More than ever, today’s data centers resemble pressure cookers. The impact of an ever-dynamic IT landscape, continually changing business demands and unrelenting service levels can bring budgets and patience to a boiling point. No wonder IT managers believe that Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) could offer much-needed relief.

But is SDDC in its present form ready for prime time? As part of a ZDNet Special Feature on Data Center Automation, industry pundits shared insights on the mass migration to the cloud. According to Gartner, 10% of enterprises will shutter their data centers by the end of this year; that figure jumps to 80% by 2025.

Meanwhile, Cisco predicts 94% of workloads and compute instances will be processed by cloud data centers by 2021, while only 6% will use traditional data centers. Clearly, software and automation play critical roles in driving this exodus to private, public and hybrid cloud data centers.

So far, SDDC has offered a foundation for virtualizing and orchestrating server, storage and networking resources via a software management layer. But there’s one big gap—power. According to Forrester, an opportunity exists for a more integrated abstraction layer that includes physical resources—like power.

SDDCs cannot become reality until data center providers, operators and architects implement software defined power platforms. After all, power arguably is one of the most valued commodities in a data center. Software Defined Power (SDP) is the final pillar that enables SDDC to fulfill its promise of modernizing and automating data centers.

The concept and reality take a page from VMware’s book on server virtualization, whereby a common control plane is provided to abstract and virtualize power management. In doing so, SDP can identify, aggregate and pool sources of stranded power throughout a data center and route energy on-demand to racks, nodes, workloads or circuits. The ability to increase power capacity and availability in real-time also will make a critical difference in reducing costly power outages.

According to Uptime Institute’s 8th Annual Data Center Survey,  a third of the respondents reported a data center outage in the past year, with 80% considering their most recent outage the result of a combination of human and management error. Approximately half of the survey participants estimated the cost of a significant outage lasting 24 hours or more at less than $100,000. A handful, however, calculated a loss of more than $10 million.

With SDP, data center service providers and enterprises can boost data center and cloud power resiliency and efficiency. The opportunity to automate and analyze power delivery patterns also elevates the ability to meet established Service Level Agreements—even if they change during certain time periods. Instead of power being constrained or underutilized, SDP increases rack density to stop rack sprawl, ups rack power capacity, enables full data center automation and improves utilization of available power.

SDP enables data center operators and enterprises to dynamically meet and match escalating demands for power and cooling. The result can double rack power capacity and consolidate racks 2:1 or more while increasing IT workload by 20%. This translates to a massive opex reduction in cost per Kw with equally impressive savings on power.

As the final pillar in an overarching SDDC strategy, SDP is the answer to optimizing energy utilization while relieving power density constraints. It’s also a pivotal piece of an intricate data center puzzle that will enable Software Defined Data Centers to become a reality.