As the amount of data that businesses must deal with on a daily basis continues to explode, the data storage is turning into a critical concern for both large enterprises and smaller companies. Many are turning to Software Defined Storage (SDS) to meet these rapidly expanding requirements.
This relatively new technology is particularly advantageous for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), because it can substantially reduce both the expense and complexity of a company’s data storage infrastructure. SDS levels the playing field for SMBs, allowing them to gain enterprise-level storage capabilities at an affordable cost.
SMBs have often lagged behind their large enterprise brethren in the adoption of SDS. In many cases, this is due to unfamiliarity with the substantial benefits SDS provides for smaller companies. This article reveals some of those benefits.
What is Software Defined Storage?
The distinguishing feature of an SDS storage system is that intelligence resides not in hardware but software. This means that the storage devices themselves no longer have to be “smart.”
The SDS software manages its entire complement of storage devices as a single, unified pool of storage, no matter the type or location of the individual storage units. Because the operation of each device is directly controlled by software, even hardware with limited capabilities can be used by the software to perform highly sophisticated functions.
Major benefits of SDS for SMBs
I had the honor to interview some of the executives at StorageCraft, an American data protection, and disaster recovery company. StorageCraft was founded in 2003, and the team has an extensive experience in cloud-based solutions for protecting and recovering files, servers and virtual environments. With their feedback, I’ve been able to compile seven key benefits of SDS that are particularly important for smaller companies.
- SDS Allows Use of Low-Cost Commodity Hardware: One of the most attractive features of SDS is that it not only allows but encourages the use of inexpensive commodity hard disk drive arrays rather than more costly dedicated storage appliances. Because sophisticated storage functions can be implemented in software, the storage devices themselves no longer need to have those capabilities. The result is that COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) disk arrays and server hardware can be employed in place of the far more expensive dedicated storage appliances used in traditional SAN (Storage Area Network) and NAS (Network Attached Storage)systems.
- Leverages Existing Hardware: SDS is hardware-agnostic. Because software supplies the intelligence for the entire system, directly managing each device to perform specific low-level storage functions, SDS doesn’t rely on the hardware having more than minimal capabilities. Therefore, as long as a legacy storage device continues to function at a basic level, it can be used in the SDS system.
- Increases Reliability and Minimizes Downtime: SDS is intended for use with inexpensive commodity disk drives that are expected to fail at higher rates. Its ability to quickly and non-disruptively overcome device failures is a fundamental element of the SDS design. During the normal operation of the system, data is automatically copied to several locations so that if a particular device fails, the software can immediately compensate using copies of the data that have been replicated to other devices. A replacement device can be added as a new node, and the software will automatically populate it with appropriate data without disrupting system operations. With this built-in self-healing capability, SDS systems can use inexpensive hardware with relatively low failure rates to achieve reliability levels that are often better than those of traditional SAN or NAS implementations.
- Enhances Scalability: SDS allows the addition of a practically unlimited amount of storage capacity on-the-fly without disrupting IT operations. Not only can each node scale up by adding local storage, but additional nodes can be added at will and transparently integrated into the system by the software.
- Provides Enterprise-level Disaster Recovery: Through the use of sophisticated storage functions such as snapshots, compression, and data deduplication, SDS software can intelligently and transparently replicate data throughout the system so that backups are created automatically during normal operations. Because these features are implemented in software, enterprise-level disaster recovery functionality can be achieved without the necessity of purchasing expensive dedicated backup storage hardware.
- Lowers Management and Training Costs: SDS software manages the storage system according to “policies” defined by storage administrators Major storage functions, such as encryption, backup/restore, disaster recovery, provisioning and tiering, are automated based on these pre-determined policy directives. This approach minimizes the attention administrators must devote to storage management, and the level of expertise IT team members are required to have concerning the individual hardware components of the system.
- Maximizes Flexibility: Continual technological advancement is a fact of life for modern corporations. In the past, upgrading traditional SAN or NAS storage required purchasing expensive new hardware and manually configuring it to operate within the existing system. But with SDS the available feature set can be upgraded merely by reprogramming the software.
SDS Maximizes Storage System Functionality While Minimizing Costs
The fact is that it’s almost always simpler and cheaper to implement advanced features in software than in hardware. SDS takes advantage of that reality to allow smaller companies to achieve levels of data storage performance that in the past were reserved only for large enterprises.
In a business environment in which the ability to store and quickly access ever-increasing amounts of data is crucial to success, SDS represents a unique opportunity for SMBs to provide their customers with the first-class service at an affordable cost.