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What ‘Software-Defined’ Really Means | @CloudExpo #AI #SDN #SDX #DevOps
It’s time to bring some clarity into the big picture of SD – what it is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not.

The visual model to declarative metadata representation to immutable deployment vision is in essence what SD is all about.

The secret to making this approach practical, and thus the key to understanding why SD approaches have become so prevalent, is the word immutable.

Once we get an SD approach right, we no longer have to touch the deployed technology whatsoever. Instead, to make a change, update the model and redeploy.

In a recent Cortex, I bemoaned the fact that as buzzwords go, Digital Transformation is excessively vague. There is yet another buzzword of our times that is suffering the same fate: Software-Defined.

Rare though buzz-adjectives may be among the pantheon of buzz-nouns and the occasional buzz-verb, Software-Defined (SD) has become remarkably pervasive. In fact, it ties together many different, quite disparate concepts into what has become a vague mishmash.

It's time to bring some clarity into the big picture of SD - what it is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not.

The Many Uses of Software-Defined
The most concrete use of the SD adjective is perhaps in the phrase Software-Defined Networking (SDN). SDN separates network equipment's control plane (where routing instructions and other metadata go) from the data plane (where the data being routed go), and then shifts the entire control plane to centralized software.

The network, however, is only the beginning. We have SD infrastructure (SDI), SD data centers (SDDCs), SD wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and more. Each of these approaches follows the lead of SDN, shifting control of various pieces of hardware (or virtualized hardware) to centralized, software-based management and configuration applications.

SDI (which includes SDN), in fact, is at the core of cloud computing. Clearly, there's no way to scale a cloud data center if people had to run from server to server making changes.

Furthermore, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) from the telco world also falls under the SD banner. With NFV, telco service providers shift all control to software, so that the underlying hardware is entirely generic. No more dedicated switches, routers, and specialized telco gear - all the hardware consist of generic, white-label boxes.

Software-Defined: Beyond the Network
While the network-centric context of SD in corporate networks, cloud data centers, and telco infrastructure forms the home base of the SD movement, SDI is also an essential enabler of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), core elements of DevOps.

In order to achieve the velocity that CI/CD promise, the ops part of the story must be SD. Instead of ops people managing servers individually, the DevOps team must be able to deploy and manage software automatically via centralized software control. In other words, the immutable infrastructure principle behind DevOps is nothing more than SDI.

In fact, now that virtualization has matured, all the infrastructure from hypervisors down to bare metal is SD.

At the application level, however, the SD story gets more complicated.

Using software to automate the tasks involved in deploying software is nothing new. Developers have been using runbooks for years - scripts that tell various parts of the environment to execute a series of tasks in a particular sequence.

As DevOps has matured, the notion of the mundane runbook has taken on new life, as DevOps vendors automate increasingly broad swaths of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) with ‘recipes' or other scripting approaches.

As applications and the environments they run in get more complicated, however, the world of DevOps automation finds itself in a Catch-22: the automation scripts or recipes themselves become increasingly complex software applications in their own right, and thus must go through an SDLC of their own, with all the testing and governance that go along with it.

As a result, we're back to square one, manually creating, managing, deploying, and versioning software.

Does Software-Defined Mean Declarative?
To address this Catch-22, some DevOps tools take a declarative approach. Instead of scripting the environment step by step, the declarative approach enables the user to describe the desired behavior, and then the tool interprets such a description and takes the necessary actions to implement such behavior out of sight of the user.

In fact, in many contexts, when most vendors say SD, they really mean that they take a declarative approach, separating configuration from the underlying implementation. There's more to SD behavior than simply following a declarative approach, however.

For example, HTML (and markup languages in general) are declarative. And while we could certainly hand-code a web page by pecking out HTML, we're far more likely to use a visual tool for that purpose.

When we build a web site using such a tool, we're essentially working with models. The model is a visual, configurable representation of the page that the tool can convert into HTML for browsers to render into the page itself for users to view.

In this example, therefore, we have three different ways of thinking about the page: as a visual model, independent of any particular technology implementation of the page; as the HTML markup for that page; and as the action of the browser itself, an application purpose-built to render HTML into visual pages.

Architects and other shrewd readers will recognize the pattern above as being an instance of Model-Driven Architecture (MDA), or its common implementation, Model-Driven Development (MDD).

Does Software-Defined Mean Model-Driven?
MDA is an Object Management Group (OMG) standard
for creating metamodels that represent platform-independent models (our visual model, above) and platform-specific models (the HTML markup in the example), as well as an abstracted approach for turning the former into the latter.

Models, especially visual ones, are in broad use today, but MDA and MDD's best days are behind them. The reason: they didn't deal as well with change as MDA's creators had hoped.

In the MDD world, a developer might build a (platform-independent) model of an application in a model-driven tool and then push a button and out would pop the (platform-specific) source code that represented the working application.

However, if developers wanted to subsequently make a change, they would either need to change the model and regenerate and redeploy all the code (an onerous and time-consuming task), or tweak the auto-generated code itself, thus making it inconsistent with the model.

Round-trip tooling that would take tweaked code and automatically update the model - the holy grail of MDD - has proven impractical.

