve needed to change the way we approach infrastructure deployment. We need to respond more quickly to new demands, and custom hardware restrictions will limit our ability to do so. Virtualizing our entire infrastructure means we can deliver at speed and with consistency, in any location, on any compatible hardware, with the portability to move it as needed for performance and scale, without disruption. All this is at the core of a successful modern infrastructure. In the next part of this series, we’ll look at how infrastructure deployment is developing to take advantage of software-defined and how methodologies such as infrastructure as code are essential to our ability to deliver consistent infrastructure, at scale and speed.
Paul Stringfellow
Paul has 20 years’ experience working with IT infrastructure and specializes in the design, development and strategic direction. He spends a large portion of his…
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