Although many organizations continue to operate data centers with complex physical infrastructure, others have turned to software-defined components for cost-effective management of cloud storage, networking and computing resources. The software-defined data center (SDDC) market has seen rapid growth as enterprises pair interoperable hardware with open source software to create an affordable, highly customized infrastructure.

Research from MarketsandMarkets estimated that the SDDC market will be worth $396.1 million in 2013. However, it is primed to exceed $5 billion in value by 2018, following a compound annual growth rate of 69 percent over the next five years. The main drivers of SDDC adoption are a combination of growing demand for processing power and the desire to create custom network configurations. Enterprises are also seeking ways to integrate services from different providers and build cloud storage systems that are not subject to vendor lock-in.

Looking forward, data centers may use software-defined tools to supplement rather than completely replace sophisticated infrastructure. In a piece for The Data Center Journal, Brocade's Jason Nolet outlined a vision for data centers that layered virtual and fabric-based elements over a physical network, while leaving additional space for orchestration processes that work with OpenStack and CloudStack.

"[T]he entire data center environment must be managed by orchestration frameworks that allow for the rapid and end-to-end provisioning of virtual data centers," argued Nolet. "There are many approaches in the market, such as VMware vCloud Director and the OpenStack community. OpenStack, for example, allows customers to deploy network capacity and services in their cloud-based data centers far quicker than with legacy network architectures and provisioning tools."

The availability of interoperable standards in cloud computing means that companies will be able to pursue hybrid approaches. Rather than leave the data center behind, businesses will still manage it, but will do so by using software-based processes and standard cloud storage hardware.

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