If you ever wanted to take a stroll through the computing industry’s past, it’s not necessary to go all the way to Mountain View, Calif., to visit the Computer History Museum. Just step inside a data center. “A data center looks a lot like a museum of past IT decisions,” said Steve Herrod, CTO and SVP of research and development at VMware, at GigaOM’s Structure 2012conference Wednesday.
Data centers are full of the dedicated hardware allocated for specific applications. Traditionally as new applications are conceived new hardware implementations are developed to power them, Herrod said. Software-defined networking (SDN), however, will create an application agnostic framework, he said, giving IT managers the ability to repurpose their infrastructure over and over. “Software-defined networking will allow us to have the elasticity and malleability to move these things around,” he said.
Rather than preserve our IT history, we’ll be overwriting it. That trend has already begun, Herrod said, as more and more applications moved to open shared infrastructure, but there is still reluctance among IT managers to move some critical applications — such as high-performance data clusters and high-speed securities trading — to a virtualized environment. Herrod calls them “server huggers” — people who need dedicated resources they can touch and feel.
The reticence of server huggers is understandable, Herrod said, and it’s one VMware is trying to address by building software-defined data centers that can not only host today’s non-critical applications, but also those future critical applications when they’re finally ready to take the leap.