By David Angradi, Director, Software Defined Data Center Solutions, Logicalis US

If you’re like most CIOs, your job description has been steadily evolving from technologist to trusted advisor.  You’re delivering IT as-a-service with a focus on user experience rather than speeds and feeds, and you’ve begun to free the IT team to focus on new and innovative ways to give the company competitive advantage.

But before innovation can define the business, software must first define your data center.

With a software-defined data center (SDDC) in which all of the components – network, compute, storage – are virtualized and controllable from a single unified interface, IT tasks that once took months to complete can literally become minute-long, single-click exercises. That means implementing SDDC isn’t something you can relegate to the back burner; if you do, experts agree, your company will soon be too slow to keep up.

One of the industry’s best kept secrets, however, is that you don’t have to rip and replace what you already have as you move toward a software-defined data center.  In fact, you may be closer to SDDC than you think. Great news, but where do you start?

Start with a plan:

Begin by assessing where your company is now as well as where it wants to go.  One of the biggest reasons SDDC projects fail is because the company is hyper-focused on the technological end goal to the exclusion of other factors.  True, SDDC is a technological change, but it’s not just about the physical assets in the data center.  There are people and process components involved in making a move to SDDC successful; to succeed, the organization has to be ready for these changes, and everyone concerned must be on board.

Virtualize where possible:

Create virtualized containers on top of all computing devices; by creating a software layer that’s separate from the physical hardware, IT can take action by building, configuring, changing and decommissioning hardware all from one unified management interface.  Dynamic swaps of space and configurations can be done on the fly; IT is no longer bound by how much capacity is available at a given point in time.  Imagine it this way: If you buried all your money in the back yard in various containers holding different denominations, you would have to dig each container up each time you needed a specific sum rather than simply going to the bank and withdrawing exactly what you need when you need it most. That’s the difference between managing a physical data center and a virtualized one.

Buy the right fuel:

Think of compute capacity as the fuel that runs the data center.  Like gasoline for cars, compute capacity comes in different varieties – public cloud, on-premise private cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two.  The goal is to buy the compute capacity that will most cost effectively fuel the engine of the organization’s new software-defined data center.

Orchestrate and automate:

Ask yourself how much of what you do on a daily basis is held strictly in your head or resides inside the minds of key employees?  If some of those tasks are truly repetitive, they can be orchestrated and automated, freeing IT staff from mundane processes by moving that intellectual property into software and, thereby, allowing internal talent to focus on innovation and market differentiators that create true competitive advantage.

Create a service catalog:

Typical IT departments have key services they provide over and over again.  They are prompted to provide these services when they receive a service ticket, an email, a panicked phone call, or have someone yelling at them – but there is a better way.  Just like retailers offering everything from sporting goods to men’s wear, IT departments can create a catalog of technology services that allows people to simply place an order for the service they need and be charged for it internally.  The idea of providing technology as a service to internal users via a catalog or portal also gives IT the ability to illustrate time, value and return on investment in a clearer and more meaningful way.  A word of caution: A common pitfall is the temptation to focus more time and attention on creating a beautiful service catalog than on bolstering the services and IT functions behind it.  If the CEO uses the portal only to discover that the system doesn’t work properly, both you and your IT department may lose more than an opportunity to impress.

Consider disaster recovery

Have a mobile phone with a broken screen?  No problem. As quickly as you can get to the carrier’s store, you can buy a new phone and simply move your contacts, photos and apps over to the new one; that’s because those valuable data sets and applications are software-based.  The same holds true in a software-defined data center. When everything is virtual, disaster recovery (DR) becomes markedly easier.  No more hours and weeks of building a complicated DR plan; since the data center is all operating from software, if the hardware goes down, just replace the hardware and copy the software onto it again.

Did you know that most CIOs and IT leaders (95 percent) believe software-defined solutions will soon impact their IT services and delivery strategies?  To learn more, download Logicalis’ 2014 and 2015 studies, then explore its software-defined data center Web site: http://ow.ly/Xw2z9. You may also want to examine the benefits of SDDC and the relationship between SDDC and the service-defined enterprise. Read about the reasons SDDC makes sense, then find out how SDDC can help redefine your data center by registering to attend a Logicalis SDDC workshop: http://ow.ly/Xw2CO.