Software-defined everything

Software-defined everything (SDE) is an umbrella term for a number of technologies that are helping redefine IT. Currently, this group of technologies encompasses software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined storage (SDS), and software-defined data centers (SDDC). Each approach aims to abstract the operating environment from physical infrastructure, while automating the processes that manage the infrastructure. By freeing businesses from proprietary hardware and simplifying the provisioning and management of IT resources, the hope is that software-defined approaches will lead to cost savings, efficiency gains, and improved business agility. This potential has led analysts to estimate the SDE market’s value at between five and 30 billion U.S. dollars as of 2016, with the more optimistic of forecasts suggesting SDE as a whole could be worth 140 billion U.S. dollars by 2022.


Networks and network functions
One of the fundamental elements of the SDE approach, software-defined networking allows operators to manage a network programmatically, separating the application that manages the network from the network hardware. This approach provides a flexible, programmable network layer that can be retuned continuously to an organization’s immediate and future needs. The global market for software-defined networking - which includes physical network infrastructure; virtualization and control software; SDN applications, including network and security services; and professional services – was valued at 3.5 billion in 2016. Its growth is apparent in the increase of SDN- and network function virtualization (NFV)- related data center traffic, which is forecast to increase sixfold, from 0.8 zettabytes in 2015 to 5.2 zettabytes in 2020. Meanwhile, the market subsegment of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) was estimated to reach 250 million U.S. dollars in 2016.

Storage
The second element of SDE, software-defined storage, describes an approach through which enterprises can deploy heterogeneous storage hardware without worrying about interoperability. Features of SDS may include virtualization, advanced policy management, and automated data deduplication, replication, snapshots, and backups. Through such features, the need for manual oversight of storage resources is reduced and much of their management can be automated. In surveys around the business goals driving the adoption of SDS, respondents indicated that they wished to future-proof infrastructure, simplify the management of disparate storage classes, and extend the life of existing assets. Other drivers included improving disaster preparedness, reducing costs, and reducing business disruption. In 2016, the software-defined storage market was valued at 4.7 billion U.S. dollars, and was forecast to increase to 22 billion by 2021.

Data centers
Finally, the software-defined everything trend has culminated, at least for the time being, in the software-defined data center. A SDDC is an IT facility where the infrastructure elements – networking, storage, compute, and security – are virtualized and delivered on-demand, and the operation of the infrastructure is automated, ideally in its entirety, by software. The software-defined data center market was valued at 26 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 and is expected to increase to 83 billion dollars by 2021. One study reported that, on average, 18 percent of IT spending went towards data center operations and infrastructure. If software-defined savings can be realized - whether through hardware savings, reduced power consumption, cooling requirements, or maintenance costs - the impact on budgets may be significant. Coupled with the promised efficiency, scalability, and productivity gains, software-defined everything will have a lasting impact on business operations.

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