Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

Selling the benefits of the software-defined data centre

In looking ahead to the future of the data centre, a software-defined reality is emerging

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

Nathan Knight (Lenovo); Julie Barbieri (NTT Communications ICT Solutions); Denis Maguire (Cisco); Phil Jones (Focus Group Technologies); David Hanrahan (Dimension Data); Joe Tasevski (AdventOne); Hafizah Osman (ARN); Andrew Sylvester (APC by Schneider Electric); Dean Riach (Veritas); Sean Murphy (Nexus IT); Patrick Devlin (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and JP Clemence (Sententia)

As organisations evolve into agile digital businesses, and place new demands on a maturing data centre, a state of software-defined is surfacing across the Australian channel.

Triggered by the need to innovate, and a desire to consume IT differently, businesses are increasing adoption across Australia.

Reflective of an upwards global spending trend, the worldwide software-defined data centre (SDDC) market is estimated to grow from US$25.61 billion in 2016, to US$83.21 billion by 2021.

Specifically, major growth drivers include uptake of advanced centre management software that provides increased security at low cost, increased data centre agility and scalability, alongside central management of data centre operations.

Yet such adoption comes in different shapes and sizes, with the SDDC market playing host to a varied network of customers, each harbouring different demands and requirements.

“We’re seeing customers that were managers of hardware 10 years ago, transition to become managers of applications and now service delivery managers,” Hewlett Packard Enterprise director of distribution and mid-market Patrick Devlin observed.

Consequently, the new CIO of the future is taking charge of delivering an outcome to the wider business, with technology expected to service such requirements on an ongoing basis.

“A SDDC is a service that customers consume that delivers on that promise,” Devlin explained. “It’s the ultimate in virtualisation of a hardware and software layer in a central environment. It’s a new way of looking at IT consumption.”

From a technology perspective, the overriding objective of a SDDC is to simplify infrastructure, alongside offering more centralised management and a better understanding of application requirements.

“To do that, you need hardware and software infrastructure to be working together,” Cisco data centre and virtualisation solutions regional manager Denis Maguire said.

David Hanrahan (Dimension Data) and Denis Maguire (Cisco)
David Hanrahan (Dimension Data) and Denis Maguire (Cisco)

“What has accelerated the process has been cloud and the types of services that can be consumed in the cloud for IT to be able to deliver a better experience.”

In addition, virtualising many layers of the data centre helps create a transparent platform, a platform capable of adjusting according to fluctuating business requirements.

“We started off with virtualised IT in a server, moving on to virtualised networking and now we’re looking at virtualised storage,” APC by Schneider Electric Asia Pacific and Japan data centre software regional director Andrew Sylvester added.

“That is the critical middle piece sitting underneath all that hardware and above the actual applications connected layer.”

Delving deeper, the rise of ubiquitous application programming interfaces (APIs) at every layer of the stack has also driven fundamental change toward the SDDC market.

“Just two years ago, we had individual vendors locked in to layers of a stack,” Dimension Data cloud services general manager David Hanrahan added.

“Ubiquitous APIs at all levels is what lets us automate and drive towards a software-defined world. A key change that makes a difference is that business is driving that world from an application led perspective.”

Yet for some customers, and partners, change isn’t as closely associated to technology, rather a business mind-set.

“What’s important is the process, the outcomes and what we’re trying to achieve,” Focus Group Technologies director Phil Jones added. “We have to have the right technology to deliver that but it’s about outcomes such as agility and availability.”

Delivering outcomes

As the industry continues to maximise the efficiencies of the public cloud, the SDDC market can similarly create added benefits for partners across the channel.

“SDDC takes us back into our business and gives us the opportunity to be more specialised,” Lenovo A/ NZ data centre group channel sales manager Nathan Knight said.

Sean Murphy (Nexus IT) and Nathan Knight (Lenovo)
Sean Murphy (Nexus IT) and Nathan Knight (Lenovo)

“We leverage the efficiency of public cloud but when we start looking at outcomes, instead of having to do a huge infrastructure investment, we can be specialised in our investments with software- defined which also allows us to scale as we grow.”

For Knight, the hyper-converged software-defined space is filled with “speed and disruption” changes, with cloud naturally a key trigger of such change.

“We need to think about how this technology will de-power the hardware side of the business and align with the relevant technologies,” Knight added.

At a partner level, Devlin stressed that the notion of as-a-service and delivering outcomes is not a new-fangled concept, meaning that partners must stay faithful to current practices.

“The automation piece is new, the products to back it up are new and the availability of public cloud is new but the service they provide is the same,” Devlin added. “It’s a long-time customer model that our partner community had and needs to keep doing.”

In offering an on-the-ground partner perspective, NTT Communications ICT Solutions national sales director and infrastructure general manager Julie Barbieri added that businesses demand services and are not worried by how such services are subsequently delivered by the channel.

“When we talk to customers, we don’t start the conversation with how we operate our data centre, it starts with what is the business issue and how do we address it,” Barbieri added.

“If customers get that service they request for within the timeframe and budget they want, they’re satisfied. So, the focus should be on that.”

For Barbieri, partners must also adopt an innovative mind-set to maintain relations with customers, in order to stay ahead of the chasing, and competitive, pack.

“Be present and listen to the requirements of the customer,” Barbieri explained. “It’s also got to do with your own delivery and its efficiency and that becomes relevant to your customer as you can do it faster, smarter and cheaper.

“Businesses are on a journey with SDDC and there will continually be evolution in this space but nothing has and will change in this industry.

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