Software is redefining IT infrastructure


Software is redefining IT infrastructure, but has hardware become obsolete?

Not too long ago, any IT manager worth their salt would have spent much of their time maintaining the delicate balance between servers, storage and networks, but now software is redefining IT infrastructure.

But advances in software-defined storage (SDS) are pulling together every aspect of the IT infrastructure, leading some industry experts to predict that the lines between the traditional elements of the data centre will begin to blur.

In fact, it’s already happening: SDS is so tightly coupled with servers (compute) and networking now that they often come together, fully integrated into an overarching cloud solution.

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But as the data centre marches towards a software-defined everything, what’s the bigger picture? Who’s set to benefit, and who’s going to have to adapt?

A natural progression

It’s hardly surprising. In life we’re always consolidating vaguely connected processes to make life run more smoothly – think about the way we package our landline, mobile phone and broadband services, or how we’re offered travel insurance at the time we book our holiday. The same is happening to storage.

As increasing numbers of core networking and storage functions, traditionally managed by specialised devices, switches and dedicated storage boxes for example, become software driven or defined, it’s becoming much easier to package them together.

And it’s not just the storage landscape that’s changing.

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The entire IT infrastructure – from the network to the servers – is going through a software-defined revolution.

This movement echoes the server-side changes we saw with the introduction of virtualisation more than 15 years ago.

In fact, it’s almost a natural progression from the consolidation of a multitude of mail servers, database servers and firewalls into functions all running on standard servers.

Now, as SDS brings together other disparate parts of the data centre, the borders between compute, storage and network are blurring further, with a real effect on the way companies run their IT.

Ease-of-use: SDS’s secret weapon

451 research’s 2016 trends in storage report highlighted that IT budgets are falling while the need for greater capacity and higher performance is growing which is forcing IT managers to rethink their storage strategies and the kind of technology they employ.

The report also delves into the role of the IT manager.

Specialised expertise is replaced with a broader, but shallower, understanding of the entire IT infrastructure.

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They don’t have time to build their infrastructures. So on a purely operational level it makes sense to employ a system that requires little interference – that is up and running quickly and can be left to do its job without constant tinkering and tweaking.

And that’s why ease-of-use is one of the main drivers behind SDS’s continued success.

A proper software-defined storage solution just works. Once it’s set up, it self-tunes and self-heals, it is easy to expand and support.

It can be policy driven, automated and integrated with all major systems in the data centre, so IT managers are ready to go about their actual business.

No time wasted firefighting in the storage domain. And certainly no worries about hardware failures, high-availability or redundancy.

Another main driver behind the adoption of SDS solutions is the changing nature of business and user demand.

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Customers demand fast, simple, scalable solutions at a much lower cost.

Running with the traditional IT stack and storage array leaves organisations with negative returns, which can impact on their business.

Adopting SDS solutions addresses this new business reality head on.

SDS not only offers the performance, reliability and ease-of-use that’s demanded by customers, it is also up to ten times cheaper than their traditional alternatives. And that’s paramount when budgets are under scrutiny.

Let’s not ignore the move towards cloud either.

According to the Cloud Industry Forum more than 4 in 5 UK organisations have formally adopted at least one cloud service -software is redefining IT infrastructure.

And within those services, cloud storage is incredibly popular – with uptake across enterprises and smaller businesses alike.

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Cloud storage is ideally suited to SDS’s flexibility and scalability.

Both public and private cloud benefit from the immediacy of working with software.

There is a growth in interest from cloud builders, who need reliability and performance, without the price and limited scalability of more traditional offerings.

Vendors need to shift a gear

The understandable trend towards more streamlined solutions, has a big impact on the vendor landscape.

We’re already seeing the growth of hyper-converged vendors in some segments of the storage market.

In others, server vendors, offering network and storage technologies alongside their traditional products, are emerging as big players – think about HPE, DELL and Cisco.

We see the rapid rise of the “white box” server vendors too. These server OEMs are best placed to take advantage of SDS, and their move into the storage arena highlights a larger trend towards consolidation.

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In fact, their growth will come at the expense of more traditional storage vendors, whose market share is consistently decreasing quarter on quarter.

The server OEMs’ expansion into storage will trigger a change in the types of technologies we accept as commonplace.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but SDS’s growth in popularity could kick start a hardware revival.

New hardware components will become standard in typical x86 servers. The number of hardware components will grow.

Vendors will have to start leveraging them. They’ll have to change their mindset: understand how hardware connects together to satisfy a market need.

Otherwise newer, more innovative software companies, that can see the potential of packaging together software and hardware, will leave the more traditional vendors behind.

Sourced by Boyan Ivanov, CEO of StorPool

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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