“Software-defined” is a relatively new term. It was introduced in 2011, and you may have seen it in contexts such as “software-defined datacenter” or “software-defined network”. Even though the term has entered the IT lexicon, it seems that the origins of this concept are rooted in Marketing: “Software-defined data center (SDDC; also: virtual data center, VDC) is a marketing term that extends virtualization concepts such as abstraction, pooling, and automation to all data center resources and services to achieve IT as a service (ITaaS). In a software-defined data center, ‘all elements of the infrastructure — networking, storage, CPU and security – are virtualized and delivered as a service.”
A software-defined architecture allows a datacenter to manage its data flow more easily and with more flexibility. If you consider the “data toll” that the digital transformation is imposing on the current datacenter infrastructure (think about IoT, Edge or AI), you would probably see the importance of having a strategy in place that helps you incorporate that in a smarter and more efficient way.