Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Stefan Bernbo

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, SDN Journal, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Article

What ‘Software-Defined’ Really Means | @CloudExpo #AI #SDN #SDX #DevOps

It’s time to bring some clarity into the big picture of SD – what it is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not.

The visual model to declarative metadata representation to immutable deployment vision is in essence what SD is all about.

The secret to making this approach practical, and thus the key to understanding why SD approaches have become so prevalent, is the word immutable.

Once we get an SD approach right, we no longer have to touch the deployed technology whatsoever. Instead, to make a change, update the model and redeploy.

In a recent Cortex, I bemoaned the fact that as buzzwords go, Digital Transformation is excessively vague. There is yet another buzzword of our times that is suffering the same fate: Software-Defined.

Rare though buzz-adjectives may be among the pantheon of buzz-nouns and the occasional buzz-verb, Software-Defined (SD) has become remarkably pervasive. In fact, it ties together many different, quite disparate concepts into what has become a vague mishmash.

It's time to bring some clarity into the big picture of SD - what it is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not.

The Many Uses of Software-Defined
The most concrete use of the SD adjective is perhaps in the phrase Software-Defined Networking (SDN). SDN separates network equipment's control plane (where routing instructions and other metadata go) from the data plane (where the data being routed go), and then shifts the entire control plane to centralized software.

The network, however, is only the beginning. We have SD infrastructure (SDI), SD data centers (SDDCs), SD wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and more. Each of these approaches follows the lead of SDN, shifting control of various pieces of hardware (or virtualized hardware) to centralized, software-based management and configuration applications.

SDI (which includes SDN), in fact, is at the core of cloud computing. Clearly, there's no way to scale a cloud data center if people had to run from server to server making changes.

Furthermore, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) from the telco world also falls under the SD banner. With NFV, telco service providers shift all control to software, so that the underlying hardware is entirely generic. No more dedicated switches, routers, and specialized telco gear - all the hardware consist of generic, white-label boxes.

Software-Defined: Beyond the Network
While the network-centric context of SD in corporate networks, cloud data centers, and telco infrastructure forms the home base of the SD movement, SDI is also an essential enabler of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), core elements of DevOps.

In order to achieve the velocity that CI/CD promise, the ops part of the story must be SD. Instead of ops people managing servers individually, the DevOps team must be able to deploy and manage software automatically via centralized software control. In other words, the immutable infrastructure principle behind DevOps is nothing more than SDI.

In fact, now that virtualization has matured, all the infrastructure from hypervisors down to bare metal is SD.

At the application level, however, the SD story gets more complicated.

Using software to automate the tasks involved in deploying software is nothing new. Developers have been using runbooks for years - scripts that tell various parts of the environment to execute a series of tasks in a particular sequence.

As DevOps has matured, the notion of the mundane runbook has taken on new life, as DevOps vendors automate increasingly broad swaths of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) with ‘recipes' or other scripting approaches.

As applications and the environments they run in get more complicated, however, the world of DevOps automation finds itself in a Catch-22: the automation scripts or recipes themselves become increasingly complex software applications in their own right, and thus must go through an SDLC of their own, with all the testing and governance that go along with it.

As a result, we're back to square one, manually creating, managing, deploying, and versioning software.

Does Software-Defined Mean Declarative?
To address this Catch-22, some DevOps tools take a declarative approach. Instead of scripting the environment step by step, the declarative approach enables the user to describe the desired behavior, and then the tool interprets such a description and takes the necessary actions to implement such behavior out of sight of the user.

In fact, in many contexts, when most vendors say SD, they really mean that they take a declarative approach, separating configuration from the underlying implementation. There's more to SD behavior than simply following a declarative approach, however.

For example, HTML (and markup languages in general) are declarative. And while we could certainly hand-code a web page by pecking out HTML, we're far more likely to use a visual tool for that purpose.

When we build a web site using such a tool, we're essentially working with models. The model is a visual, configurable representation of the page that the tool can convert into HTML for browsers to render into the page itself for users to view.

In this example, therefore, we have three different ways of thinking about the page: as a visual model, independent of any particular technology implementation of the page; as the HTML markup for that page; and as the action of the browser itself, an application purpose-built to render HTML into visual pages.

Architects and other shrewd readers will recognize the pattern above as being an instance of Model-Driven Architecture (MDA), or its common implementation, Model-Driven Development (MDD).

Does Software-Defined Mean Model-Driven?
MDA is an Object Management Group (OMG) standard
for creating metamodels that represent platform-independent models (our visual model, above) and platform-specific models (the HTML markup in the example), as well as an abstracted approach for turning the former into the latter.

Models, especially visual ones, are in broad use today, but MDA and MDD's best days are behind them. The reason: they didn't deal as well with change as MDA's creators had hoped.

In the MDD world, a developer might build a (platform-independent) model of an application in a model-driven tool and then push a button and out would pop the (platform-specific) source code that represented the working application.

However, if developers wanted to subsequently make a change, they would either need to change the model and regenerate and redeploy all the code (an onerous and time-consuming task), or tweak the auto-generated code itself, thus making it inconsistent with the model.

Round-trip tooling that would take tweaked code and automatically update the model - the holy grail of MDD - has proven impractical.

If we combine some of the principles from MDD with the declarative approach, however, we finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of the code-generating context of MDA reminiscent of CASE tools of yore, the platform-specific representation for a declarative model consists of a metadata representation of a configuration.

In practice, tools that take this approach create such metadata representations in JSON, XML, or a domain-specific language appropriate to the task at hand. Developers occasionally have reason to view such metadata, but rarely if ever have call to monkey with it directly.

Instead, users - who need not be developers - simply make changes in the model, typically via direct interaction with icons or other visual elements, or by selecting appropriate configurations. The underlying platform takes care of the rest.

The Intellyx Take
The round-trip code-generation vision of MDD proved unworkable, but the visual model to declarative metadata representation to immutable deployment vision is in essence what SD is all about.

The secret to making this approach practical, and thus the key to understanding why SD approaches have become so prevalent, is the word immutable.

Once we get an SD approach right, we no longer have to touch the deployed technology whatsoever. Instead, to make a change, update the model and redeploy.

The most important takeaway from this Cortex: this core SD pattern is fully generalizable. It works with networks, data centers, DevOps-based deployments, and as I'll cover in part two, it's also at the core of the Low-Code/No-Code movement.

It's no wonder, therefore, that Software-Defined Everything (SDX) is rising to the top of the buzzword heap - but SDX is no mere buzzword. It describes the central technological principles behind Agile Digital Transformation.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Tim Adams.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
"We view the cloud not as a specific technology but as a way of doing business and that way of doing business is transforming the way software, infrastructure and services are being delivered to business," explained Matthew Rosen, CEO and Director at Fusion, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), held June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...