Solving the Problem that SDS Does not

FormationOne Briefing Note

Most data centers are not really out of capacity, they are just out of capacity that they can get to in any meaningful way. Confused? Let me explain. The problem is the capacity is spread across potentially dozens of targets ranging from a dedicated storage system to storage inside of physical servers in the virtual infrastructure. To some extent, hyperconvergence has made the situation worse, since as these systems scale, they scale compute, network and storage simultaneously, which generally leads to lots of excess capacity.

Software Defined Let Down

Software defined storage (SDS) was supposed to solve this problem but it hasn’t because SDS requires the organization jump into the deep end of the pool without any swimming lessons. Most SDS solutions require full control over the storage system and can’t aggregate spare capacity from the wide variety of storage systems most data centers have. Most of today’s SDS solutions centralize data services and apply them to multiple storage systems. They, in effect, replace what was already bought and paid for. SDS solutions, for the most part, also tend to work only on one storage type. They can either run within the hypervisor and consolidate internal storage from the virtual hosts or they can consolidate data services across a group of independent storage arrays.

Introducing Formation Data Systems

Formation Data Systems’ has delivered a software-defined storage solution called the FormationOne Dynamic Storage Platform which runs on a cluster of x86 compute nodes utilizing SSD/HDD storage media, creating a pool of virtual volumes that present storage via iSCSI, NFS, Object or HDFS interfaces. Then Formation adds capabilities one would expect only in an enterprise class storage system.

The software is built on a high performance object architecture and leverages this foundation to make sure that only one protected copy of data exists, eliminating data copies for snapshots and clones. The software also has built-in continuous data protection (CDP) capturing every change made to a data set in a journal which is unique for each volume. These versions can then be cloned, without additional capacity requirements, to other applications as needed.

To manage these different types of workloads, Formation’s solution provides Quality of Service (QoS) policies called PriorityOne. Administrators set the volume’s performance policy by the guaranteed minimum IOPS and the maximum IOPS allowed. PriorityOne provides end-to-end QoS that prioritizes traffic at each component along the data path, enabling the ability to deliver consistent performance at scale.

Data protection is based on replication, essentially multiple mirrors where the administrator decides how many copies of each data set, typically three, are maintained. An interesting capability though is the option to have one copy on flash and the two protected copies on hard disk drives.

Formation also has a feature called virtual storage recapture (VSR), which is a virtual machine running FormationOne software that discovers excess capacity in hypervisor environments and then aggregates and presents that capacity back to a FormationOne cluster. VSR allows admins to recapture excess capacity from storage both internal as well as externally attached to the hypervisor.

To The Cloud

Recently FormationOne added cloud integration which it calls SafeGuard. FormationOne supports direct copy of data, and copy management of that data in the Amazon Cloud. Cloud based data can be used with snapshot cloning as an off-site backup copy of data. The cloud can also be a part of the replication data protection strategy. Organizations leveraging a three-copy method could have a copy on flash, a copy on local hard disk drives and the third copy in the cloud.

The direct cloud connection can leverage Amazon utilities and enable an organization to create their own disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) capability. If a site disaster occurs virtual machines can be instantiated in the Amazon Cloud, saving the organization from having to equip a secondary DR data center.

StorageSwiss Take

SDS is an over-crowded market but most solutions are merely software adaptations of what we already have, they just run abstracted from a single system. FormationOne is doing something different by collecting spare capacity within the data center, aggregating it and making it available as a centralized pool of storage. It provides a very low risk, low commitment entry into the world of SDS. Then, as the organization becomes comfortable with the technology, the organization can either buy dedicated nodes of capacity or more than likely buy additional capacity in their virtual hosts as they expand.

Eight years ago George Crump, founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal. To educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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