How software-defined storage (SDS) enables continuity of operations

Software-defined storage (SDS) involves storage that’s separated from hardware to manifest itself as a stack layer, for more flexible usage. Part of a larger section of technology called hyperconverged infrastructure, SDS allows for usage of resources with any hardware, an aspect that can be vital for companies as they continue to operate remotely.

With businesses always needing an efficient business continuity plan in place, we explore how SDS can play a helpful role in achieving this.

Agility and security

Firstly, SDS is able to increase agility with the aid of automation, as well as security, as explained by Roland Leins, executive for storage software, Europe at IBM.

“Software-defined storage (SDS) is the key to building flexible and robust storage configurations that deliver performance as well as security, without compromise or concession. It achieves this by moving the intelligence and functionality away from storage hardware and onto an independent software layer.

“This has a number of important benefits. First, by abstracting the software from the underlying hardware it delivers the ability to effectively mix storage technologies. In addition, building a system that places a layer of software between the storage platform and applications seamless ensures the management of data growth and also supports multi-cloud flexibility.

“Significantly, by facilitating storage-wide automation, SDS improves business and IT agility at a reduced cost by optimising system administration and control. This also helps ensure effective and efficient resource utilisation, which in turn eases the deployment [and redeployment] of infrastructure elements. In addition, being able to align resource availability with application requirements can help streamline capacity planning.

“Security is, of course, a growing concern – especially as businesses are generating and sharing data from more points than ever before. Fortunately, SDS can play a critical role in preventing the damage caused by cyber attacks. Because of encryption, auditing and virus detection, abnormal accesses to data can be detected and if needed interrupted. Furthermore, copies of data can be protected through ‘air gap’ measures that physically separate data, such as exporting copies off-site to locations that can’t be accessed online.”

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Moving away from hardware costs

Creating a new layer completely based on software in your infrastructure stack means that costs for hardware can be minimised, while boosting multi-cloud strategies.

“Traditionally, regardless of how complex and well maintained your data centre, its fixed position was a weakness easily exploited or corrupted by theft, disaster or power-related issues,” said Ben Griffin, sales director at Computer Disposals Ltd. “It’s for precisely this reason that SDS is a reliable partner – offering a means of continuation should the worst happen.

“Decoupling storage from hardware, as is the case with SDS, brings a huge range of benefits for the day-to-day duties of IT personnel. And, from a broader company-wide perspective, it enables simpler continuity through challenging periods by relying less on owned hardware and more on flexible, accessible and affordable multi-cloud environments.

“One of the great attributes of SDS is scalability, and this, in turn, is often one of the principal means of business continuity. Should a business need to downsize in challenging times, with a view to reinvesting in personnel later down the line, SDS provides this ability with none of the usual challenges associated with managing a physical data centre.”

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Speed, flexibility and increased choice

William Bush, solutions architect at Catalogic Software, cited how SDS can bring speed, flexibility and increased vendor choice to the business continuity strategy.

“The top benefits in my mind are speed and simplicity – providing the ability to provision resources in seconds that in the past would have taken days via a central control plane, and enhanced flexibility and agility – providing enhanced flexibility via the ability to handle diverse workloads ensuring each workload is tied to its relevant tier of CPU, memory storage and backup.

“Enhanced agility is also a killer benefit via real time scalability with the ability to scale as needed to those peaks in workloads and deliver scale up or scale out capability as required for workloads. These key benefits assist in providing the continuity of operations. There’s also no vendor lock in, which gives customers the ability to use their choice of hardware.

“With Catalogic ECX we deploy a minimal footprint vApp and utilise the vendors built in snapshotting capabilities to orchestrate and enable effective Copy Data Management (CDM). CDM can deliver continuity of operations via enabling instant recovery for continuity of operations and can also deliver benefits to businesses such as fresh copies of data for development, analytics, reporting and DevOps.”

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Distributed servers and hybrid cloud

A final aspect to consider when deploying SDS for operation continuity, is that along with distributed servers, this can work best within hybrid cloud systems, as explained by Alexander Ivanyuk, senior director, product and technology positioning at Acronis.

“Good SDS is a universal and cost-efficient scale-out solution that combines block, file, and object workloads and leverages commodity server hardware, and a proper SDS solution uses a distributed server approach so that as the cluster grows in capacity, so too does the compute power,” said Ivanyuk. “SDS creates a consolidated virtual pool for disk arrays, from which virtual disks are formed and appear as logical disks in a host server. This makes it cheap and easy to replace in case something bad happens – you don’t need to wait for specialised hardware or worry for safety of your data.

“Rebuilding a failed disk drive in an SDS cluster with multiple hosts is significantly faster than completing a similar rebuild in a traditional array. The best SDS solutions use erasure coding that stores a small amount of parity information, unlike other SDS systems which use replicas for redundancy to preserve the data, and as a result deliver business continuity.

“The real power of SDS is in hybrid environments: it can provide centralised management of different types of data storage and resources, and extend on-premises storage features to private and public cloud. This works especially well in backup and disaster recovery (DR) scenarios.

“With SDS, you can easily expand to off-site cloud backups and provide a cost-effective solution for cold storage which is kept off-site (thus protecting business against malfunction in on-premises systems) and automatically scale up without any investment in additional hardware. SDS solutions hosted in the cloud can aid in providing a dedicated DR in another office abroad without having to invest in creation, installation, and maintenance of DR there, and this all enables easy business expansion and continuity of the current one.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.