The SDDCbox Project — Part #1 — An Introduction

A physical data center
A physical data center

I work as an IT solution architect. My expertise revolves around data center technologies. I’m cumulating more than 25 years of experience in that field. Recently, I started to think about building a fully virtualized data center, in a box. As an avid Apple user, I’m looking to build it on a 2019 Mac Pro. This article is the first in a series describing my journey in acquiring and building this SDDC.

What is an “SDDC”, again?

An SDDC is a software defined data center. It is a virtualized data center running on top of a hypervisor like VMware ESXi or some other kind of virtualization engine.

The biggest benefit of having an SDDC is the flexibility it provides. You can have an SDDC in the cloud, on premise or… at home, running inside a single computer. Techies will call them home labs. SDDC are made from a number of virtual machines (or virtual servers). Each of them run inside a virtual space to play specific roles like domain controllers, DNS servers, file services, management software, etc., anything that is required to get a working and useful ecosystem. Because it is all done in software, creating, running, modifying and disposing of these virtual machines is super easy.

That’s the power of a software defined platform and this is where it gets interesting. That’s the thing I want to build as an experimentation and learning endeavour.

What is a data center anyway?

According to Wikipedia:

A data center is a building, dedicated space within a building, or a group of buildings used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems.

As you can see, as an individual, I cannot own a data center. But, what I can do is to use virtualization software to recreate virtually all the same components: servers, storage and networks. That is not only very cool but it is tremendously powerful learning environment. Software is eating the world because it provides flexibility in the way we can create things.

Why choose a Mac?

Apple Mac Pro
Apple Mac Pro

Yes, I know, Windows PC are much cheaper than Macs. Why choose a Mac for my SDDCbox project? First, I’ve been an avid Apple user since the eighties, yes, back in 1980. I’m a big fan of this company and I’m currently using a 2017 iMac, an iPad Pro, an iPhone and… an Apple Watch. Are you getting it?

On a more serious note, I depend on macOS and a lot of Mac-only applications and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else. But, obviously, my current iMac with its 32 GB of RAM and 6-cores CPU isn’t enough to get to the level I’m expecting to go. As you probably know, the expandability of the iMac is very limited; as it is now, it is already max-out. So, I need to consider something else to run the SDDCbox. This is where the Mac Pro comes into play.

A learning journey

The whole point of my SDDCbox project is to build a virtualized learning environment. There are many things that I want to learn more about like VMware vSAN, NSX-T, WorkspaceOne, open-source projects like Kubernetes, containers and all this wrapped with automation in mind. These technologies are these days, more than ever, at the center of what many are calling: the digital transformation.

The SDDCbox, the not-for-resale product licenses that I’ll get access to at work will enable this learning experience. By using automation tools, my goal is to create easily reproducible virtual environments. This will allow me to provision whatever setup I want at the push of a button to demo these technologies to my clients and my colleagues. This is an exciting project, and I’m very enthusiastic about it.

Expecting a long journey

Jeffrey S. Young, published a long time ago a book titled: “Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward”. I find this book title to fit closely and very is telling about what I expect from this SDDCbox project. I’m at the very early stage of planning the setup, doing limited and directed testings on my current iMac. I give myself a few more weeks before making a final purchase decision and I’ll certainly wait and see what Apple has in store for us on their upcoming event rumoured to be held on November 17th. Configuration updates, price changes or something else could greatly affect my buying decision.

In my second post in this nascent series, I’ll expose more technical details about this future SDDCbox itself and on what kind of hardware it will run on and why. Stay tuned.

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