Building the Modern Data Center: A Supercharged Enterprise Software-Defined Data Center Deployment (SDDC)

Paul DiVittorio
By Paul DiVittorio

Sr. Director, Cloud Infrastructure / Distinguished Engineer August 27, 2018

In April of this year, I wrote a blog discussing the challenges of the epic and historic merger of Dell and EMC, which created Dell Technologies. The integration called for Dell IT to build a best-in-class multi-cloud application that would leverage the full suite of Dell Technologies’ products to modernize, automate and transform its IT operations.

And we are on-plan for success!

Let me share with you the strategy, technology and processes we’re employing to make it happen.

The Challenges of the Merger Integration Were Cut Out for Us

The Dell IT team were faced with integrating and modernizing the hundreds of Dell and EMC legacy applications that were running on traditional infrastructure in existing data centers, which entailed:

  • Different infrastructures
  • Different stages of transformation
  • Conflicting IP space
  • Varying people, processes and roles

Dell IT was tasked additionally with the undertaking of modernizing our global data center infrastructure, automating the delivery of cloud services, transforming application hosting to enable business speed and agility, and aligning people, processes and roles.

A Successful Merger Integration with the Digital Agenda and Our Customers in Mind

Like most organizations pursuing a digital agenda, Dell IT realizes today’s IT won’t succeed unless we don’t change the way we do business and become an on-demand service provider with the automation, agility, and flexibility to give our users what they want; when they want it.

So we devised a comprehensive strategic roadmap to deploy a new cloud infrastructure as the bridge between the two legacy companies, while building the world’s best agile and innovative hybrid cloud platform and private cloud-enabled infrastructure services for our customers.

The Future-State Construct to Dell Technologies’ IT Operations and Modern Data Center

We required a cloud strategy to transform our more than 3,000 applications and leverage modern data center technologies such as software-defined storage, networking and security, automation, and self-service capabilities. This entailed:

  1. Modernizing Applications – rationalize applications, enable mobile and analytics.
  2. Modernizing Infrastructure – move to cost-efficient, flexible, hyper-converged infrastructure.
  3. Transforming IT Operations – automate delivery of IT services.

We brought together all the aspects of our data centers, infrastructure and platforms under a single team called Cloud Infrastructure Services and built a brand new, legacy-agnostic multi-cloud solution, rather than trying to retrofit existing cloud infrastructure.

Figure 1:The Future-State Construct to Dell Technologies’ IT Operations and Modern Data Center

Architecture of the IT Transformation: The New Dell IT Hybrid Cloud Solution

Dell IT’s efforts produced a new multi-cloud solution built on Dell EMC Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure that leverages the VMware Validated Design for Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC).

Our FY19 priorities dictate modernizing our global data center infrastructure, automating the delivery of cloud services and transforming application hosting to enable business agility. The priorities entail leveraging:

  1. Platform as a Service (PaaS) to enable our app teams to migrate their desired workload to Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF).
  2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS+) to deploy Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) as the next generation hosting platform for Dell IT leveraging VMware stack to enable business agility.[1]
  3. Data Center Strategy to implement PS recommendations to (long-term) close Hopkinton and expand to Durham (short-term).
  4. Automation to build-to-scale highly automated IaaS self-service platform(s) to support Dell’s digital transformation effort to modernize application development, testing and delivery.
  5. Stabilization to enact get well plan for applications that will remain on legacy infrastructure.

PaaS is built on Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), an application development platform designed to simplify writing and deploying modern cloud native apps. This service is for developers who want to write new apps or rewrite existing apps in a way that conforms to cloud-native design standards that maximize the use of cloud features. Using the cloud native framework results in a micro services-based lighter-weight app that can be readily moved on or off premises.

IaaS+ is for existing apps whose owners are not ready to rewrite them to meet the requirements of PCF but who still want to deploy them in a more cloud-enabled format to take advantage of cloud features such as software-defined storage and software-defined network. The bulk of our apps fall into this category.

