Is Software-Defined Storage Right For You?

Data centers have new storage options, but "new" isn't always "better."

George Crump

May 14, 2013

2 Min Read
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Software-defined storage was on center stage at EMC World last week, as EMC announced ViPR. As Storage Switzerland said in our briefing note, this is an important step for EMC and provides it with an interesting way to integrate its disparate storage offerings.

But, will you and your data center embrace a software-defined storage offering? Right now the answer seems to be a resounding no.

What Is Software Defined Storage?

While the industry has not (and probably never will) settle on a single definition for software-defined storage, my working definition is that the technology abstracts storage controller functions away from storage hardware and moves them into software. This software is run on an appliance or as a virtual machine in a hypervisor. The concept behind software-defined storage seems very appealing: a single point of data services, like volume management and snapshots, form a single console while using practically anyone's disk hardware.

[ Learn more about EMC's ViPR. Read At EMC, Scale Out Storage Grows Up. ]

As I discussed in a recent article, while software-defined storage does provide new freedoms in hardware acquisition, it does not totally eliminate vendor lock-in. In fact, you could make the case that it locks you even tighter to a single console for storage services and delivery of those services. Unless vendors create a way to transparently move your storage from one software-defined storage platform to another, some vendor lock-in is reality.

Does Software Defined Storage Make Sense For You?

While it seems that everyone would want to use software-defined storage, at least right now, few do. Most data centers continue to buy integrated, purpose-built storage systems, a trend that we expect will and should continue. While the software has improved, the software-defined storage architecture has a "kit" element to it since drives and storage servers have to be sourced separately. For most data centers that are stretched too thin and have bigger priorities than creating storage servers, the integrated, purpose-built approach has a lot of appeal.

So who should consider software-defined storage? As we will discuss in an our upcoming webinar, "Designing Cost Effective, All Flash HyperScale Data Centers," ideal candidates are organizations where the data center is the core of the operation and where every dollar saved in the delivering of capacity and performance makes a big difference.

Software-defined storage is especially appealing when those solutions can run at the compute hypervisor level. This allows them to consolidate server compute and storage on a single tier. In essence what we are looking for is a data center with lots of compute, the ability to take advantage of local, high-speed storage, and the competitive incentive to invest in building the architecture.

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