Software Defined Storage (SDS) is one of those technologies that looks great on a whiteboard. In theory it should allow you to use any storage vendor’s hardware, overlay it with a common set of software capabilities and manage it all from a single interface. The problem is that that theory doesn’t always equate to reality. As a result, full featured arrays continue to be the predominant way data centers meet their storage capacity and performance demands. The assumption that one type of technology seems more popular than another does not necessarily mean that it is best for your data center.
The Value of Software Defined Storage
SDS solutions should provide increased flexibility and reduced costs. The solutions can also reduce management complexity, especially if the data center has multiple storage systems to manage. An SDS enabled enterprise should be able to buy storage hardware from any vendor and easily be able to graft it into their environment as well as get longer operational life from their existing storage hardware.
The Problems with Software Defined Storage
The first problem that many SDS solutions present to the data center is that they don’t often replace existing software capabilities. Most storage hardware systems today come with fairly sophisticated storage software features sets including snapshots, replication, cloning and automated tiering. In other words, SDS vendors may be guilty of answering the wrong question. IT professionals don’t want to see their storage features replaced, they want them enhanced. SDS vendors should focus on extending features ACROSS storage platforms, not replace features on them.
The second problem that SDS adopters face is also one of its advantages; flexible hardware selection. With flexibility comes the responsibility to test each potential hardware candidate to understand its performance and reliability characteristics and for compatibility with the SDS solution. The other challenge with flexibility is that it is difficult for the SDS vendor to optimize their software for a particular piece of hardware. Instead, they often have to resort to the most basic level of support.
Software Driven Storage Hardware
Vendors are trying to find a middle ground between software only SDS solutions and proprietary hardware systems. SDS vendors are bundling their solutions with server hardware vendors. Storage hardware vendors are beginning to shift away from proprietary hardware to a software-focused solution delivered on pre-integrated hardware. These solutions are full-featured arrays that leverage quality off-the-shelf storage hardware to simplify their implementation. The storage vendor stays out of the storage hardware design, but they can optimize their software since they control what hardware their software is installed on.
Learn More Live
This week I will speak at two events; the Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) Summit in Santa Clara and Tintri’s Roadshow in Los Angeles. Both talks will focus on software-defined storage (SDS). At the SDI Summit I will lay out a detailed implementation strategy for those heading down the SDS path and at the roadshow, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of a software-only approach and a software-focused approach.
Santa Clara CA – Tuesday, December 1st – Santa Clara Convention Center – Software Defined Infrastructure Summit – Join me in Session SDS-2, 10:30 am to noon.
Los Angeles CA – Thursday, December 3rd – Westin Bonaventure Hotel – Tintricity Roadshow 2015 – The Path to the Software Defined Data Center – 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.