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Unleashing Storage in the Modern Enterprise

Storage has become a key component in enterprises’ digital transformation strategies, and is being managed on par with other critical applications.

Irshad Raihan is Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Red Hat.

Have you heard of the term “versatilist”? Chances are you know one, or perhaps you’re even one yourself.

Coined by Gartner, the term “versatilist” refers to a person who is “able to apply a depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, equally at ease with technical issues as with business strategy.” Think of an individual who works in a DevOps environment, straddling the worlds of infrastructure management and application development. That individual must be equally adept at development and operations, the IT equivalent of jacks of all trades. Thanks to DevOps, many disciplines that were once managed by specialists have become part of the overall IT mix being overseen by people with multiple skills.

Storage is one of those disciplines. Once solely the province of storage administrators, storage is now provisioned, even managed in some cases, by cloud administrators, developers and other non-traditional storage roles. As such, storage has become a key component in enterprises’ digital transformation strategies, and is being managed on par with other critical applications.

Storage Transformation Supporting Digital Transformation

We see this everywhere, but most notably in highly competitive industries, such as financial services and telecommunications. Businesses in these sectors are heavily investing in transforming and modernizing their IT systems, and many have adopted new cultural norms, such as DevOps, to effectively support their transformations.

In the midst of this upheaval, storage remains more relevant than ever. DevOps teams require consistent storage across both private and public cloud environments to provide the same reliable Service Level Agreements, regardless of a resource’s location. Likewise, cloud-native applications developed within Linux containers require persistent storage.

It’s painfully clear that traditional storage appliances are not designed for modern IT environments. These “one-size-fits-all” monoliths lack the flexibility and scalability required to manage the storage requirements of digitally transformed organizations defined by hybrid cloud environments.

As workloads evolve, storage must evolve in kind. Instead of being trapped in a centralized data center, storage must be everywhere, but nowhere; it must be pervasive, yet invisible. It must be open, software-defined, and able to run on virtually every footprint. It must be accessible and manageable, not just by storage administrators, but by developers who are creating the lightweight and innovative applications that are pushing enterprises forward.

Storage as an Application

Enterprises may, therefore, wish to consider storage solutions that behave more like applications as opposed to infrastructure. These are highly-scalable object storage applications designed to store and retrieve massive amounts of data.

The word “application” is important. As developers move toward becoming versatilists and critical cogs in their organizations’ management wheels, storage solutions will need to come to them in ways that they understand and can work with. Storage can no longer be a separate entity existing inside of a giant legacy box. It must be software that can be seamlessly integrated with the development process.

Developers working on applications within containers need container-native, software-defined storage that persists even if the container itself goes away. They need to be able to control that storage and manage their applications through a single control plane, such as Kubernetes. They do not want to have to take the time to request additional resources from a storage administrator, running the risk that those requests will be hampered by budget or capacity constraints. Those things undermine developers’ and their organizations’ efforts toward greater agility and innovation, and there’s very little room for such roadblocks in today’s agile enterprises.

Certainly, the job of the storage administrator will also change, but for the better. Giving developers a control plane through which to manage storage for their applications relieves storage administrators of one of their most onerous tasks. Now, they can focus on the critical job of managing their organization’s data resources, rather than be storage housekeepers.

Software-Defined Storage: Young, but Growing Rapidly

As organizations’ data storage needs continue to grow and change, the concept of traditional storage will become increasingly antiquated as enterprises’ storage needs outgrow the physical boxes that were once used to store data.

Organizations that have embraced DevOps and various cloud environments have likely already reached this point. For them, storage is more of an idea than an actual physical concept. It is something that can be managed by anyone, anywhere, at the push of a button. It's also infinitely scalable and can run side-by-side with applications as they are being developed. Instead of being considered a separate operation, it is ubiquitous and part and parcel of their operations. It fosters, rather than inhibits, innovation.

This is storage today: unboxed, unleashed, unencumbered. Call it “un-storage,” if you like. It represents an immensely flexible and much-needed resource for modern enterprises, and a data management process just as versatile as the people now in charge of data management.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

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.

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