Each year, leading cloud computing experts share their thoughts on which trends will dominate over the next year or several years. And on the horizon for 2023 and beyond, we have SDx. Many consider SDx a genuinely disruptive technology shift that can change IT resource utilization for the better. But what is SDx? What impact will it have on businesses today? And how can it improve IT operations? Let's get into it.
What is SDx?
With virtualization now commonplace, software has become a fundamental aspect of most IT environments. As a result, the essential elements of cloud computing - storage, networking, compute - now all come in software-defined flavors, and we see the "SD" prefix everywhere. We have SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking), SDN (software-defined networking), SD-Access, and SD-Security. There's also SDE (software-defined environment) and SDDC (software-defined data center), and the list goes on.
With so many SD-something abbreviations out there, it's now become more straightforward to simply say software-defined everything (SDx) than list every possible approach. But what does SDx really mean? SDx is both an important descriptor and yet a somewhat ambiguous term that refers to changes happening in the IT world.
SDx refers to a digital shift towards "software-defined everything," where businesses employ software for every vital business operation. Traditionally, the "SD" prefix was predominately applied to disruptive technology that revolutionized the networking industry. And revolutionize it did - the early adopters of these software-driven technologies reaped incredible rewards in the form of boosted efficiencies and economies of scale previously unattainable.
However, today, software is transforming more than just networking. In fact, any physical item or function that can be automated by software can have "SDx" applied to it. This goes beyond IT and includes apps on mobile devices, Internet of Everything devices like GoPro cameras, self-driving cars, and Nest thermostats.
And on the IT side, SD applies to networking, compute, storage, data center, security, perimeter, WAN, and so on. The SDx world is rapidly evolving, and networking and infrastructure companies are trying to leave their mark in this world.
What Does an SDx IT Environment Look Like?
Okay, so we know what SDx is, but what specific technologies can businesses deploy to be considered an SDx-enabled company? Please note that this list isn't exhaustive. Still, it gives a solid look at the kinds of technologies SDx encompasses.
Software-defined Networking (SDN)
Typical SDN architecture has an application layer with business applications, a control layer with network services and SDN control software, and an infrastructure layer with network devices.
Software-defined Storage (SDS)
SDS uses virtual storage applications designed to work specifically with your applications and can be easily adapted to your needs.
Software-defined perimeter (SDP)
A SDP hides Internet-connected infrastructure (servers, routers, etc.), so attackers can't see it, whether on-premise or in the cloud.
Software-defined data center (SDDC)
SDDC is where all infrastructure elements -- networking, storage, CPU, and security -- are virtualized and delivered as a service.
Sometimes also dubbed "SDS," software-defined security is a model where information security is implemented, controlled, and managed by dedicated security software.
Orchestration software (combined with automation) can streamline applications and functions through standard, repeatable processes. You can automate provisioning, compliance management, and more.
But why transition to an SDx approach? Put simply, the mission of SDx is to break down the compute, storage, and networking silos by using software to bridge technological and organizational gaps. By allowing software to play a leading role across the IT environment, companies can boost productivity and efficiency and allow more robust network access from both portable and traditional devices.
How SDx is Transforming Businesses - Benefits of SDx For Businesses
Arguably, the primary benefit of SDx is its ability to transform IT from an obstacle to a business enabler. Software-defined technology can accelerate the implementation of both network and data center resources, thereby allowing applications to be deployed in just a few minutes. As a result, IT teams become seen as an enabler of new capabilities (and business opportunities) rather than a roadblock to progress.
At the same time, an SDx environment means that technology is less dependent on its hardware. This allows companies to foster a more resilient and flexible IT landscape that's better able to handle the often dramatically changing demands of the modern world.
More specifically, the value of SDx for businesses can be found in three key areas:
SDx empowers IT departments to look at the per-unit cost of IT resources and manage them at a granular level.
By highlighting software over hardware, companies can achieve a more agile IT infrastructure that allows them to respond more quickly to market pressures and opportunities.
SDx solutions can protect businesses from the security vulnerabilities and operational risks inherent in inefficient legacy infrastructure. For example, SDx configuration automation allows for consistency across the IT estate, therefore reducing security vulnerabilities.
Many companies are already transitioning to an SDx environment, but some key drivers accelerate its adoption. For example, data center optimization is a prominent driver of SDx solutions. With SDN and other SDx technologies, businesses can improve application performance by organizing workloads across private and public clouds.
Simplifying the storage environment is also a potent motivator that encourages many organizations to make the jump to SDx. Here, SDx allows for higher-level management of external storage arrays that act as a single pool of resources.
Lastly, automated resource provisioning is a significant driver of being an SDx-enabled organization. Here, SDx solutions can automatically provision virtual machines for developers or similar use cases, allowing for increased operational efficiency.
In 2023 and the years that follow, we will see more businesses embracing SDx technologies to achieve greater efficiencies, a more robust IT landscape, and a competitive edge in an increasingly complex IT world.