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Software-Defined Storage: 4 Factors Fueling Demand


As organizations look for cost-effective ways to house their ever-growing stores of data, many of them are turning to software-defined storage. According to market researchers at ESG, 52% of organizations are committed to software-defined storage (SDS) as a long-term strategy.

Some vendor-sponsored studies have found even higher rates of SDS adoption; while the findings are self-serving, they’re still noteworthy. For example, a SUSE report published in 2017 found that 63% of enterprises surveyed planned to adopt SDS within 12 months, and in DataCore Software’s sixth annual State of Software-Defined Storage, Hyperconverged and Cloud Storage survey, only 6% of respondents said they were not considering SDS.

What’s driving this interest in SDS? Let’s look at four important reasons why enterprises are considering the technology.

1. Avoid vendor lock-in

In an interview, Camberley Bates, managing director and analyst at Evaluator Group who spoke about SDS at Interop ITX,  said, “The primary driver of SDS is the belief that it delivers independence, and the cost benefit of not being tied to the hardware vendor.”

In fact, when DataCore asked IT professionals about the business drivers for SDS, 52% said that they wanted to avoid hardware lock-in from storage manufacturers.

However, Bates cautioned that organizations need to consider the costs and risk associated with integrating storage hardware and software on their own. She said that many organizations do not want the hassle of integration, which is driving up sales of pre-integrated appliances based on SDS technology.

2. Cost savings

Of course, SDS can also have financial benefits beyond avoiding lock-in. In the SUSE study, 72% of respondents said they evaluate their storage purchases based on total cost of ownership (TCO) over time, and 81% of those surveyed said the business case for SDS is compelling.

Part of the reason why SDS can deliver low TCO is because of its ability to simplify storage management. The DataCore study found that the top business driver for SDS, cited by 55% of respondents was “to simplify management of different models of storage.”

3. Support IT initiatives

Another key reason why organizations are investigating SDS is because they need to support other IT initiatives. In the SUSE survey, IT pros said that key technologies influencing their storage decisions included cloud computing (54%), big-data analytics (50%), mobility (47%) and the internet of things (46%).

Organizations are looking ahead to how these trends might change their future infrastructure needs. Not surprisingly, in the DataCore report, 53% of organizations said a desire to help future-proof their data centers was driving their SDS move.

4. Scalability

Many of those key trends that are spurring the SDS transition are dramatically increasing the amount of data organizations need to store. Because it offers excellent scalability, SDS appeals to enterprises experiencing fast data growth.

In the SUSE study, 96% of companies surveyed said they like the business scalability offered by SDS. In addition, 95% found scalable performance and capacity appealing.

As data storage demands continue to grow, this need to increase capacity while keeping overall costs down may be the critical factor in determining whether businesses choose to invest in SDS.

 



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4 Software-Defined Storage Trends


As enterprises move towards the software-defined data center (SDDC), many of them are deploying software-defined storage (SDS). According to Markets and Markets, the software-defined storage market was worth $4.72 billion in 2016, and it could increase to $22.56 billion by 2021. That’s a 36.7% compound annual growth rate.

Enterprises are attracted to SDS for two key reasons: flexibility and cost. SDS abstracts the storage software away from the hardware on which it runs. That gives organizations a lot more options, including the freedom to change vendors as they see fit and the ability to choose low-cost hardware. SDS solutions also offer management advantages that help enterprises reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO).

Enterprises appear eager to reap the benefits of SDS. Camberley Bates, managing partner and analyst at Evaluator Group, said in an interview, “Adoption is increasing as IT end users get more familiar with the options and issues with SDS.”

She highlighted four trends that are currently affecting the software-defined storage market.

1. Appliances dominate

By definition, software-defined storage runs on industry-standard hardware, so you might think that most organizations buy their SDS software and hardware separately and build their own arrays. However, that isn’t the case.

“Much of the [current SDS] adoption is in the form of an appliance from the vendor, and these include categories such as server-based storage, hyperconverged and converged infrastructure systems,” Bates said.

Although the market is embracing SDS, enterprises still don’t want to give up some of the benefits associated with buying a pre-built appliance where the hardware and software have been tested to work together.

2. NVMe improves performance

Designed to take advantage of the unique characteristics of SSDs, NVMe provides faster performance and lower latency than SAS or SATA. As a result, many different types of storage solutions have begun using NVMe technology, but Bates said that SDS solutions are adopting NVMe more quickly.

She added that in her firm’s labs,  NVMe proved to have lower price for performance  than other types of storage by a significant margin based on work with Intel last summer.

3. Enterprises want single-vendor support

One of the most common problems organizations run into when deploying do-it-yourself SDS solutions is the support runaround. When they experience an issue, they call their SDS software vendor for help, only to be told that the problem lies with the hardware. And, of course, the hardware vendor then blames the software vendor.

“There is a distinct need to have a single entity responsible for the service and support of the system,” Bates said.

She also noted that the potential risk of data loss makes this support issue more significant for SDS than for other types of software-defined infrastructure.

4. Scale-out remains challenging

The other big issue that organizations face with SDS is scalability. “Scale-out designs are not easy,” Bates said. “They may do well for the first two to four nodes, but if I am creating a large-scale hybrid cloud, then the environment needs to scale efficiently and resiliently. We have seen environments that fail on both counts.”

As organizations increasingly deploy hybrid clouds, they’ll need to look for SDS solutions that help them solve this scalability issue.

Camberley Bates will discuss SDS in more depth and offer tips on what enterprises should look for in SDS solutions at her Interop ITX session, “Software-Defined Storage: What It Is and Why It’s Making the Rounds in Enterprise IT.” Register now for Interop ITX, May 15-19 in Las Vegas.



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