In today\u2019s fast-paced environment, where digital transformation creates opportunities to literally re-wire how business gets done, the concept of a totally software-defined data center is vital to enable the speed of change required for organizations to stay competitive and react to ever-changing customer needs.\n\n\nIn my prior blog, \u201cdigital transformation needs a modern mission critical infrastructure\u201d, we spoke about how, as the IT industry moves into the next wave of corporate IT, built upon the foundation of SMAC, the data center of the future needs to embrace this new paradigm for the digitization of business models and processes with the data center becoming the workhorse that hosts, manages and delivers this compelling new experience for end user computing.\n\n\nAt the same time as the data center needs to deliver this new generation of SMAC-enabled applications to the future workforce, it also needs to embrace the changes occurring within data center technologies themselves. So doing will help to maximize efficiencies and drive improvements in agility, flexibility, manageability and security.\n\n\nIt\u2019s no longer just about a hybrid approach across public and private clouds (hybrid clouds) and across traditional and outsourced data centers, but it\u2019s about taking advantage of the cost and agility benefits of emerging platform and infrastructural technologies such as converged infrastructures, fabrics, software-defined networks, and ultimately, software-defined data centers.\n\n\nEmerging Requirements for the Data Center of the Future\n\n\nTo get to this vision of the data center of the future, where growth-oriented digital transformation initiatives are enabled by an innovative IT infrastructure that serves as a highly-agile foundational platform, CIOs are faced with four key emerging requirements:\n\n\nAgile and cost-effective infrastructure to deliver increased mission critical service levels\u00a0\u2013 Cost-effectively deliver increased mission critical service levels so that the enterprise can scale up to support an increasing number of mission critical applications and processes coming online\nFlexible assembly and dynamic execution of digital services from multiple cloud providers\u00a0\u2013 Support the flexible assembly and dynamic execution of digital services, often distributed across multiple cloud providers, to react rapidly to new digital initiatives and fast-changing business needs\nIntegrated, data-driven view of service management across the enterprise\u00a0\u2013 Achieve an integrated view of service management across the enterprise, to deliver services more efficiently and effectively, and free up time and resources to focus on strategic initiatives\nMission critical security against today's emerging threats\u00a0\u2013 Implement mission critical security against today\u2019s emerging threats so that the business value of new digital initiatives can be quickly realized and not delayed\n\n\nEnabling Technologies for the Industrialized Software-Defined Data Center\n\n\nMeeting the emerging market requirements cost-effectively and with the requisite agility, flexibility, manageability and security required of today\u2019s dynamically changing business processes requires new IT strategies and approaches that incorporate the latest platforms and emerging technologies, some of which are as follows:\n\n\nx86 Environments \u2013 By adopting an \u201call-x86\u201d data center approach, organizations can cost-effectively run mission critical workloads on industry-standard processors and move away from expensive UNIX and proprietary environments requiring specialized skill sets.\nFabric Computing Architectures \u2013 By adopting a fabric-based architecture, organizations can gain the agility and flexibility of shared resource pools such as compute, network and storage. This helps to avoid data center sprawl, where each mission critical application used to have its own dedicated physical server, and helps to speed deployments and reduce costs.\nSoftware-Defined Principles \u2013 By adopting software-defined principles and applying them to the management of applications, infrastructure (such as networks and storage), and even security, organizations can implement a single, software-defined management approach across all environments and eliminate the need for many time-consuming, labor-based activities such as network and firewall configuration.\nCloud Management \u2013 By adopting advanced automation tools which extend across their hybrid cloud infrastructures, organizations can reduce their operational and infrastructure costs, and selectively run workloads in the infrastructure best suited to meet their financial, performance and security requirements.\nSecurity \u2013 By adopting security technologies that focus on securing communities of interest as opposed to solely securing the traditional \u201cperimeter\u201d, organizations can change the security paradigm and take a more dynamic, software-defined approach that enhances overall manageability.\n\n\nTogether these technology enablers can be used to jump-start the journey to a modernized, cost-effective and industrialized software-defined data center that provides the new levels of agility, flexibility, scalability, manageability and security required of today\u2019s new scope of mission critical computing.\n\n\nRecommendations for the Industrialized Software-Defined Data Center\n\n\nOverall, it\u2019s important to look at the future data center through the lens of five key service layers which support modern mission critical computing (i.e. modern SMAC-enabled applications and compelling digital customer experiences combined with mission-critical service levels). The five service layers provide 1) user experience services, 2) application services, 3) fabric-based infrastructure services, 4) software-defined management services, and 5) security services. The general premise is shown in the figure below:\n\n\n\n\t\n\tCredit: Nicholas D. Evans\n\n\n\n\nIn a future blog, I\u2019ll address each of these service layers and discuss how they all come together to provide an integrated architectural platform combining social, mobile, analytics and cloud as well as the requisite infrastructural, management and security elements we discussed here.\n\n\nIn summary, to support digital transformation initiatives for the business, it\u2019s important to think about how you plan to digitally transform \u201cIT\u201d itself. Organizations should consider the emerging business requirements, the enabling technologies that can help transform present-day data center capabilities, and then develop an action plan and roadmap for implementation.\n\n\nThe enabling technologies you employ should not solely be restricted to the SMAC stack, but incorporate emerging practices such as Agile and DevOps, as well as some of the items we\u2019ve discussed here such as fabric-based architectures and software-defined principles.\n\n\nEach of these enablers will play a valuable role in addressing the speed of change required to stay competitive and react to ever-changing customer needs.