SDDC; The Harmony Remote of a Data Center?

My wife hates my Logitech Harmony remotes.  I love it.  It’s hard to get everyone to unify on a concept but last I checked the Harmony remote concept is ruling the universal remote markets   She, like a lot of people, doesn’t have any tolerance for flaws in the HD TV system.  If it doesn’t work flawless, it’s a complete piece of crap.  Expectations for people are at an all time high and getting worse.  BTW, she’d rather go back to the days with a TV with just cable and one remote.  We’ll we can’t go back.  Just like the progression in Data Centers and Cloud won’t go back to just basic virtualization.

I recently commented in a CRN article (here) about how Software Defined [X] was like a Logitech Harmony remote.  I was pleasantly surprised when none other than Duncan Epping caught it and mentioned it in his blog (here).


For those not aware, there once was a universal remote called the “Harmony”.  When it hit the streets it was the only remote that was internet programmable with activity buttons and was totally different from other universal remotes.  This remote featured the automation capabilities to macro control multiple devices with featured buttons like “Watch TV” or “Watch a Movie”, etc.  So to be clear this was not the clunky universal remote of old that had a “TV” button and a “DVD” button, etc.  Those remotes we very difficult to use with multiple components like a TV, DVD, Cable or Satellite box, Sound Receiver, and so on.  The fact that the Harmony could offer such superiority in automation made it a no brainer for me and millions.  That’s why Logitech bought them.  Home run!

SDDC; Why is it like a Harmony remote?

The concept of a Software Defined Data Center is both a great new opportunity for some people to work through that visionary prism and yet also a hotbed for a lot of people to hate the phrase as much as they hate “cloud”.  I totally get how admins hate the concept because it’s not here.  As long as I’ve know hard core deep technical folks I’ve known them to hate “vaporware”.  I would counter them to say we have to start thinking in dramatic moves forward, like Puppet Labs, to bring a new scale of automation, otherwise we all get left behind.

The Harmony works by controlling components and creating macro controls to emulate the right button usage experience. SDDC needs that logic layer.  Right now the closest thing we have to this logic is something like VASA, VAAI, and other strings that can control external entities like an array.  SDDC or SD [X] does not have a 3rd party, universal, easy to use set of software controls for the components of the SDDC.  The closest example I can see in the storage industry right now is Tintri.  Only by completely giving up control of their system to manage storage without any classic concepts like LUNs do they achieve the start of the vision of Software Defined Automation.  (note; a Tintri system storage is only managed through a vm)  Another might be the converged plays like vBlock or Nutanix based on the fact that they have abstracted the logic layer of the components.  Let’s look at parallel definitions from a Harmony remote and SDDC;

  • AV components = Data Center major components like storage, compute, network, etc
  • Remote = 3rd Party Control Dashboard or Interface (not yet invented, maybe ServiceNow could pull this off)
  • Logic (this is the software that’s developed by Logitech to control the devices) = These are yet uninvented API’s that each vendor builds to spec like VASA, VAAI, etc.  ServiceNow has a run-book feature that could program each component system but that’s a lot more work than an agreed upon API
  • Activity Button = This is probably close to what some have envisioned as a bar code for each set of apps.  Beyond classification levels like Gold, Silver, or Bronze, the attributes for an app (which is usually a set of vm’s to support that one app icon) is really determined by what the business should define as the “activity” response.  If the app needs ranges of responsiveness, security, disaster resiliency, etc then those are part of the “logic” layer for each button on the remote or in this case, the app within a Software Defined Data Center.

Example of “Activity” Logic; vApps?


We need to view the logic as “Apps” (vmware would call them vApps).  All users and the business cares about is clicking on an app icon that functions a core set of VM’s to propagate that application to function correctly.  I’m not saying vCloud and the vApps concept delivers SDDC today.  In fact just the opposite.  vCloud needs that layer of logic potentially above, around, and maybe managing it (note; see vCAC).  The parallel logic here is that if one component of a Harmony remote didn’t work right the “Activity” button wouldn’t work correctly.  So we there’s a bunch of years of grinding to see if the industry can agree to create a common sets of logic to build towards.  Folks be patient here… inventing the next level of automation logic will be messy and lengthy!

The Battle; Community, Vendor, or Standards?

The battlefront to me seems to be within the community movements vs vendor, vs standards bodies.   Will that groundswell that has brought us Devops, Cloud options, Puppet, Chef, and OpenStack bring us the logic layers or will standards bodies that have given us thing like ethernet, pci, and tape formats?  VMware is not standing still.  They have as good a chance as anyone to drive the execution layers of SDDC.

VMworld 2013 Shout Out; My bet is that by fall timeframe you’ll see more details and execution layers emerge in SDDC like what vmware is doing with SDN via NSX (Nicira).  Registration is now open so get booked now (here).

In regards to the SDDC being like a Harmony remote…..  I’ll be interested to see how to reprogram this remote.  That’s the one question I can’t figure out.


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