It’s Official: Software-Defined Storage (SDS) Comes of Age

Software-Defined Storage (SDS; sorry security) appears to be ready for prime time, having just been rewarded with its very own Dummies ebook, courtesy of . Of course its Big Blue’s version of SDS, but based on the Storage Networking Industry Association’s laundry list of SDS attributes, there will be no shortage of vendors (and pundits) offering their take on just what SDS is.

Speaking of laundry lists, SNIA’s SDS attributes include:

-may allow customers to “build it themselves,” providing their own commodity hardware to create a solution with the provided software;

-may work with either arbitrary hardware or may also enhance the existing functions of specialized hardware;

-may also enable the scale-out of storage (not just the scale up typical of big storage boxes);

-nearly always includes the pooling of storage and other resources;

-may allow for the building of the storage and data services “solution” incrementally;

-incorporates management automation;

-includes a self service interface for users;

-includes a form of service level management that allows for the tagging of metadata to drive the type of storage and data services applied. The granularity may be large to start, but is expected to move to a finer grained service level capability over time;

-allows administrators to set policy for managing the storage and data services; and,

-enables the dis-aggregation of storage and data services.

SNIA does have a slightly shorter list of what SDS should include: automation; standard interfaces; virtualized data path; and scalability. As to what SDS is, Gigaom Research offers the following concept: SDS abstracts and moves the traditional storage controller core engine and adjacent management functions from the storage array to software — just about anywhere in the storage infrastructure.

According to Chuck Hollis, Chief Strategist, SAS BU (AKA ), software-defined storage is a cluster of related concepts: some fundamental, others more optional depending on requirements. Regardless of what SDS will or will not be, despite the ebook, we’re still in the very early days, he wrote in a recent blog. “To be transparent, it would be inaccurate for me to say that there’s a landslide of significant SDS deployments to date. Yet interest is very, very high.”

As the largest storage vendor, EMC is at least participating in the SDS race, if not leading it. In May it unveiled ViPR 2.0, the latest iteration of its software-defined storage offering. Boaz Palgi, VP & GM, Advanced Storage Division, who came to EMC when his company ScaleIO was acquired, is responsible for the compay’s software-defined storage initiatives like ViPR.

“I’ve been preaching the proposition of software defined storage for quite a few years. I think it’s amazing how quickly the market is adopting the whole vision of software defined everything.” He said even three years ago people were very skeptical about running storage arrays in software, and now they’re all talking about it and many of them are deploying it too.

According to ’s annual State of Software-Defined Storage report, organizations are looking at SDS to: simplify management (26%) of their ‘isolated islands’ of storage devices and enable them to reduce disruptions (30%); better protect investments (32%); and future proof their infrastructure (21%) to absorb new technologies like Flash. The vendor of storage virtualization software noted that the move to SDS is ‘very appealing considering that almost half of respondents identified the difficulty of migrating between different models and generations of storage devices as preventing them from using other manufacturers or models of storage devices that could well reduce their costs.’

“We’ve been working on storage and what could be arguably be called software-defined storage for 16 years and have over 10k customers using it,” said DataCore’sAugie Gonzalez, Director of Product Marketing, in a recent interview with IT Trends & Analysis. It offers some impressive third-party stats to support its SDS-approach: according to a Tech Validate survey, DataCore customers typically achieve: 75% reduction in storage costs; 10x performance increase; 4x capacity utilization; 100% reduction in storage-related downtime; and, 90% decrease in time spent on routine.

While there may not be much happening from an SDS adoption perspective, that didn’t stop DataCore from launching a software-defined storage benefits calculator (provided you’re using its virtualization software). Developed in partnership with Alinean, the calculator estimates savings based on: industry estimates for costs associated with downtime (planned and unplanned); the reduction of downtime customers experience after introducing DataCore; industry averages for the cost of storage and the staff to manage it; the improvement in the utilization of once stranded capacity is pooled, provisioned, cached and auto-tiered using DataCore; and the extended functional coverage that DataCore’s software-defined storage platform brings through infrastructure-wide services.

Gonzalez said there are several use cases for SDS: heterogeneous storage environments with different vendors and product generations that do not want a rip-and-replace future; and reducing storage spending. “CapEx and OpEx… that’s what we’re driving here.”

Author: Steve Wexler

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