Software-Defined Storage Marries Enterprise Storage with the Cloud

This blog focuses on software defined storage….the all caps version.   SDS.  Or….by another popular industry term….the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) platform.  SDDC platforms are transforming Data Centers because theySoftware Storage can simultaneously marry (ah…some might say integrate) a variety of traditional hardware storage resources, data types and technologies into one “federated” and aggregated data center infrastructure.   Moreover, SDDC platforms can control, manage and even monitor the entire data center storage (and compute and networking) operation from a “single pane of glass” console – outside the data path.  Yes, I’m referring to ViPR Controller SDS.

ScaleIO is an excellent commodity hardware based software defined storage (sds) system for creating block data Server SANs.  It’s hyper-converged, hyper-scalable, flexible and highly elastic.  In fact, by its very name creates a scalable low-cost virtual SAN array from commodity servers.

As good as ScaleIO (sds) is, however, it’s not the whole SDS story.  A good piece to be sure.  But it’s a virtual SAN solution that covers a portion of today’s contemporary enterprise data center’s needs.    True, ScaleIO can completely cover some specific storage use cases extremely well and efficiently.   Fact is, our competitors out there – particularly from the Server SAN appliance camp – may be overstating the extent Server SANs and “SAN-less” storage can be integrated with SMB and Enterprise Data Centers’ existing traditional storage infrastructure and arrays.  In fact, many customers confuse ScaleIO (or VSAN) sds with ViPR Controller SDS. After all, they’re both software defined, right?

Many of you already know this.  The principle cause for some of this confusion is that traditional external storage is quite alive and doing well in today’s storage market environment and Enterprise customer base.  Most of these enterprises store the vast majority of data on their traditional hardware arrays.  Fact is, they’ll probably be doing so for a long time.  Just witness the “demise of tape” as a deep, ‘frozen’ archive medium.  And according to IDC, more than 20,000 petabytes of new external storage system capacity was purchased in 2013 alone.

So rumors of traditional external storage’s impending death are a bit exaggerated…to rip off a humorist slogan from one humorous wise old sage. Accordingly, it stands to reason that a SDS federated and unified management platform solution needs to work seamless with that traditional hardware resource layer…comprised of multiple vendors…and data types.  And ViPR Controller does that….hands down.

On the other end of the data center spectrum…or relay station… however, is the need to manage external data storage resources and I/O traffic access that lie physically outside the data center’s local physical or logical resource control.   Specifically, the Cloud – whether it be Public or Enterprise Off-premise…

When it comes to Public Clouds, service providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft will remain big players due to their sheer economies of scale and easy table stakes entry.  You hear a lot lately about ‘supplemental storage’ or remote DR/copy on these Public Clouds.  But those very same Public Clouds concern many Enterprise IT Directors too…. (i.e., service outages, SLAs, data security/integrity, multi-tenancy, etc.).   Not surprisingly, Private and Hybrid ‘on-premise’ Clouds are gaining increased popularity and momentum.  So a true, useful/attractive “federating” SDS platform needs to support, manage and control traditional external storage; Cloud storage and – yes – commodity based sds Server SAN arrays like ScaleIO and VSAN.

Bottom-line?  Viable and highly productive/ROI software defined storage implementations should not be limited to lower case sds and/or strictly commodity hardware.  With ViPR Controller and it’s unifying software abstraction layer, a broad platform can be created for managing, provisioning and automating federated storage that includes traditional enterprise storage platforms as well as the “Cloudsphere”, Server SANs, Data Lakes, OpenStack, REST APIs, on-line analytics and other data center resources, tools and access portals.  Again, ViPR Controller shines as a true SDS/SDDC (or whatever the latest popular term happens to be).

Obviously, implementing a purpose-built sds (i.e., ScaleIO) or SDS (i.e,. ViPR Controller or Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS)) in an Enterprise Data Center needs to be well thought-out and phased in incrementally.  Why?  Storage systems invariably represent an Enterprise Data Center’s largest investment – and arrays typically have long operational life cycles.  Plus storage admins are used to and quite familiar with them.  This is their bread and butter and ‘job security’.  And use cases involving evolving Public, Hybrid or Private on or off premise storage clouds – married with legacy on-premise, metro or remote geo based traditional storage —  must also be well considered when  proposing and evaluating software defined storage at any level.

In closing, users don’t like to manage multiple storage stacks, architectures or interfaces.  Simplicity and easy everything are highly valued.   It’s all about delivering broad enough, all-encompassing storage strategies that help SMB and Enterprise customers get the most out of their current investments/ROI while adopting and/or migrating to new, next-gen storage technologies in an orderly, seamless and painless manner.  Did I mention ViPR controller and “marriage”?  Maybe more like the “Presiding Official”…

About the Author: Rodger Burkley