Our IaaS+ is built on VMware’s vRealize Automation, a cloud automation tool. At its core, using IaaS+ means an app is still deployed as a virtual machine (VM) but it sits on top of a software-defined data center layer. It is therefore fully automated and leverages the software-defined abstraction that separates it from the hardware layer, enabling faster provisioning, more efficient data center space utilization and seamless hardware upgrades.

Figure 2: Dell IT Hybrid Cloud

A Continued Migration and a New Role

Over time, we want to migrate our entire application footprint from our legacy environments to one of these two new environments. However, accomplishing such a transition needs to be a gradual process. We are on track to deploy 25 percent of our infrastructure to the cloud by the end of this year and replace our entire current infrastructure with the software-defined platform within four years.

Central to our approach is tying application modernization to our end-of-service-life initiative. As components serving a particular app—the operating system or compute or storage — reach the end of operating service, our goal is to use that to drive the move of that app to one of these two cloud platforms – PaaS and IaaS+.

Leaving it up to app developers to determine which cloud service they choose is part of our effort to become more of a platform agnostic, competitive service provider. The idea is not to tell our users what they can and cannot do. The message we want to drive is around standardization.

In fact, at the end of our migration to the cloud, we want the users to be able to log into a portal (service catalog) and choose the services they need without IT even being involved.

Our IT effort will be refocused on enabling automation, writing code for new services, and monitoring and managing capacity. With a software-defined model, we can also better control capacity by leveraging third-party cloud providers as needed to handle demand surges and be more planned and prescriptive.

Benefits in Taking VMware Validated Design to the Extreme

In a nutshell, here are the resulting benefits for IT in leveraging the Hybrid Cloud:

  • 30% lower infrastructure costs
  • 80% lower provisioning costs
  • 10-30% higher utilization rates
  • Infrastructure engineers focus more on services than components

The benefits for Business Units in leveraging the Hybrid Cloud:

  • Infrastructure Is managed as a utility and always available for consumption
  • Faster provisioning times
  • Self-service capabilities

Lessons Learned: Building the Modern Data Center

Here are some insights that might help your organization build its modern data center:

  • Embrace that building the modern data center is a challenge and difficult.
  • Adapt your team roles and structure accordingly.
  • It’s got to be the right fit don’t try to force this on all of your legacy infrastructure.
  • Encourage adoption and instill a software mindset.
  • Keep the customer in mind – it’s all about the “service.”


Cloud-Enabled infrastructures are fundamental to the Modern Data Center design. Dell IT’s journey to a new multi-cloud has proven critical to our infrastructure integration as we continue our IT evolution as a combined Dell EMC IT organization. Across the IT industry, modernizing, automating and transforming IT to enable digital transformation and deliver self-service capabilities is essential for our survival in an increasingly automated, consumer-driven cloud services landscape.

Please reach out to your Dell EMC representative or checkout Dell EMC Cloud Marketplace to learn how we can help you with modernizing your data center or leave me a comment below and I’ll be happy to respond back to you.

Visiting #VMworld? Meet VMware’s Paul DiVittorio, Senior Director, Cloud Infrastructure Services and Dell’s  Adam Wallace, Sr. Consultant for the session “Building the Modern Data Center: A Supercharged Enterprise SDDC Deployment” on Thursday, August 30 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. You’ll learn about the business drivers and design decisions that helped shape Dell IT’s multi-site design and the steps taken to realize the full value of the software-defined data center’s (SDDC) capabilities, including VMware NSX, VMware vRealize Automation, VMware vRealize Operations, and VMware vRealize Network Insight.

[1] PaaS and IaaS+ phases include deploying standard infrastructure (MDC) to support all could services (PaaS, IaaS+, etc.); 25% of infrastructure allocated to IaaS+ and PaaS in FY19; implement Cloud-first strategy; and move to consumption-based model.