Enterprise Storage: How to Manage the Inevitable

Enterprise Storage: How to Manage the Inevitable

Jason Phippen is Head of Global Product and Solutions Marketing for SUSE.

The vast majority of IT departments are experiencing enormous increases in the demand for storage and computing power. Few, if any, will have the budget to meet rising requirements that continue to outpace the growth of their budgets. This raises a difficult question for IT teams everywhere: how long is the usual approach of managing the install, upgrade, retire and replace cycle going to be?

By now, it should be obvious to all that the strategy that built the data center of the past isn’t going to deliver the data center of the future. New models and approaches are being embraced by hyperscalers, based on open source software and commodity hardware. Cloud, we are told, has made IT a utility―as simple and as easy to manage as your gas bill. Yet, while we all know there are many advantages to paying by OpEx over CapEx, over time cloud can mean paying more ― just in smaller installments.

As the changes come through, there is considerable risk for IT teams, who will need to best maximize their existing assets while frugally spending on future ones, by wisely navigating the gap between hype and reality.

In this foggy world, some things are crystal clear. Here are three things to consider:

  1. Outside of the “hyperscalers,” hardly anyone will be able to afford to own and host all their compute power on premise. In the future a proportion of your compute power is going to be in public clouds, one way or another, sooner or later.
  1. Storage growth is massive and unsustainable. You are going to need to find a better, cheaper way of doing it, and that way is going to need to work in harmony with your compute decisions.
  1. Vendor lock-in is never a good idea. In a world where business models change, discovering you’re locked into a cloud provider might be one of the most unpleasant discoveries of your life.

There’s a joint conclusion that many in the industry have arrived on. The growth of the software-defined storage (SDS) industry is loosely defined as a method of storage that is organized by a software provider, regardless of hardware or location.

It’s well documented that SDS is the inevitable destination for much of your future storage needs. If you don’t believe me, consider the latest market forecast from Gartner:

  • By 2016, server-based storage solutions will lower storage hardware costs by 50 percent or more
  • By 2019, 70 percent of existing storage array products will also be available as software only versions
  • By 2020, between 70 and 80 percent of unstructured data will be held on lower-cost storage managed by SDS environments

So the question instead shifts to how SDS must be implemented and the types of needs it can serve for your data center. Here are a few common data center concerns, and how SDS can be deployed correctly to fit each need.

Agility

Businesses are moving too fast to rely on storage architectures that are proprietary, overpriced, and inflexible. At the same time, IT is also challenged with organizing their storage assets as a bridge between new and old, with the same level of performance across locations and classes.

SDS should deliver storage functionality comparable to mid and high-end storage products at a fraction of the cost. It should be an open, self-healing, self-managing, storage solution that scales from a terabyte to multi-petabyte storage network. Coupling SDS with commodity off-the-shelf storage building blocks results amazingly cost-efficient storage. Truly unlimited scalability enables enterprise IT organizations to deliver the agility businesses demand by non-disruptively adding capacity at the cost they want to pay. Intelligent, self-healing, self-managing distributed storage enables storage administrators to minimize the amount of time spent managing storage. This enables organizations to support more capacity per storage administrator or spend more time focused on delivering future innovations to the business

Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the core tenants of SDS, as the increased ability to shift storage across locations and hardware leads to its agility and cost benefits.

But flexibility cannot be obtained without true interoperability. It’s possible that your new SDS provider could have a long-term roadmap towards standardizing other components of your IT infrastructure on the same vendor, which limits many of the benefits of SDS in the first place.

In order to achieve maximum flexibility with your SDS project, make sure that you evaluate solutions that play well with others. Examine a vendor’s alliances and alternate IT solutions, and evaluate whether open source or proprietary plays into this alignment.

Decoupling Hardware from Software

SDS is an approach to data storage in which the programming that controls storage-related tasks is decoupled from the physical storage hardware. Software-defined storage is part of a larger industry trend that includes software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined data centers (SDDC).

Software-defined storage puts the emphasis on storage services such as deduplication or replication, instead of storage hardware. Without the constraints of a physical system, a storage resource can be used more efficiently and its administration can be simplified through automated policy-based management. For example, a storage administrator can use service levels when deciding how to provision storage and not even have to think about hardware attributes. Storage can, in effect, becomes a shared pool that runs on commodity hardware.

SDS is part of a larger industry trend that includes software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined data centers (SDDC). As is the case with SDN, software-defined storage enables flexible management at a much more granular level through programming.

Reducing Costs

The shift towards SDS is largely driven by a substantial reduction in cost without compromising (even improving) a previously commoditized technology. By the way it’s consumed and managed, your capital storage expenses by way of hardware into bills that you pay as you use. With future storage demands growing and unpredictable, having technology that’s handed as an operating expense can lead to a huge reduction in costs. SDS also saves on any hardware maintenance and support costs, as storage resources are no longer tied to hardware.

However, cost advantages don’t start and end by shifting to SDS alone. There are various solutions in the market that maximize a potential IT investment. For example, the solutions available within the open source community allow data center managers with additional cost savings, compared to their proprietary counterparts.

There’s no question that the storage industry is in the middle of an inflection point in its adoption. With nearly overwhelming advantages in cost, flexibility and performance, SDS is a solution any storage-conscious data center manager will evaluate in the next several years.

But adopting SDS alone isn’t enough. Instead, make sure that you know the goals for your storage project, and evaluate vendors that align with your IT objectives. SDS is the future – make sure that you’re on its leading edge.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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