According to ESG Research: 
Percentage of respondents who view their network as a strategic asset that can enable new revenue sources.
Percentage of respondents who believe increasing use of server virtualization, increasing use of desktop virtualization, and/or using cloud infrastructure services are top IT priorities driving the most technology spending within their organization in 2015.
VMware Validated Designs for the Software-defined Data Center
The acceleration of cloud computing initiatives, combined with the change in IT infrastructure consumption, is rapidly transitioning the IT conversation away from a technology focus to more of a business-oriented approach. Today, the discussion is more about operational efficiency and economics. While the initial success of server virtualization was tied to the reduction of capital expenditures and containment of IT resources, the next phase is poised to focus more on its operational benefits and less on the technical nuances of one solution over the other.
Cloud computing is acting as the ideal catalyst to introducing this strategy and changing the way businesses consume IT infrastructure. Building a cloud infrastructure is not a simple task, whether that infrastructure will be a corporate private cloud or a hosted cloud service. Integrating compute, network, and storage components into the software-defined data center (SDDC) can be daunting as a do-it-yourself project; engaging professional services to do a custom job is an option, but may be expensive and time consuming..
ESG Lab recently took a first look at the newly introduced VMware Validated Designs, which provides reference blueprints for the software-defined data center. These blueprints fuse all data center elements into standardized and streamlined infrastructures, complete with built-in availability, scalability, and automation. The design process incorporates best practices, input, and feedback from customer support, VMware’s own internal IT organization, and VMware and partner professional services organizations.
VMware Validated Designs are not static reference designs. Instead, VMware has developed a process of continuous update and improvement that also includes the participation of the VMware engineering team. Before any new SDDC elements, products, features, capabilities, software revisions, patches, or updates are incorporated into the validated designs, they must first undergo rigorous testing to ensure full compatibility and supportability with the existing validated designs. New versions of the validated designs must be backwards compatible with all previous versions.
VMware developed the Foundation reference architecture to be the basis for all VMware Validated Designs. This architecture uses tested and validated best practices as the foundation for a scalable, resilient SDDC infrastructure upon which all additional functionality is layered. VMware currently has Validated Designs for multiple use cases including software-defined data centers, single-region and dual-region IT automation clouds, and QE/Demo Clouds. More Validated Designs are in development.
VMware’s Professional Services organization offers VMware Validated Design deployment services, delivering planning, deployment, and validation expertise to speed customer time-to-value and flatten the learning curve.
The Foundation architecture is based on three different clusters, each providing separate functionality. Inter- and intra-cluster communication uses VMware NSX software-defined networking. The management cluster contains the management and monitoring solutions for the entire environment, separating management from user data and user workloads. A single management cluster can manage multiple edge and compute clusters.
Edge clusters provide networking services to compute clusters, simplifying the physical network environment. Access to the corporate network and the Internet is delivered through an edge cluster.
Compute clusters provide compute services, running user workloads on virtual machines. Networking in the compute cluster is completely virtualized using NSX for vSphere. Compute clusters range from four to 64 hosts, and the Foundation can scale by adding additional compute clusters.
All clusters use VMware Virtual SAN storage. Management and compute clusters can also access NFS storage, and compute clusters can also access vSphere VMFS storage. External data and user workload storage is accessed through the software-defined network.
VMware is focused on helping its customers improve their IT operations with modern software-defined data centers, encompassing virtualized compute, virtualized storage, and virtualized networking architectures. However, transitioning to the SDDC can present significant challenges, with IT teams having to learn new tools, techniques, and paradigms to deliver critical business services to their organizations.
VMware is addressing those challenges with VMware Validated Designs, reference architectures designed to facilitate production SDDC deployments. Validated Designs describe complete, fully functional, production-ready SDDCs for single-region and dual-region IT automation clouds, QE/Demo Clouds, and other use cases. Leveraging its own professional services organization along with technology partners including EMC, Cisco, Extreme Networks, Juniper, and others, the comprehensive designs include reference architectures, deployment walkthroughs and guides, operations guides, and recommendations for planning, installation, configuration, and ongoing operations. VMware future-proofs the designs with an automated continuous update and validation process, where every new build of any component goes through a complete regression testing cycle.
Based upon VMware’s vast experience with virtualizing data centers, the designs also incorporate real-world feedback from customer support, internal, and external professional services organizations. This gives IT organizations confidence to deploy the SDDC outside of the artificial confines of the laboratory or proof-of-concept, directly into production.
Based on ESG Lab’s first look at VMware Validated Designs, we are confident that SDDC provides a business-focused approach to IT services, simplifies data center management, increases the speed of service delivery, and extends the benefits of automation and orchestration. ESG research indicates that these benefits are some of the many reasons that SDDC is the second most important CIO whiteboard initiative (right behind information security). If you’re looking to reduce or eliminate the risks, challenges, and time inherent in deploying the new IT architectures of the SDDC, ESG Lab recommends that you take a closer look at VMware Validated Designs.