Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Building the Software Defined Data Center

Tools to automate and streamline SDDC management

The driving force behind a Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) is software that's capable of properly managing the underlying hardware. Find out what solutions are available for SDDCs.

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The concept of a Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) relies primarily on the software involved in automating administrative and maintenance tasks for your server environment. Without a robust solution for management, a SDDC is nothing more than a hodgepodge of physically connected computer hardware unable to effectively coordinate operations to serve the ever-changing needs of your organization. As such, the strength of your chosen management tools are the lynchpin of your SDDC.

Cisco Unified Computing System

The Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Manager software allows for remote management access using an HTML5 web interface, a command line, or programmatically using an API. Cisco UCS Manager is embedded in Cisco's Fabric interconnects, and is compatible with Cisco's UCS server line, as well as Composable Infrastructure and HyperFlex systems. Cisco UCS Manager is intended to reduce the time and expense of server administration by automating various tasks -- the company claims that UCS "participates in server, fabric, and storage provisioning, device discovery, inventory, configuration, diagnostics, monitoring, fault detection, auditing, and statistics collection."

Accordingly, Cisco UCS Central extends the functions of Cisco UCS Manager across multiple domains, and optionally across physical locations. This software allows for standardization of systems across your organization, as well as the ability to schedule firmware upgrades selectively based on automated schedules or workload thresholds to minimize performance degradation and potential downtime.

For testing deployments and policy models, the UCS Platform Emulator allows system administrators to test configurations without needing physical hardware, even for complex, large-scale environments.

UCS is compatible with KVM, VMware, and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors, and Linux or Windows guest operating systems, and the UCS Director allows for easy creation and editing of virtual machines, virtual networks, and hosts.

Ready-to-deploy integrated solutions powered by UCS are available from various companies, including NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock, Nimble Storage SmartStack, Hitachi Data Systems UCP Select, Cisco / IBM VersaStack, and Cisco / EMC VSPEX.

VMware EVO SDDC

The VMware EVO SDDC Manager works in conjunction with the existing VMware virtualization products and associated management interface to be the single management interface for both the virtual and the physical infrastructure in a SDDC. In addition to a web interface, EVO SDDC Manager provides API access for programmatic administration of your SDCC. These functions are provided by the EVO Hardware Management Services (HMS), which is part of the dedicated management infrastructure on each server rack. HMS automatically reports the addition of new servers to EVO SDDC Manager, as well as bootstraps or resets the servers, and processes hardware events and state changes.

For integrated systems, EVO SDDC greatly simplifies hardware deployment, as systems are shipped to the end user pre-racked, pre-cabled, and pre-imaged. When the system is connected to the network (and electricity), it uses this information, plus user-provided data, to initialize the rack. According to VMware, "Time savings will vary by customer, but upfront setup time is estimated to be reduced from several weeks to as little as two hours due to the automation of certain previously manual functions related to provisioning workloads, including automated provisioning of networks, allocation of resources based on service needs, and provisioning of end points."

Ready-to-deploy integrated solutions powered by VMware EVO SDDC are available from Dell, Fujitsu, Quanta, VCE, and others.

OpenStack

Automation is at the heart of OpenStack. However, while the popular open-source solution provides the majority of the components of a SDDC -- compute, networking, imaging, storage solutions, orchestration, and telemetry, plus a dashboard with which to manage the entire stack and API for program access -- it does not offer an internal hypervisor. This void can easily be filled with other open-source solutions, such as KVM. Docker support is available if you prefer containers to full virtualization. OpenStack can also be used with closed-source hypervisors, including VMware.

Naturally, the benefit to OpenStack is the freedom it provides from software vendor contracts -- being open source, it can more easily be customized to the needs of your organization, granting more control to IT staff in platform upgrades and hardware options. As OpenStack has been firmly positioned as the go-to open-source option in the wider cloud market, successive versions will likely increase support for the needs of the burgeoning SDDC market.

Ready-to-deploy integrated solutions powered by OpenStack are available from Quanta, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Fujitsu, IBM, and others.

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