Bank of America sees software-defined data centers as 'irresistible'

Patrick Thibodeau

Farronato says it enables "policy-based" management of resources, where you create a virtual machine and associate a policy to it. That policy captures the requirements and automatically brings the resources needed to meet service levels.

Reilly, who isn't disclosing which vendor products the bank is using or testing, explains the policy approach this way: An application will arrive with a "manifest" that details the needs of the application, such as how much storage and compute capacity it requires. Those resources will be returned to the "pool" when the application no longer needs them.

Building a software-defined data center that treats networks, storage and servers as computing resource pools will allow the bank to quickly change its computing environment to meet business needs, whether it's in response to growth, shrinkage, new markets or regulatory changes, said Reilly.

This virtual model is also extending through the bank's enterprise. While it still has a fair number of thick clients in place, Bank of America is increasingly moving to a virtual model. Offering virtual sessions also enables the bank's BYOD policies.

There's still work ahead, however.

VMware's vSAN manages all the memory inside a server, but does not manage external storage arrays in the same way. Eventually, that capability will arrive as well, said Farronato.

There is a belief that software-defined technologies will significantly reduce IT costs, but cost reduction has always been a relative concept in IT. While the number of mainframe administrative costs, for instance, has declined over the years thanks to management improvements, IT costs in other areas, such as mobile management, have increased.

Some believe that a software-defined data center "will do for data centers what robots have done for a lot of manufacturing processes," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

King says the second half of this year may reveal new products that can do just that.

The software defined data center "could portend changes in the enterprise and IT industry that are tectonic," said King.

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