How ‘Software-Defined Everything’ Impacts the Data Center

Sept. 29, 2021
If “software is eating the world,” what does that look like for the data center industry? The DCF Executive Roundtable looks at how “software-defined everything” is changing the game.

Today we continue our Data Center Executive Roundtable, a quarterly feature showcasing the insights of thought leaders on the state of the data center industry, and where it is headed. In today’s discussion, our panel of experienced data center executives discusses the opportunities and challenges created by “software-defined everything,” Our panelists include Rob Rockwood from Sabey Data Centers, Nancy Novak of Compass Datacenters and Infrastructure Masons, and Peter Panfil from Vertiv.

The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier. Each day this week we will present a Q&A with these executives on one of our key topics. Here’s today’s discussion:

Data Center Frontier: If “software is eating the world,” what does that look like for the data center industry? What are the opportunities and challenges presented by a world of “software-defined everything”?

NANCY NOVAK, Compass Datacenters and iMasons

Nancy Novak, iMasons: The demand for more accessibility to internet delivered applications and functionality isn’t going away and neither is end user demand for instantaneous access. As the network continues to move closer to customers, “decision making” for a variety of elements is going to outstrip the capabilities of human intervention in multiple instances thereby making software-driven automation essential. Developments in AI will be a major growth driver.

Maintaining secure environments will be the biggest challenge, as software defined applications continue to proliferate. This will be more a function of the degree of network expansion as new edge devices, etc. provide new opportunities for hackers.

As a result, it will be increasingly important for software defined applications to incorporate the ability to recognize and respond to external intrusion threats. Since “firewall” functionality is often lagging in its response to new intrusion methodologies user decisions as to what information is available and where it’s located will be a major implementation consideration.


Peter Panfil, Vertiv: The opportunity for the industry is continued growth by delivering the reliability and agility software-defined applications require. The challenges are in being able to dynamically manage changing loads within a facility and across facilities and building out the network edge, so software defined applications have the compute and connectivity they require.

We need to continue to compress deployment times for regional and local compute and storage through increased standardization and integration designed to the specific requirements of various edge use cases. We are also being asked to help increase the utilization rate of deployed assets. That has resulted in our product teams rerating our existing UPSes to deliver more kVA from the same platform and develop features that help customers overcome limitations of other parts of the critical infrastructure.

ROB ROCKWOOD, Sabey Data Centers

Rob Rockwood, Sabey Data Centers: We are experiencing the digitalization of the human experience in every respect. Having helped to create this reality, it is perhaps only fair that public cloud providers stand in the best position to reap its rewards.

Enterprise demand is also driven by digital transformation, however, so capacity provided to both enterprises and public cloud providers will continue to grow at double-digit CAGR (compound annual growth rate).

NEXT: Our panel discusses technologies that can drive long-term sustainability solutions. 

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About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

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