Software-defined data centers, policy platforms tackle data management

Software-defined data centers and cloud-based policy 'containers' improve data management and meet storage and security needs of customers.

As cloud adoption continues to grow, customers ranging from the largest enterprises to the smallest mom-and-pop shops are bringing more complex requirements around scalability and security to their cloud service providers.

To help providers meet these challenges, the TM Forum will showcase two cloud-centric project demonstrations from its Catalyst projects program that offer solutions for complex customer needs around software-defined data centers and Workplace as a Service.

What makes these projects stand out is that they are collaborative efforts by the world's largest cloud and communications service providers, enterprises, suppliers and even universities -- all working together to solve key challenges. Contributors to the two projects previewed here include representatives from Bank of America, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, France Telecom-Orange, Infonova, ING Bank, NetCracker Technology, Portugal Telecom and TOA Technologies.

Software-defined data centers for data management

When it comes to a traditional data center, software or application designers and developers need to know exactly where they're putting their information, including login and security information unique to a specific location.

Now, imagine if the data exists in multiple locations and someone is trying to build and test an application that requires crunching huge amounts of dispersed data -- a task that is very common in industries such as finance and pharmaceuticals. Doing this requires the designer or developer to implement a complex approach to data management -- one that ensures they will have constant access to their data, not to mention know exactly where that data is at all times.

This is where the concept behind one of Catalyst's projects, Data Center of the Future, comes into play. The project will demonstrate new designs and capabilities needed to manage more complex and diverse sets of data. It aims to remove complexity by designing software-defined data centers. Like software-defined networks, which separate the network's control and data planes, the intelligence in a software-defined data center has a level of abstraction and can define how the data should be handled.

Software-defined data centers are virtualizing data storage so users don't need to know the details of where their data is stored or how to access it. This is all taken care of by the software in these next-generation data centers. Users still have full access to their data; they just may not know exactly where it all is at any given moment in time.

Software-defined data centers are virtualizing data storage so users don't need to know the details of where their data is stored or how to access it.

The Catalyst project provides a sandbox for testing these concepts so that when cloud providers start hearing customers demand this type of functionality, they'll be better able to understand what is being requested and will already have at least one working prototype solution.

The Data Center of the Future project also focuses on how to make traditional software development more efficient, illustrating how software groups can work with tools for application development in the data center.

Working on Workplace as a Service

Another Catalyst project, Enabling Cloud Mobility and Workplace as a Service, is the second phase of a project first demonstrated at Management World Americas 2012 last December. At the show, we presented a scenario in which employees brought their own mobile devices to the office and expected support from IT and full access to the corporate network and its resources, security, scalability and integration.

This project sets out to define a platform, or "container," that can store security rules and other policies that the network may implement automatically. The logical location for this policy software is on a cloud storage platform hosted by a service provider. This demonstration builds on an award-winning platform that was built by global financial services firm UBS, a member of TM Forum's Enterprise Cloud Leadership Council.

This project also offers a solution to the bring your own device (BYOD) initiative. It creates a secure partition on the device where legacy and new applications can interact and be located. For example, a wealth manager can use data from an investment account, graph the performance in Excel and send it to an investor's email account or accountant using Microsoft Outlook. The device is treated as "untrustworthy" until it logs into the corporate system and identifies itself. It must also be in an acceptable geographic location (as determined by its GPS signal). This BYOD service provides for multiple levels of security and application flexibility, and it also enhances customer service.

You can see these two cloud solutions in action and learn more about solving the challenges of delivering cloud services today at Management World during our Enabling Enterprise Cloud track, which runs throughout the conference.

Next Steps

Is the  software-defined data center within reach?

Should providers switch to a software-defined data center?

Expert opinion on software-defined data centers: It will all be software soon

This was last published in May 2013

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