It seems that software is redefining nearly everything in the world of information technology these days.
Functions that were once solely the domain of proprietary hardware devices now exist on a higher plane, no longer dependent on inflexible physical components whose failure could immediately stop all processes.
Tech writers refer to this separation of functions from hardware as abstraction — a term that borders on the philosophical.
And now, just like compute and network, storage functionality has been abstracted from hardware in the form of software-defined storage (SDS).
What is Software-Defined Storage?
As the name suggests, SDS involves the use of a software program to allocate and control storage resources. In a well-functioning SDS environment, IT professionals can manage and configure all available storage elements with a single pane of glass.
This solution treats the whole storage infrastructure as one pool of resources — regardless of the physical hardware supporting each individual part.
In a 2013, Kate Davis with HP Storage called software-defined storage a term that was “looking for a definition”. Some people think of SDS as merely a marketing buzzword, but it’s really more than that.
Davis identified three characteristics of SDS that generally apply today as well:
- Open standard hardware (usually x86 servers)
- Rich data services
- Common management
SDS is part of an evolutionary process that leaves monolithic network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) solutions behind as relics of the past.
Capitalizing on the gains achieved with storage virtualization, software-defined storage can now be found in containerized applications, cloud computing resources, hyperconverged solutions, and big data analytics.
SDS Use Cases
Adoption of software-defined storage continues to grow as more potential uses are identified.
With the integration of artificial intelligence, analytics, and automation, allocation of storage in an SDS system can be dynamically managed without the requirement of constant human intervention.
One of the best uses of SDS is to aggregate and manage storage workloads across a variety of platforms.
With SDS, you can cobble together a unified storage system from many different sources. In terms of hardware, your storage resources may reside on legacy disks, external devices, cloud computing elements, or virtual servers.
None of the underlying infrastructure matters at the software level. It all becomes part of one easily managed SDS environment.
This collection of disparate storage sources is a use case that can be expressed in different ways.
- While you may be tapping into heterogeneous storage devices, you can also say that you are avoiding “hardware lock-in”.
- You’re not stuck with any one physical platform or device.
- You can also cite the efficiency of centralizing the management with this solution.
- And you can refer to all this as the simplification of storage.
But the use of SDS keeps expanding in correlation to the broadening imagination of solution developers.
SDS is used in:
- data migration
- hyperconverged architecture
- the Internet of Things (IoT)
- data archiving
- big data management
The management of storage with software yields a virtually unlimited array of possibilities now and into the future.
The Benefits of Software-Defined Storage
Traditional IT devices were often bulky boxes manufactured by hardware vendors and configured with proprietary software. The scenario was the same whether you’re talking about computing, network, or storage devices.
The software-defined revolution changes all that.
Companies that once made millions of dollars from the sale of equipment have now become software companies, deploying their latest solutions using off-the-shelf server blades.
Here are some benefits
- Software-defined storage means you no longer need any of that proprietary equipment.
- Software deployment with SDS is much faster than older storage methods.
- Automated processes modify storage distribution to meet the needs of the applications they support. This makes the allocation of storage elastic, efficient, and scalable.
- SDS adds an intelligence to storage management that far exceeds anything that NAS or SAN could muster.
- And you can modify your storage infrastructure with a few clicks of the mouse. Just as software-defined networking allows for the programming of computer networks, software-defined storage lets your finely adjust storage parameters with powerful programming controls.
All this adds up to a quickly maturing technology that is far more than simply a marketing gimmick.
The Exponential Growth of Data
It’s a good thing that SDS came on the scene, because the amount of global data keeps mounting up. Organizations need to get a handle on all that burgeoning information.
The challenge used to be about installing sufficient and reliable physical media for local storage. Now the world keeps pumping out so much data that it’s hard to even keep track of it.
Technologies like big data and data mining have arisen to meet these needs. But it’s clear that data storage management must also keep pace with these fast-changing developments lest we become awash in uncontrolled information.
Software-defined storage is an integral part of the advanced technologies used to make sense of so much data.
The consolidation of storage is pivotal to this mission. That’s why centralized control of data with SDS is so important. It’s the key to the whole problem of exponential data growth.
Data Recovery with SDS
There’s another important benefit to having a centralized storage management solution.
When disaster strikes, you’ll be ready. Whereas in the past companies had to manually set up data protection solutions on individual storage devices, with SDS providers such as DataCore, you can handle that all in one place.
When you incorporate all your storage elements into an SDS environment, you will be able to configure all your data protection using a single portal.
And because you have established processes that are both routine and automated, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to use that same single pane of glass to recover your data when the worst happens.
Software-defined storage should be fully integrated into your disaster recovery/ business continuity (DR/BC) plan. You’ll be glad you did.
Nothing remains the same for very long in the IT industry. What were standard practices just a few years ago may already be obsolete today.
The use of software to manage IT functional areas like storage management will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
We are no longer locked into the use of proprietary hardware, and the allocation of data storage resources is more dynamic now that we could have imagined twenty years ago.
Converged Technology Professionals helps businesses structure their IT voice and data consulting services to help businesses migrate their data and voice communications to the cloud. Converged has offices in Milwaukee, Crystal Lake, Indianapolis, and Grand Rapids area.