The evolution from enterprise-based appliances to software-defined solutions

JP Schaaphok

It feels like just yesterday that we were introduced to compute virtualization, which has had a dramatic impact on IT environments around the world. Now the virtualization portfolio has evolved beyond compute and is expanding its portfolio to decouple other traditional IT services.

Storage and network appliances are in the virtualization crosshairs. Vendors are racing to the finish line to have reliable, proven and trusted solutions in order to become the next trusted virtualization platform for storage and network services. These technology offerings are changing and challenging the traditional IT landscape.

The premise of new virtualization technologies is to move away from traditional, enterprise-based appliance solutions by adopting a less-expensive solution in which intelligence resides in software and providing customers with the option to choose the underlying supported hardware.

This will give IT departments the flexibility to decouple themselves from traditional IT hardware appliances.

Software-defined network and storage


Similar to compute virtualization, software-defined network and storage solutions do not eliminate the need for the physical network, servers and storage infrastructure. However, they do provide IT departments with the flexibility to relocate the intelligence of some network and storage services, giving them alternatives from the traditional enterprise appliances they’ve grown accustomed to.

Software-defined storage solutions are disrupting traditional approaches to IT by creating alternatives to delivering shared storage technology within the enterprise – particularly, giving consumers the flexibility to replace appliances with software. Because software-defined storage solutions are typically more flexible than enterprise storage appliances, they also allow IT organizations to reduce operational complexity and create a means to reduce cost. The approach ultimately provides a scalable, performance-rich and highly available storage solution to improve standardization within the data center, streamline operational efficiencies and decrease overall cost.

Software-defined network solutions are changing the dynamics of traditional network topologies by relocating the intelligence from load balancers, firewalls and virtual machine security into the virtual compute layer. This gives IT organizations, DevOps teams and developers the capability to introduce network services to systems and applications in an automated capacity. Consumers of network resources are able to minimize involvement from information security teams while still adhering to corporate security standards. IT is able to ensure it is meeting the objectives of the business while automating workflows and streamlining the consumption of IT resources.

Embracing disruptive solutions

Adopting software-defined network and storage virtualization solutions is inherently disruptive to traditional IT operations, affecting the people, process and technology aspects of the IT. To ensure successful adoption and long-term manageability, these solutions require an in-depth understanding of design and operational considerations.

Maintaining a traditional approach of hardware appliance solutions can limit the ability of IT organizations to rapidly deliver technology services to end-users. Simply virtualizing from hardware to software and using the same operational procedures will lead to similar static architectures and provisioning lead times. The key is to use the enabling technology to change operational processes to be more agile and dynamic.

Virtualization solutions help IT organizations provide a similar or better level of services as traditional legacy solutions. They also enable integration at a much deeper level than any hardware appliance, which supports more holistic automation and orchestration. If designed, implemented and managed correctly, new software-defined virtualization solutions will help IT organizations maintain relevance and keep up with the ongoing demands of their business, providing significant opportunities to drive down cost, improve operational efficiencies and decrease risk in IT.