Reliant - Software-Defined StorageBy separating data services from hardware and leveraging commodity hardware, software-defined storage (SDS) promises to reduce data center costs and prevent vendor lock-in. But while cheaper and more centralized storage sounds amazing, data centers still continue to purchase proprietary storage systems, and SDS-enabled environments are only in a small percentage of data centers overall.

Before more organizations will adopt SDS, providers pushing the SDS solutions have to contend with three primary issues: lack of support for current infrastructure, incomplete data services, and a sub-optimal pricing model.

Lack of Support for Current Infrastructure

Some SDS providers require users to abruptly replace their entire storage infrastructure with a commoditized, hyper-converged architecture. For example, many SDS solutions claim to eliminate the need for SAN storage. “No-SAN” solutions may make sense for a brand new data center, but for an environment already heavily invested in SAN, such a change can be too drastic. Most data centers have a SAN of some sort in place, and SDS’s lack of support becomes a roadblock to adoption.

SDS solutions need to take a crawl-walk-run approach to tackle this issue  by implementing unified data services within the current infrastructure, only adding in commodity hardware when more capacity is needed.

Incomplete Data Services

Most organizations have multiple proprietary storage systems in their data center, each implemented for specific needs like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), database applications, and general-purpose storage.

If heterogeneous systems could be leveraged rather than replaced, abstracting their capabilities and applying them across all systems in the environment would be tremendously valuable.

But for true services unification to work, the data services provided by the SDS solution would have to be at least as robust as what the storage systems already offer. No one wants to lose features just for the sake of having a unified data services interface.

But many SDS solutions lack completeness in their data services. As an example, many SDS solutions lack the ability to replicate data to a remote location, a critical feature for DR.

Many SDS solutions also lack the ability to migrate data into the architecture itself. Data cannot be simply copied over from existing storage, so migrating to software-defined storage requires using temporary swing gear, which is expensive and logistically complicated.

As long as SDS solutions lack complete, robust data services, organizations will continue to purchased proprietary systems that are more feature-rich.

Sub-optimal Pricing Model

While many SDS companies claim to provide a cloud-like hyper-converged architecture, few solutions offer a cloud-like pricing model. Instead, many software-only SDS solutions use “capacity packs,” or incremental licensing. This presents a problem.

For example, an SDS starter pack may provide storage service from 1-10TBs, with the next pack supporting 10-25TBs. If the organization has 11TBs of storage capacity, they would have to upgrade all the way to the higher license. A better, simpler solution would be a per-TB subscription model that gets verified annually. Problem solved.

Another issue software-defined storage providers fail to disclose is the cost associated with the lack of support for existing infrastructure. Many SDS solutions use commodity drives that are then installed in the servers providing compute. While this architecture reduces future cost, it requires new solid state drives and hard drives to be added to existing server architecture.

If the SDS solution could leverage existing storage, the data center would gain the benefits of abstracted storage, and avoid having to make additional hardware purchases. Combined with a more cloud-like licensing model, SDS would be a much more attractive solution.

Final Thoughts

To improve SDS adoption rates, solutions must improve the usefulness of customers’ existing storage infrastructure while also providing data services that are as good or better than proprietary storage systems. SDS also needs to be licensed similar to cloud services to make it more economical for customers. The result would be a smoother adoption process that would speed up the industry switch to software-defined storage.

If you’re considering software-defined storage or have a storage project on the horizon you want to discuss, reach out to one of our storage experts or give us a call at 404) 551-4534.