When it comes to the adoption of any new technology, education is half the battle. But here’s the rub. Sorting fact from fiction for any new technology is often challenging at best. While there may be a lot of research and theory to define it, often times there just isn’t much practical experience or use cases to refer to early in a technology lifecycle.
Things can be even more confusing when the technology is still evolving. That’s certainly the case for Software-Defined Storage (SDS), a technology promising to change the way storage is deployed and managed by decoupling the programming that controls the tasks related to storage (e.g., policy-based provisioning and management) from the physical storage hardware. By handling these tasks in software, storage hardware can be quickly added as needed, with no interoperability issues, to meet the needs of a datacenter or enterprise, and without further complicating the storage infrastructure’s management. SDS can be employed on its own, but it is often viewed as a critical component in the software-defined datacenter.
SDS is not exactly what one might call a “new” technology. Industry insiders were pointing to it as a hot trend back in 2013. And in truth, Microsoft and a few other companies have been doing SDS in their cloud properties for years. During that time, they amassed a great deal of expertise from their work in building a SDS/public cloud. Today these companies are turning that expertise toward the use of SDS in the enterprise/SMB market, and that’s what’s new; not the concept of SDS, but where it’s being applied. Despite this fact, many aspects of the technology remain a mystery to those who might want to leverage it in their datacenter or enterprise IT infrastructure.
Part of the reason for this disconnect, as previously pointed out, is the natural learning curve that occurs with the introduction of any new technology. It’s also true, however, that the technology has been hard to really nail down because it continues to evolve, and because how it’s defined often depends on which vendor you ask. And that means that SDS products and their features may differ significantly from one vendor to another.
Another reason for the disconnect is that SDS regularly gets confused with other technologies. Just to clarify, SDS is not software-based storage, software-defined networking or even storage virtualization. Yet still today, people continue to confuse these technologies.
While many SDS vendors may not agree on what the technology entails, there is one thing they can agree on; the benefits that SDS can deliver when compared to traditional storage. Generally speaking, those benefits include automated storage management, increased flexibility and reduced cost.
The cost savings come, in part, from being able to use storage hardware that is affordable and easy-to-use (commodity hardware). It’s also attributed to the fact that in some cases, new hardware can be added into the storage system without having to go through a costly data migration.
There is so much more to SDS than this blog alone can cover, but the bottom line here is clear. With IT under greater pressure to deliver more and better resources faster, the choice of infrastructure—and in particular, storage solution—is now more important than ever. The wrong choice can drive up cost, make you unable to shift quickly to meet business objectives or keep up with trends like Big Data or Green initiatives. Worse yet, you may even fall behind the competition. Make the right decision and exactly the opposite is possible. Granted, change is hard, but still, isn’t that a path worth exploring?
If you’re hoping to capitalize on the benefits of SDS in your IT infrastructure, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you learn everything you can about this technology and how to implement it. Here are a few resources to get you started:
The Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) website. The SNIA is a global organization charged with developing and promoting standards, technologies and educational services for the storage industry. Its website contains a great deal of useful information and resources, including a working draft of its Software Defined Storage document, a SDS community page, and access to a wide range of tutorials, hands-on labs and other education materials.
A free eBook from Microsoft that provides you a step-by-step look at a proof-of-concept implementation of a software-defined datacenter with software-defined storage and networking.
Data Storage Innovation Conference (DSI 2015), which highlighted innovation in storage products, services and solutions, as well as a number of real-world examples of IT professionals implementing new IT infrastructure. While this event already took place earlier this month, the presentations—including keynotes and featured speakers—are all now available for download online at no charge.
This blog about storage and networking is sponsored by Microsoft.
Cheryl J. Ajluni is a freelance writer and editor based in San Jose, California. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of Wireless Systems Design and served as the EDA/Advanced Technology editor for Electronic Design for over 10 years. She is also a published book author and patented engineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online publications. Contact her at [email protected] with your comments or story ideas.