Feb 25 2015
Data Center

Schools Move Toward Software-Defined Data Centers

District IT managers say this form of virtualization will save money and add efficiencies, freeing IT to focus more on applications.

The transition to a software-defined data center (SDDC) brought immediate benefits to Volusia County Schools, in DeLand, Fla.

“It used to be that 80 percent of the effort was focused on physically getting computing power up and running,” says Alex Kennedy, assistant director of infrastructure and technical services. “Now, it is less than 10 percent physical work, and the rest we can do from our desks using software. I haven’t had to add any new physical servers to the data center in two years.”

The district decommissioned dozens of physical servers by deploying Microsoft Hyper-V server virtualization and has also gained many benefits from storage virtualization.

Kennedy appreciates the efficiency of provisioning storage as it’s needed. “I don’t have to spend all that time cutting a purchase order, waiting for equipment to arrive, performing all the prep work and then connecting it to the network,” he says. “Sometimes the process would take months — it was always such a big deal.”

Volusia County also wants to virtualize its networks, but Kennedy says the technology has yet to mature.


The percentage of capital expenditure savings an organization would realize by creating a greenfield software-defined data center; existing virtualized environments would see a 32% savings

SOURCE: Taneja Group, “Technology Brief: For Lowest Cost and Greatest Agility, Choose Software-Defined Data Center Architectures Over Traditional Hardware-Dependent Designs,” August 2014

Richard Villars, vice president of data center and cloud for IDC, says SDDCs are an evolutionary process in which servers, storage and networking are managed as a single IT resource.

“Organizations have had great success with server and storage virtualization, and network virtualization holds great promise,” Villars says. “As they approach their refresh cycles, many organizations will look for ways to make them interdependent.”

Leveraging a Platform for Analytics

Westerly Public Schools in Rhode Island has been on a path similar to that of Volusia County Schools.

Mark Lamson, director of technology, says the district’s 2008 VMware deployment has paid off by making it easy to deploy servers without adding physical infrastructure. The district also plans to implement storage virtualization with analytics to more effectively gauge student performance trends.

“We plan to consolidate our arrays so we can manage storage more efficiently, but we want to do more than simply manage pools of storage,” Lamson says. “What will really create value is adding that business intelligence piece.”

On the network front, Lamson will consider software-defined networking when it’s time to upgrade Westerly Public School’s infrastructure. “I think the economics will become more compelling for software-defined networks in three to five years, and I expect the concept of the software-defined data center will evolve as well,” he says.

3 Musts for a Software-Defined Data Center

Richard Villars, vice president of data center and cloud for IDC, outlines three goals IT managers should set for developing a software-defined data center (SDDC).

  1. Eliminate overprovisioning. When IT organizations embraced server virtualization, they were able to dramatically reduce the number of physical servers required. SDDCs enable IT organizations to extend this concept to storage and network appliances.
  2. Streamline operational costs. As organizations virtualize, they can consolidate staff or shift them to other tasks, which reduces operational costs over time.
  3. Reduce the cost of future migrations. In the past, migrating to a new server, storage or network system could take six months and more than $500,000. Because virtual hardware is easier to provision, organizations can migrate more efficiently and spread the costs out over three to five years.

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.