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Software Defined Storage - did you miss it?

I'm sure you know all about Software Defined Storage (SDS) right? Well you would be forgiven for answering no, as in my experience, very few customers have yet caught onto the concept and understood the potential of this technology.

Why so little fuss? After all, its not like the IT industry. Normally when something new comes along, we are quick to tell customers its the "next big thing" they need (since the last "next big thing" we sold them) and it will solve all the problems we created with the last one (and several before that). Well, I don't have an answer for that but my theory is threefold -

  1. The main storage industry players don't want you to know, because it erodes their value

  2. The public cloud providers don't want you to know, because it stops you getting locked into their platform

  3. The new entrants who have the viable technology have either been bought or are not quite there yet

Firstly, lets answer the question posed at the start of this article - what is Software Defined Storage?

For once, Wikipedia doesn't have a decent definition (IMO), so I'll have to give you mine. Think of it as a storage hypervisor, allowing you to run a virtual storage appliance, that has all the features of your traditional enterprise storage array (think NetApp, EMC etc.), on any hardware. By any, I mean industry standard x86 hardware that could be on-premise or in a public cloud platform like AWS or Azure.

Why should you care? Well, if your organisation consumes data storage at the rate most do, then I expect you are under pressure to save money, improve resilience and look at cloud as a means to achieve some of that. However, it's never quite that simple is it? You will already know that you can't just up and shift your virtual servers and the attached storage volumes sitting on your in-house virtual server/enterprise storage array and drop them into AWS or Azure. But what if you could? Step forward use case number one for SDS.

With an SDS platform, you could deploy a new virtual storage appliance alongside your current enterprise array (in your own network) and you could migrate the virtual server images and storage volumes. After all, you have done it every time you upgraded your enterprise storage array (because the vendor told you to do so). Now that new, shiny SDS platform has all the features you had before like snapshots, replication, de-duplication and much more. Now you can spin up another SDS platform in AWS and replicate from your on-premise version to the cloud.

So now you have a copy of all your production virtual servers and storage volumes in the public cloud and you can fail over to it for DR purposes. Pretty cool eh? Oh and you don't need to use all the "bells and whistles" AWS offers (that you pay extra for).

Now for use case number two for SDS - freedom in the cloud.

What if you decide to make that AWS platform your primary and want to replicate a copy to Azure for DR? No problem with SDS! Oh and you don't need to learn lots of new ways to do things in Azure as the SDS platform features stay the same. Down the line, if you get fed up with AWS or Azure, you can move a copy to GCP (maybe to save money).

So, now are you interested in Software Defined Storage?

There are many more use cases, such as off loading archive or backup storage into the cloud (whilst managing it under the same GUI).

The SDS market is (finally) starting to heat up. New players like Elastifile, Cohesity and StorageOS are making waves, but don't be fooled by some of the traditional vendors who are using it as a way to lock you into their platform. SDS should be about freedom, cost savings and agility.

If you want to know more or have a chat about how it could work for you then get in touch.

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