If we combine some of the principles from MDD with the declarative approach, however, we finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of the code-generating context of MDA reminiscent of CASE tools of yore, the platform-specific representation for a declarative model consists of a metadata representation of a configuration.

In practice, tools that take this approach create such metadata representations in JSON, XML, or a domain-specific language appropriate to the task at hand. Developers occasionally have reason to view such metadata, but rarely if ever have call to monkey with it directly.

Instead, users - who need not be developers - simply make changes in the model, typically via direct interaction with icons or other visual elements, or by selecting appropriate configurations. The underlying platform takes care of the rest.

The Intellyx Take
The round-trip code-generation vision of MDD proved unworkable, but the visual model to declarative metadata representation to immutable deployment vision is in essence what SD is all about.

The secret to making this approach practical, and thus the key to understanding why SD approaches have become so prevalent, is the word immutable.

Once we get an SD approach right, we no longer have to touch the deployed technology whatsoever. Instead, to make a change, update the model and redeploy.

The most important takeaway from this Cortex: this core SD pattern is fully generalizable. It works with networks, data centers, DevOps-based deployments, and as I'll cover in part two, it's also at the core of the Low-Code/No-Code movement.

It's no wonder, therefore, that Software-Defined Everything (SDX) is rising to the top of the buzzword heap - but SDX is no mere buzzword. It describes the central technological principles behind Agile Digital Transformation.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Tim Adams.

About Jason Bloomberg
Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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Cloud Expo - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
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Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
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PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
MARY BASS
Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

GREG O’CONNOR
President & CEO, Appzero


Who Should Attend?
Senior Technologists including CIOs, CTOs, VPs of technology, IT directors and managers, network and storage managers, network engineers, enterprise architects, communications and networking specialists, directors of infrastructure Business Executives including CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, presidents, VPs, directors, business development; product and purchasing managers.

Download Cloud Computing Journal & Floor Plan
Cloud Computing Journal
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Cloud Expo Floor Plan
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The World's 30 Most influential Cloud Bloggers
Cloud Expo on Ulitzer
1
Dustin Amrhein 11 Kevin Hoffman 21 Greg O'Connor
2
Ezhil Babaraj 12 Alin Irimie 22 Maureen O'Gara
3
Tony Bishop 13 Kevin Jackson 23 Mark O'Neill
4
Reuven Cohen 14 Fuat Kircaali 24 Bill Roth
5
Ernest de Leon 15 David Linthicum 25 Ellen Rubin
6
David Dean 16 Lori MacVittie 26 John Savageau
7
Ray DePena 17 Bill McColl 27 Michael Sheehan
8
Dana Gardner 18 Paul Miller 28 Roman Stanek
9
John Gauntt 19 Louis Naugès 29 John Treadway
10
Jeremy Geelan 20 Greg Ness 30 Alan Williamson

