Software-Defined Storage: The Right Choice for My Organization?
Software-defined storage (SDS) is already used by most organizations, even though we may not realize it. How’s that? Simply by using various server virtualization platforms like VMware, Hyper-V, KVM, etc. Ok, I concede that it’s not the same kind of software storage that comes to mind when we hear talk of SDS, but the idea is exactly the same: storage is presented in the desired form, regardless of the source format and provenance. There’s just one step between using virtual disks and creating virtual storage units.
So, to answer this article’s leading question, yes, SDS is right for all organizations. That said, this technology comes in various forms and it’s up to IT departments to choose the right one.
Hyperconvergence is a really popular example right now. It involves replacing traditional storage with disks installed in each physical server. To do that, the hypervisor (VSAN) or a cluster of dedicated virtual servers manage these disks to present the capacity to the virtualization layer, as though it were a single pool with diverse capacity and performance characteristics. With all of the capacity virtualized, you can define the storage categories to respond to the different needs of systems executed on the platform.
If one system requires a high amount of reading/writing per second and low latency, its storage will come from the flash portion of the available disks. In contrast, a traditional server for corporate files that requires high capacity but low performance will have its storage needs fulfilled by high-capacity mechanical disks that are less costly and available within the environment.
It’s important to note that this possibility also exists in most traditional storage units that, today, are able to manage storage tiering and to bring them together in a shared capacity pool. As indicated in the previous paragraph, this hybrid approach makes it possible to align the storage offer with the system needs for maximum return on investment. And that’s just the start, because with data reduction features—such as deduplication and compression—we see that storage is no longer a material issue, but a software one. Material components are limited to processors, memory, disks and communication ports. The software is what manages the material and provides the various features, such as data protection, replication, deduplication, compression, instant copies, volume and pool management, etc.
Thus, today’s traditional storage units are also a form of software defined storage on more specialized equipment. That said, it can be quite complicated to integrate these systems with Cloud computing. How can organizations reconcile their internal infrastructure with systems that they want to roll out externally?
In response to this question, manufacturers have started offering fully virtual storage units. As your storage administrators will confirm, it’s easier to manage several units belonging to the same product family (because each has the same management interface and are compatible with one another) than heterogeneous environments. Organizations are looking for homogeneity, which is why it’s now possible to have physical units at your site and the same virtual units on the Cloud.
With this approach, your tools and processes remain the same, maximizing your IT team’s optimization efforts and skills. Depending on the selected technology, organizations can even set up a completely virtual back-up site—thanks to the possibility of replicating critical volumes—used just like a second physical site. If fact, with sufficient bandwidth and the right technology, you could even create a global storage pool made up of two separate pools; this would introduce a dimension of business continuity instead of just relying on a disaster recovery dimension. What was once too costly as an option is now much more affordable.
Of course, there are other ways to get the same results, but if your organization’s current storage infrastructure meets your needs and the manufacturer offers a virtual version of the same “equipment”, it’s definitely a good idea to assess its capacities and usage when you create your strategy for integrating Cloud computing in your material infrastructure.
I hope that this quick overview sparked your interest and shed some light on SDS in all its forms—after all, it’s here to stay! Download our white paper on data protection below to learn more about this topic!