My Tamagotchi spawned a Software Defined Future

Reading through the results of our Survey on Software Defined, it is apparent that people have different perspectives around what the real benefits of ‘Software Defined’ are. That’s no surprise as the term is as confused, abused and overused as Cloud was. So where did Software Defined (SD) come from, where is it heading, and what will it deliver in term of benefits?

While the term Software Defined was still some 15 years away from being coined, I like to think ‘Software Defined’ inadvertently started with the launch of the child’s toy Tamagotchi way back in 1996. The point is, the small, plastic object was a mere platform for the pixelated Software Defined, duck like, alien pet thing. You could not touch this SD pet, but you knew it was there and the more you looked after it with Software Defined food, snacks, tidied up it’s software poops – the more it could do. Don’t look after it and the thing experienced a virtual death…That was not game over fortunately, as you could then re-spawn a new life at the touch of a button. While this is normal practice with toys, what is a bit worrying was that the creator of Tamagotchi designed the toy as a way of teaching teenage girls how to look after children….

Today, we have moved on to all manner of IT components being defined and delivered as software, then managed by intelligent software. This is what the term Software defined means to most people today. So the bigger picture or true potential of SD is all about automating IT and self-service portals right? WRONG! That’s a bit like comparing the scope of the Tamagotchi from ‘96 with today’s games that leverage an Oculus Rift headset….

SD is about so much more than that for the companies who can see the bigger picture. Those companies are leveraging Software Defined to streamline the way they deliver business services, sure they are removing cost from and streamlining IT operations, but by connecting deep into the business and development functions of the organisation, they are shortening the path between their customers or users and service delivery.

In this scenario, being Software Defined means offering a portfolio of (software) pre-defined business services, delivered in the form required by the requestor…either delivering IaaS, PaaS or other services on a physical IT platform… defined, delivered and managed by software…leveraging all of those lovely software defined, Compute, Networks and Storage elements.  On demand, dynamic, to a known state and elastic.

The Companies making this change aim to get products to market faster, reducing the cost of service delivery and being more agile than their competition in reacting to business change and market and customer demands.

This is not the same as using Software Defined technologies to deliver just IT’s role better, faster and cheaper from a self-service IT portal. It’s about mapping out the path from initiation to delivery of business services, applications, SD Infrastructure components and then automating the said delivery through software tools. Once the service is delivered, it’s then managed by software. Software developed to understand the bigger picture and react to changes to ensure the defined service availability criteria are met.

Clearly this brings significant benefits and extends some way beyond the typical role of IT today. SD enables the situation where delivery of the shortest path necessitates blurring the lines between the Business Lines and IT – the situation that enables DevOps to exist; that Supports Agile IT, Sprints and the things associated to the second, faster gearing of two Speed IT. These SD projects deliver big benefits across the business, but the Software defined technology is but one part of the transformation required. This sort of gear change involves rethinking the role of IT and way IT services are delivered… impacting the Technology, Processes and the People.

These are exciting and changing times for Computacenter and our customers.

About Paul Casey

Paul is Chief Technologist for Datacentre & Cloud technologies at Computacenter UK

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