On May 27, 2014, we received the very exciting news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had granted IO U.S. Patent 8,733,812 for the modular data center. The patent defines the technology necessary for a modular data center with intelligent management, monitoring, and control mechanisms. In other words, the software-defined modular data center.
The patent is representative of IO’s unique approach to the data center – an approach founded on innovation through research and development. It reflects what IO CEO and Product Architect George Slessman describes as IO’s purpose:
“IO must challenge the status quo and reinvent IT to build a sustainable, secure, and useful future for our customers and the world. We must transform the data center.”
IT cannot keep up with an enterprise running at the speed of the Internet of Things by standing still.
Real Estate v. Technology
The data center model of old was a real-estate based model. Colocation providers leased data center space like a building management company would lease office space. Availability, security, efficiency – providers took those into account, sure, but not significantly more than any building manager would. To the enterprise, these providers said, “Come find a cabinet, cage or suite to fit your IT gear.”
Many colocation providers still operate according to that old real estate model. Some even have the words in their name.
Yet that old real estate-based data center model is wholly unequipped to meet the IT needs of the enterprise today. It is incapable of rapid scale – a requirement in an Internet of Things world. It offers no fit-for-purpose redundancy to meet application-specific availability requirements; you either get too much or too little. Because it is not purpose-built, power and cooling are configured to the highest requirement – incredibly inefficient for most use cases. And security is as it would be for an office building – physical barriers, access control, monitors, etc. – but no logical ability to see and control every layer of the IT stack.
A software-defined modular data center model, in contrast – the kind reflected by U.S. Patent 8,733,812 – is purpose-built to deliver standard and secure increments of power, cooling, and IT capacity wherever it is required on a just-in-time basis. It is designed to be an enabler of progress within the enterprise. To help enterprise IT streamline operations, improve availability, manage risk and reduce cost.
A Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Needs the Data Center
A critical component of IO’s latest patent is that it covers the intelligent management, monitoring and control mechanisms built in to the modular data center. That’s the software-defined in the software-defined data center.
The term “software-defined data center” is said to have been coined in 2012 by VMware’s then-CTO, Steve Herrod. It’s a term that VMware and others use to refer to software-defined data center products, which combine virtualization software with performance monitoring and capacity management capabilities.
But a software-defined data center product isn’t a software-defined data center. Gartner’s David Cappuccio explains, “In theory an SDDC is a layer of abstraction above multiple other SDx layers (network, virtualization, storage, etc.), whereby the Data Centers, wherever they are located, are controlled/automated from a single control plane, using a common set of APIs.” (See The Buzz: Software-defined Data Center & Enterprise Cloud – What Enterprises Are Doing for more.)
No doubt, the innovations advanced by VMware and others – including software-defined compute (that is, virtualization) – are instrumental forerunners to the true software-defined data center. The software-defined data center wouldn’t exist were it not for the technologies that make virtualization possible. But a virtual machine isn’t an SDDC.
Everywhere we look – from Google’s self-driving car to prognostic gene signature assays to stoves fueled by biowaste – technology is about innovation. The only way that enterprises will be able to take advantage of innovation, and be innovators themselves, is if enterprise IT is founded on the kind of technology-driven, innovative infrastructure that can enable progress within the enterprise. That is, a modular software-defined data center.
That is what U.S. Patent 8,733,812 is about.