Software-defined storage gains traction

When deciding which technology solutions to deploy within their IT infrastructure, CIOs tend to have five considerations on their mind: flexibility, agility, scalability, manageability and affordability.

The speed of business today is transforming the data centre and the pressure for change has never been greater. Companies of all sizes – from large multi-national enterprises to small office environments – are increasingly challenged to deliver applications and IT services on demand to a flexible and evolving workforce.

In support of these trends, software-defined storage (SDS) is gaining traction. In particular, SDS platforms are the foundation technology for software-defined data centres (SDDCs).

SDS delivers automated, policy-driven, application-aware storage services through orchestration of the underlying storage infrastructure in support of an overall software-defined environment.

>See also: Dissecting the software-defined data centre

When deployed intelligently, SDS is fast becoming a reliable solution for customers buried under volumes of data, stored on complex and varied hardware and software technologies, and required more frequently, by more users, for critical business objectives.

While interest is surely growing, we are still in the early stages. For the first time, IDC measured the size of the SDS platform market this past year and, specifically, platforms that deliver the full suite of storage services via a software stack that uses, but is not dependent on, commodity hardware built with off-the-shelf components.

According to IDC, the SDS market will continue to grow faster than any other market segment in the file- and object-based storage market. It will be driven primarily by a rich and diverse set of data-intensive use cases across multiple industries and geographies.

As software-defined storage offerings account for one of the fastest-growing segments of the software-defined market, both new and old vendors are busy staking out their claims in this fast-developing market.

For customers, the potential benefits of SDS include greater flexibility, scalability, capex and open savings, and reduced complexity.

For many organisations, and particularly larger ones, storage can be fragmented into many moving parts, including different technologies (i.e. SAN Block, NAS File, Object), multiple vendors, tools, and management software. Information types are changing too, with structured and unstructured data, rich or complex data, big data and the Internet of Things.

For many organisations, storage can be isolated in a silo, separated from other silos like compute and networking. Increasingly, storage isn’t a standalone array, but a combination of arrays, servers and even memory.

This can add complexity and makes management and change challenging, thus making convergence, integrated storage, compute and networking solutions more attractive. All of these elements underscore why SDS is gathering momentum.

To propel storage to where it needs to be, SDS must provide the storage services available on storage hardware – like snapshots, deduplication, replication and thin provisioning – on a software layer that can be deployed on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers.

The best approach is built on three principles: abstract data from the hardware; integrate storage, compute and networking; and orchestrate through software. The intent is to provide flexible solutions that can be easily added to any environment without ripping and replacing existing infrastructure.

By creating a unified pool of hardware resources and adding automation and monitoring tools, SDS transcends storage virtualisation. It moves functions out of the storage appliance and places them close to the data, enabling better load balancing, reducing operational task loads, and improving responsiveness and flexibility.

SDS should run on tried-and-tested enterprise-class hardware with the appropriate hardware configurations. Working with a vendor with global services and support is also critical to an enterprise-class SDS implementation.

>See also: Clearing the smoke on the software-defined data centre

Customers want flexibility without compromising the quality and reliability of the storage solution, and they are seeking vendors that can deliver pre-tested bundled solutions, appliances and end-to-end reference architectures.

As users opt for newer SDS solutions, they also are looking to evolve their current storage environments. A natural progression is likely to be that traditional storage vendors come to offer more SDS-like benefits, including increased flexibility, automation and scalability in traditional storage solutions, while they seek new solutions that bridge traditional IT with new models.

There is no-one-size-fit-all solution for customers’ data centre needs – it’s about putting the right data in the right place at the right time for a reasonable cost.

The success of SDS will depend on how well organisations do this. Ultimately, it’s about having agile storage through automated processes, enabling greater flexibility to help achieve an organisation’s IT services and business goals.


Sourced from Robin Kuepers, Dell

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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Software Defined Storage