Software-Defined Data Centers Offer Flexibility

By Tony Kontzer Print this article Print
software-defined data centers

Demonstrating that hype is being replaced by deployments, Choice Hotels International and BNY Mellon share how they embraced software-defined data centers.

A Deliberate Choice

Whereas Choice's move was necessitated by a data center that had fallen behind the rest of its IT environment, investment management firm BNY Mellon has been steadily moving toward SDDC by design.

Starting with its move from UNIX technology to commodity hardware in 2010, followed by its development of infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service environments in early 2012, every move BNY Mellon has made has pointed toward simplifying, standardizing, virtualizing, automating and cloud-enabling its infrastructure.

"Software-defined data center architecture can only be achieved with these five things," says Swamy Kocherlakota, head of global infrastructure, architecture and engineering for the New York-based firm, which manages $1.5 trillion in assets in 100 markets around the globe. "That's been our journey over the past four years, and we have made serious progress. We believe we're ready for this notion of a software-defined data center."

BNY Mellon had many goals for its SDDC. It wanted to address its difficulties with technology refreshes, which couldn't be completed fast enough in 52 weekends a year. It also wanted to shrink its 196,000-square-foot data center footprint and get away from the server-hugging mentality of many users.

In addition, the financial firm wanted to give its 13,000-person IT staff the ability to spin up development environments on demand to support business initiatives. More than anything, however, it wanted to get the most out of its already ambitious private cloud environment, which supports more than 3,500 instances.

"I'm a service provider much like an Amazon," says Kocherlakota. "We knew this was how we had to build services, and this is the platform that will allow our business to elevate. SDDC enables business to be more agile and create services in a more nimble and agile way."

Today, everything in BNY Mellon's data centers is managed through an orchestration engine, one of the few proprietary components of its SDDC.

"The only thing that's manual is the developer saying 'I need a stack' and requesting a development instance," Kocherlakota says. "That's done within two hours."

One pending enhancement to its SDDC is a business activity monitoring system that BNY Mellon has been building in-house over the past several months to help with trouble-shooting in an increasingly complex environment. The system is essentially an API link into a Hadoop big data cluster that Kocherlakota says will enable the company to "follow the breadcrumbs" that applications leave behind. By sometime in mid-2014, "every app in the cloud will be using the business activity engine," he adds.

Meanwhile, BNY Mellon's steady march toward an SDDC has paid off by reducing bureaucracy, making developers more productive and cutting the costs of innovation.

"In the past, to pursue a business idea, you had to seek funding, and there was a lot of paperwork," Kocherlakota recalls, noting that a lot of ideas died during the process. "No longer do we have to worry about shelving a project. We're better at bringing vision to reality."

And BNY Mellon isn't done. It still has to commoditize more legacy infrastructure components, train its infrastructure teams further on SDDC and continue shrinking its data center footprint. It won't be satisfied until the environment is just about running itself.

"Everything is auto-configured," says Kocherlakota. "That is really the end game."

This article was originally published on 2014-01-13

Tony Kontzer, a contributor to Baseline, has been writing about technology and business for nearly 20 years.

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