@CloudExpo Blogs
The high barrier to entry prevents many companies from tapping into the full potential of machine learning. But what if you could make it more accessible? We’re in the midst of a data explosion, with today’s enterprises amassing goldmines of information (25 quintillion bytes of data every day, according to some reports). But what exactly are they doing with this data? Considering the volume of data being collected is quickly becoming unmanageable, now is a good time to shift from manual machine learning to a cognitive approach. This enables businesses to better capitalize on their data and fa...
There is a fundamental flaw in how many people think about digital transformation. First, as we’ve written about extensively at Intellyx, people tend to think about it as a finite corporate project, rather than as a process of continual transformation. There is a deeper flaw in thinking, however, that leads to this type of project mentality. Enterprise leaders commonly think of transformation as something done at a corporate level — something the organization does to itself. But that mindset creates a separation between the act of transformation at an organizational level and the transformatio...
Gaining visibility in today’s sprawling cloud infrastructure is complex and laborious, involving drilling down into tools offered by various cloud services providers. Enterprise IT organizations need smarter and effective tools at their disposal in order to address this pertinent problem. Gaining a 360 - degree view of the cloud costs requires collection and analysis of the cost data across all cloud infrastructures used inside an enterprise.
Gone are the days when application development was the daunting task of the highly skilled developers backed with strong IT skills, low code application development has democratized app development and empowered a new generation of citizen developers. There was a time when app development was in the domain of people with complex coding and technical skills. We called these people by various names like programmers, coders, techies, and they usually worked in a world oblivious of the everyday priorities of the business world. However, with the passage of time, this scenario is much more democr...
The “Internet of Things” is an exciting area of tech, one in which industry experts estimate there will be more than 30 billion connected IoT devices by 2020. IoT is the inter-networking and instrumentation of physical devices – everything from streets, cars, factories, power grids, ice caps, satellites, and clothing to phones, microwaves, milk containers, planets, human bodies, etc. IoT creates an opportunity to measure, collect and analyze an ever-increasing variety of behavioral statistics. That being said, data, and more importantly insight into the data, is key for enhanced business val...
Our work, both with clients and with tools, has lead us to wonder how it is that organizations are handling compliance issues in the cloud. The big cloud vendors offer compliance for their infrastructure, but the shared responsibility model requires that you take certain steps to meet compliance requirements. Which lead us to start poking around a little more. We wanted to get a picture of what was available, and how it was being used. There is a lot of fluidity in this space, as in all things cloud. The fact that DevOps Security plays into the cloud compliance model – particularly in dynamic...
The notion of improving operational efficiency is conspicuously absent from the healthcare debate - neither Obamacare nor the newly proposed GOP plan discusses the impact that a step-function improvement in efficiency could have on access to healthcare (through more capacity), quality of healthcare services (through reduced wait times for patients) or cost (through better utilization of scarce, expensive assets).
Most of us understand that artificial intelligence (AI) offers opportunities for productivity improvements in the form of speed, automation, standardized actions and responses, plus the opportunity for continuous improvements via machine learning. These opportunities are enabled by data inputs that are analyzed and processed through AI algorithms that execute a desired decision and action. For all of the great capabilities and benefits that AI can provide, there is also a potential dark side. AI solutions can easily codify our prejudices, bias, gender stereotypes and promote injustices intenti...
Cloud Governance means many things to many people. Heck, just the word cloud means different things depending on who you are talking to. While definitions can vary, controlling access to cloud resources is invariably a central piece of any governance program. Enterprise cloud computing has transformed IT. Cloud computing decreases time-to-market, improves agility by allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing market demands, and, ultimately, drives down costs.
Fingerspitzengefühl: A German word used to describe the ability to maintain attention to detail in an ever-changing operational and tactical environment by maintaining real-time situational awareness. The term is synonymous with the English expression of "keeping one's finger on the pulse". The problem with fingerspitzengefühl traditionally, in addition to pronouncing it, has been it is hard for an individual to scale up. Today that is changing. In a world of sensors, AI and mobile devices, having real-time situational awareness is far easier than ever before. In fact, today the challenge i...
For DevOps teams, the concepts behind service-oriented architecture (SOA) are nothing new. A style of software design initially made popular in the 1990s, SOA was an alternative to a monolithic application; essentially a collection of coarse-grained components that communicated with each other. Communication would involve either simple data passing or two or more services coordinating some activity. SOA served as a valid approach to solving many architectural problems faced by businesses, as applications could be developed by more teams working in parallel and more productively by reusing orig...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Networks have become large, complex entities that are increasingly difficult to manage and control. Security, audit, risk and compliance professionals know that their organizations rely on them for effective risk management, control and governance processes that are essential to the safety of their network environment. Yet compliance and security are more challenging than ever before as additional layers are added to this environment. One of the challenges lies in the fact that there is an ongoing, huge access gap in network security and compliance – and it has been residing within the enviro...
We’re seeing an emerging trend in the cloud computing world. I’ve been referring to it as cloud fatigue, but it’s more commonly known as repatriation, or moving workloads from the cloud back to on-prem locations. According to a recent 451 Research report, over 21 percent of organizations have plans to pull back from the cloud and return to an on-prem infrastructure in 2017. Considering the vast growth of cloud adoption over the last several years, what’s behind this trend?
Blockchain offers impeccable security with its cryptography-based decentralized system as well as the plethora of possible uses retailers could exploit in the near future. In a world of increasing cyberattacks, internet fraud and online hacking, blockchain comes as a breath of fresh air. With its encrypted data and decentralized network system, it's a thorn in every hacker's side. Generally being associated with the finance sector, blockchain is now taking retail by storm. It's on a course that will change the retail industry as we know it. But how exactly is it going to achieve such a feat?
It’s conference season and, as you might expect, Jason and I have been on the road covering a bunch of them. It’s always great to see what the disruptive players in the market are doing — and this year did not disappoint. But there is one thing that repeatedly happens that just gets under my skin: transformation-washing. As Jason explained in a Forbes article over a year ago, ‘washing’ is when a vendor (or pundit) applies a buzzword loosely in an overt attempt to attach themselves to its buzz. And transformation-washing is rampant.
Making informed network investment decisions about emerging technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) can help evolve the network to keep pace with the innovations of the devices and people it’s connecting. As you work with business leaders to make decisions about upgrading your infrastructure with these networking developments, it’s important to understand the similarities, differences, and benefits of dual NFV and SDN implementation. With their ability to offer a new way to design, deploy, and manage the network and its services, NFV a...
Some journey to cloud on a mission, others, a deadline. Change management is useful when migrating to public, private or hybrid cloud environments in either case. For most, stakeholder engagement peaks during the planning and post migration phases of a project. Legacy engagements are fairly direct: projects follow a linear progression of activities (the “waterfall” approach) – change managers and application coders work from the same functional and technical requirements. Enablement and development mirror one another, progressing from proof-of-concept planning to final product delivery. Exce...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infras...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infras...
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope
2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2010 Allstar Conference Faculty

SARWAL
Oracle

COFFEE
Salesforce

KHAN
Sybase

MALCOLM
Abiquo

KHALIDI
Microsoft

RILEY
AWS

BARRETO
Intel

CHAKRAVARTY
Novell

CRANDELL
RightScale

GROSS
Unisys

SCHALK
Google

YEN
Juniper Networks

What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group