The concept of software defined storage is hardly new, and most organizations have adopted it to varying degrees (such as in hyper converged systems). Even so, this is the time for organizations to revisit their storage architecture and determine whether it’s time for software defined storage solutions to play a more prominent role.
Software defined storage solutions come in many different forms, such as the virtual hard disks used by virtual machines and the storage layer used in hyper converged systems. At its most basic, however, software defined storage is simply an abstraction of physical storage. Rather than focusing on specific hardware, software defined storage solutions allow organizations to take a hardware-agnostic approach to data storage. This can be beneficial to organizations in a number of ways, especially when it comes to storage management.
Software Defined Storage Solutions Break Down Silos
One of the primary reasons why an organization may be able to benefit from storage virtualization is that it can help to eliminate storage silos. Software defined storage solutions were initially introduced as an alternative to pricey, purpose-built storage arrays. Rather than relying on proprietary hardware, organizations could build a storage platform that was based around the use of commodity hardware.
While there are organizations that have used this approach to create a storage infrastructure based on inexpensive X86 hardware, the more compelling benefit is that the software defined approach to storage can bring storage hardware from multiple vendors under a common management interface, helping to standardize storage management within the organization while also eliminating some of the storage management silos.
Software Defined Storage Solutions Increase Resiliency
In addition, depending on how software defined storage solutions are deployed, they can greatly improve an organization’s resiliency. Software defined storage systems make it relatively easy to create storage replicas across multiple nodes. This approach not only improves resiliency for day-to-day operations, but can also be incorporated into an organization’s disaster recovery strategy.
Software Defined Storage Solutions Overcome Scalability Limitations
Similarly, software defined storage solutions can help an organization overcome its storage scalability challenges. Every storage hardware solution has an inherent capacity limitation. Storage arrays, for example, only have so many drive bays, and there is a limit to the largest disks that can be installed or nodes that can be supported. By abstracting the storage management layer from the physical hardware, some software defined storage solutions can overcome these and other scalability limitations.
With all this said, some enterprise storage administrators have been understandably reluctant to replace their existing storage infrastructure with a software defined solution for mission-critical workloads. The perception is that the addition of a storage abstraction layer adds unnecessary risks and complexity.
Software Defined Storage Solutions Align Cloud, On-Premises Systems
Software defined solutions probably aren’t going to completely replace the physical storage arrays servicing mission-critical workloads anytime soon, but this does not mean that software defined storage is ill suited for use in the enterprise. In fact, software defined storage solutions are well positioned for the hybrid cloud because they allow on-premises storage hardware and cloud-based storage services to be brought together under a common storage management solution.
This approach can help organizations to be more agile because it allows them to provision cloud or on-site storage on an as-needed basis. In addition, at least some of the software defined storage solutions available today can seamlessly blend block storage and object storage. From a management perspective, this means that these systems are all treated in the same way and that it becomes possible to move data from one location to another without having to worry about the underlying storage architecture.
There is a great deal to gain, and little to lose, by expanding the use of software defined storage solutions in the enterprise.