What’s a Software Defined Data Center? – Pensa Aims Really High

This week Pensa came out of their stealthy development phase to announce the launch of their company and their Pensa Maestro cloud-based (SaaS) platform, accessible today through an initial service offering called Pensa Lab. The technology here has great opportunity, and importantly the team at Pensa is firming up with the best folks (I used to work for Tom Joyce).

I’m not sure we analysts have firmed out all the words to easily describe what they do yet, but basically Pensa provides a way to define the whole data center in code, validate it as a model, and then pull a trigger and aim it at some infrastructure to automatically deploy it. Data centers on demand!  Of course, doing all the background tranfigurations to validate and actually deploy this über level of complexity and scale requires big smarts – a large part of the magic here is some cleverly applied ML algorithms to drive required transformations, ensure policies and set up SDN configurations.

What is Software Defined?

So let’s back up a bit and explore some of the technologies involved – one of the big benefits of software and software-defined resources is that they can be spun up dynamically (and readily converged within compute hosts with applications and other software defined resources). These software-side “resources” are usually provisioned and configured through “editable model/manifest files/templates” – so-called “infrastructure as code”. Because they are implemented in software they are often also dynamically re-configurable and remotely programmable through API’s.

Application Blueprinting for DevOps

On the other side of the IT fence, applications are increasingly provisioned and deployed dynamically via recipes or catalog-style automation, which in turn rely on internal application “blueprint” or container manifest files that can drive automated configuration and deployment of application code and needed resources, like private network connections, storage volumes and specific data sets. This idea is most visible in new containerized environments, but we also see application blueprinting coming on strong for legacy hypervisor environments and bare metal provisioning solutions too.

Truly Software Defined Data Centers

If you put these two ideas together – SD and application blueprinting, you might envision a truly software defined data center describable fully in code. With some clever discovery solutions, you can imagine that an existing data center could be explored and captured/documented into a model file describing a complete blueprint for both infrastructure and applications (and the enterprise services that wrap around them). Versions of that data center “file” could be edited as desired (e.g. to make a test or dev version perhaps), with the resulting data center models deployable at will on some other actual infrastructure – like “another” public cloud.

Automation of this scenario requires an intelligent translation of high-level blueprint service and resource requirements into practical provisioning and operational configurations on specifically target infrastructure. But imagine being able to effectively snapshot your current data center top to bottom, and them be able to deploy a full, complete copy on demand for testing, replication or even live DR  (we might call this a “live re-inflation DR” (or LR-DR) scenario).

Of course, today’s data center is increasingly hybrid/multi-cloud consisting of a mix of physical, virtual machines and containerized apps and corporate data. But through emerging cutting-edge IT capabilities like hybrid-supporting software defined networking and storage, composable bare metal provisioning, virtualizing hypervisors and cloud-orchestration stacks, container systems, PaaS, and hybrid cloud storage services (e.g. HPE’s Cloud Volumes), it’s becoming possible to not just blueprint and dynamically deploy applications, but soon the whole data center around them.

There is no way that VMware, whose tagline has been SDDC for some time, will roll over and cede the territory here completely to Pensa (or any other startup). But Pensa now has a live service out there today – and that could prove disruptive to the whole enterprise IT  market.