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GCN : January 2015
ROI: THE SOFTWARE-DEFINED ENTERPRISE tasks with software that automates those tasks requires less human intervention, lowering operational costs. In addition, an automated infrastructure can provision resources much more quickly, giving users faster access to critical applica- tions and services. This is especially true for repeatable tasks, which are the majority of all data center service requests. Other sources of reduced operational costs include less required physical space, along with lower heating and cooling expendi- tures. This area of ROI, related to employee productivity, is the unsung hero of the ROI equation, says Clifford Grossner, a directing analyst at Infonetics Research. Because the software-defined enterprise provisions networking, servers, storage and applications only when they are required, less infrastructure is required, lowering capital costs as well. In the traditional data center, the compute, storage and network are physical, inflexible resources that can’t be easily shared, so an agency might have an entire bank of storage devices with all of them only partially used. It’s the same for networks; an What’s the Difference Between Virtualization and Software-Defined? At first glance, it might seem like the software-defined network, storage or data center is just virtualization by another name. In some ways that’s true—both aim to more efficiently, directly, consolidate or segment resources—but there are important differences. Network virtualization, for example, reproduces isolated versions of the physical network that can be created, operated and removed without disturbing physical assets. SDN uses switches that can be programmed through an SDN controller using an industry stan- dard control protocol such as OpenFlow. It changes the network architecture by separating the control plane from the data plane. There are also differences between software-defined storage and storage virtualization. Storage virtual- ization is a process that pools data from multiple storage devices in a way that functions as a single device managed from a central console. Software-defined storage allows storage services to be dynamically created and delivered per virtual machine and controlled by policy. This allows storage services to be fully aligned with application requirements. agency could deploy a significant amount of network and security infrastructure along its perimeter but if it’s provisioned in a very static way, there may be portions of the network that are underutilized while others are stressed or unknowingly insecure. Dynamically provisioning networks, through software, per application can drastically reduce these pain points while providing a significantly increased security posture. “With a software-defined paradigm, there is a flexible pool of resources that are dynamically used on the fly by the application that needs it,” Grossner explains. “So right away once you get to that point there is much better use of resources so you need fewer resources to deliver your applications to the end users.” Here is just one example: An agency with mission-critical applications but unpredictable use of those applications is spending $50 million per year on physical network and storage technol- ogy to ensure that its users will always have the infrastructure and access they need. Under the old paradigm, the agency would have to keep investing millions of dollars in the infrastructure each year. If the agency invested that same $50 million in a software- defined enterprise, after absorbing the initial capital costs, ongoing costs will decrease significantly, while the intelligence and responsiveness of the technology increases dramatically. Calculating the ROI One of the best metrics to measure the ROI of the software-defined enterprise is the cost per application or service. That involves understand- ing the true cost of running the appli- cation—the people, labor, licensing, energy, real estate and infrastructure. Comparing those costs before imple- menting a software-defined enterprise and afterwards is a valuable metric. If the application in a traditional data center costs $100 per day for opera- tions and management, it might cost $20 per day in a software-defined data center, for example. There are other important metrics that can be measured as well. One is the investment in orchestration soft- ware versus the time freed up in an employee’s day that used to be filled with tasks such as manual network configuration and storage provision- ing. Others include measuring the time it takes to get an application up and running under the old and new infrastructure, downtime, reclaimed free space, percentage of applica- tions that meet SLAs, average time to provision a node or deploy an application, average delivery time of new products or services, and percentage of managed nodes. The specific metrics you measure will depend on your specific infrastruc- ture and agency priorities. There are many tools available to measure these metrics. In addition to project management tools already in use by many IT departments, there are standalone tools such as VMware vRealize Business. Systems integra- tors and consultants often have their own tools as well. VMware_GCN_4pgAd_final2.indd 3 1/9/15 12:46 PM
November and December 2014