vSphere 5.5 Improvements Part 2 – Pushing For A Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC)

I’ve been a long time follower of the annual buzzword fiesta that occurs with each vendor’s product release. For VMware, the shift has ranged from virtualized consolidation, the cloud, your cloud, the private cloud, the hybrid cloud, and now the software-defined data center (SDDC). And yet, each description prior to SDDC just felt wrong in a way. The cloud is a very poor term to describe a compute infrastructure, and was something that I would expect to find in a marketecture brochure (for those playing at home, that’s the cramming of marketing and architecture into a single, fun word). I actually like the term “software-defined data center” because it’s the closest wordsmithing I’ve seen to come close to the reality of what we’re trying to do with cloud infrastructure.

So this year at VMworld, the entire push is to consume vSphere 5.5, and its related products and solutions, to further your journey towards creating the utopia that is SDDC. In fact, the major action words are: efficiency, control, agility, and choice. Lay that on top of abstract, pool, and automate, and you get something that smacks of a George Orwell novel. 😉

Here’s a few comments I have on the push towards SDDC, and ways that VMware has been executing on that dream – both the good and the bad.

The Use of Product Suites

I managed vSphere (and VI3) environments for about 5 years, and can attest to the annoyance of purchasing individual features and solutions. Heck, I even remember when you could add on vMotion to a licensing agreement as a value-add.

Over time, VMware has locked in on three tiers of licensing – Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus (RIP Advanced). This was great for the hypervisor and some added features around it, but still made adopting a portfolio of products difficult at best. I was, and still am, a fan of this shift.

The major suite offering from VMware is the vCloud Suite – products that fold into that suite are shown in orange below. With version 5.5 being released (soon), some new players have entered the landscape – the green objects being NSX (fruits of the Nicira acquisition) and Virtual SAN or VSAN. It’s interesting – and a bit revealing – to see major investments from VMware in networking and storage, with the compute layer standing on its own with vSphere.


In fact, VMware’s newest Chief Strategist, Chuck Hollis, recently took the time to explain “Why You Should Consider VMware As A Serious (Future) Storage Vendor” after moving over from the EMC side of the house. That’s traditionally the bailiwick of the EMC Information Systems side of the EMC, VMware, and Pivotal trifecta. I’m still on the fence on this: everyone who creates storage for virtualization has worked hard to play well with VMware because vSphere installs drag along a gold chest of product sales, but then again, VMware has been doing more and more to compete with its own ecosystem. This can be good and bad (Amazon’s CloudWatch comes to mind).

Two Software-Defined Data Center Tiers

Ultimately, no one suite fits all sizes. For the SMB and smaller commercial sized organizations, VMware recommends a slightly different consumption strategy that looks very similar to the traditional model:

  • vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM) – for your virtualization and management / monitoring layer
  • vSphere Data Protection Advanced (VDPA) – to keep the virtual workloads protected
  • vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) – for data center level disaster recovery and business continuity protection
  • vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) – for turnkey, on demand cloud resources

Once you hit a certain level of scale, such as larger commercial or enterprise sizing, a different consumption model is suggested:

  • vCloud Suite – this includes vSphere and, depending on your suite licensing level: vCenter Operations, SRM, and a kitchen sink of other products (Infrastructure Navigator, Configuration Management, etc.)
  • NSX – for network virtualization
  • vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) – similar use case as before: on demand cloud resources


This really boils down to a few statements. First, I believe in the SDDC concept, and figure that it’s really just a matter of execution and price points to get the SDDC train chugging along the tracks. Using automation, policies, and virtualization goes together like peanut butter and jelly (or an MLT – Mutton, Lettuce, and Tomato – Howard Mark’s favorite sandwich).

My other thought is – are we all ready to embrace this type of change? Because it’s certainly not a technology barrier here, but more of a people, process, and ecosystem logjam. Are you willing to champion this change in your organization?