Software vendors symbol blue

The Rising Reign of
Software-Defined Everything

Julian Box, CEO and Co-Founder, Calligo Limited

The Internet of Things (IoT] is being discussed everywhere, and the concept is expanding to encompass the Internet of Everything [IoE]. But, let’s take a step deeper and consider something I had termed Software-Defined Everything (SDE) years before the debate of whether 2015 will be the "year of SDE" as predicted by Frost & Sullivan. 2015 is seen to be the year of SDE as the software-defined revolution spreads beyond the boundaries of the datacentre," according to the analyst.

Back in early 2012 in one of my first blogs as Calligo CEO, I discussed the subject of Software-Defined Networking [SDN] in “Is the world ready for software-defined network architecture?” In October 2013, I followed up with “It’s the Software, Stupid” where I discussed how Software-Defined Infrastructure as a whole was expanding rapidly. In this blog, we’ll be focused on Software-Defined Everything, which will come into its own soon, potentially this year, but soon – and it will reign at the heart of innovation.

Let’s start with a recap about what it means to be “software-defined.” Traditionally, it is seen as a software-based technology that allows the creation and operation of infrastructure through software, removing the need for vendor-specific hardware products and skills. Thirty-six months ago, it was all about Software-Defined Networking, when we saw VMware’s $1.2B acquisition of Nicira, the leading SDN vendor at the time. Since then, even networking giants such as Cisco and Juniper have embraced it. We also saw growth in the use of software-defined techniques across all areas of the infrastructure, which became the Software-Defined Datacentre (SDDC) with the potential to deliver massive operational benefits to cloud service providers and large enterprises.

Even in the last three years, the concept of what software can really do has changed massively. For me, Software-Defined Everything refers to that new interchange between all the connected devices – IoT – and the software that connects and operates these devices plus the applications that run on them.

Look back to the late 2000’s and you will see the world beginning to switch from a hardware-centric place to a software-centric one. As we embraced smart devices, our interaction with software started to change. Then came the first iPhone, which arguably kick started the new apps world we now see as the norm. These developments have had massive impact on how we use software: not only how we consume the changes it brings, but also accommodating the switch to an on-demand lead world. Today, no one wants to wait. If their current app doesn’t deliver what they want, they will just download another that will.

All of this underlines that we now exist in world governed by software. Think for a moment at what your day looks like and try to find something you do that doesn’t have a piece of software/application linked to it!

What does all this mean? Firstly, the speed of change will grow again. Changes in software can happen in hours, minutes or even seconds. This was only a dream ten years ago, when every update or upgrade to existing hardware or the services running on it were measured in years.

The real demand for this on-demand upgrading has come through consumers, not business. It’s interesting to see so many of the large, well-established companies struggling to stay relevant, as seen in loss of growth quarter after quarter for many of them. Their answer to this? Sell legacy business units and slash jobs in a bid to bring profit growth back (just look at IBM, Cisco, HP and even Microsoft.) With their businesses built around legacy software, services and hardware – none of which are aligned to the new world their customers and their customer’s customers now live in – they are largely missing the real issue, and thus lack the necessary vision and innovation.

It’s the young, agile companies that are seeing the growth rates the big guys now only dream about.

If anything, the large corporations have begun to hold back innovation as they go on buying sprees to grab up the next cool product, just to destroy what made them cool in the first place by wrapping their big, rigid legacy arms around them. This smacks of trying to be innovative through acquisition. The big guys need to remember where true innovation comes from – it’s not the chequebook; it’s a cultural thing and comes from within the desire and soul of an organisation.

SDE is more about us as individuals and what we demand. Our children know no other world. They connect to software before they can walk! Software is becoming a natural extension of their communication skills before they can talk. As this generation takes its place in the world, I believe the levels of innovation will explode, and of course, SDE will be at the very heart of it.

By Julian Box, Posted 11th March 2015.