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'Software Defined' Emerges as an Overused Term With a Kernel of Value

IT Infrastructure vendors are falling all over themselves to slap the "software-defined" label on their products, even on their hardware.

If you want to be with-it in tech, put the words "Software Defined" in caps at the front of whatever you are discussing and charge forward. In fact, this is a Software-Defined Blog talking about all the recent Software-Defined News and by reading it, you, too, will become one of the Software-Defined Cognoscenti.

Recently, Hewlett-Packard, which sprouted from a world of calculators and scientific hardware—introduced us to software-defined (sorry, but I'm tired of hitting the caps key) servers. Now, you might think of servers as, well, servers–those boxy, blade computers that run until something breaks and all your software stops working.

The new HP software-defined service cartridges resemble—for all of us who can remember far back—eight-track tape cartridges. (BTW, if you have the eight-track of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Live/1975-1978, you have, not a junky, old tape, but a valued antique).

The software-defined piece of the HP business in theory offers the ability to get a bunch of disparate components to play in harmony in your data center. Lesson one: Take some hardware, put "software defined" in front, and you are in new-paradigm land.

Not to be left out of the software-defined parade, a bunch of big tech vendors have banded together to form a software-defined network. OpenDaylight features an absolute parade of old-timey vendors clamoring to jump onto the SDN bandwagon.

Even Cisco, the very epitome of proprietary networking, has joined the software-defined cheerleading squad. OpenDaylight is one of the more interesting software-defined, open-networking organizations. Standards bodies used to be marked by very slow, incremental progress (802.11a, b, g, ac, ad, ad infinitum) and with hardware and software vendors being dragged into the open world by the likes of the irascible Linus Torvalds.

No more and OpenDaylight could not be a better example. Here are a group of vendors that want to lead the SDN parade, which is somewhat encouraging and somewhat scary, as vendors exist to sell you their stuff and that usually doesn't involve promoting network democracy. Lesson two: It is more fun to be at the front of the software-defined parade than marching behind the elephants.

Which brings me to software-defined infrastructure. I'll be at the OpenStack summit next week where the OpenStack foundation has just released their Grizzly version of OpenStack. OpenStack is the big stick of software definition with the goal of making cloud computing available to all.

The OpenStack group is young (the foundation was established last September) and is in the forefront of upending the technology infrastructure game. Lesson three: While software defined is vying for the most overused technology term of 2013, there really is something going on here.

About Eric Lundquist

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Eric Lundquist, who was editor in chief at eWEEK (previously PC Week) from 1996-2008 authors this blog for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.