Industry experts agree that the size of the digital universe will double every two years at least, a 50-fold growth from 2010 to 2020. Data is being generated by both humans and machines at rates that require a radical rethinking of storage solutions. Modern storage needs to be scalable and flexible, yet still affordable.
Software-defined storage (SDS) is enjoying wider adoption because it meets these criteria. IDC projects that the SDS market will see a compound annual growth rate of 13.5 percent over the 2017-2021 forecast period, with revenues of nearly $16.2 billion in 2021. Enterprise storage spending is shifting from on-premises IT infrastructure toward private, public and hybrid cloud environments and from hardware-defined, dual-controller array designs toward SDS.
It must be noted, though, that SDS solutions are not all alike. It’s important to make sure that your solution can handle your enterprise workloads before making the switch. Here are some things to look for.
What SDS Offers
What makes SDS solutions so attractive to enterprises is that they have multiple advantages over traditional storage architectures. They can run on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware while delivering better and faster functionality, such as provisioning and de-duplication, via software. SDS offers easier and more intuitive autonomous storage management capabilities that lower administrative costs and offer greater agility and reduced expenditure due to the lower-cost hardware.
When venturing into the SDS market, it’s easy to end up with a lot of marketing hype and less-than-satisfactory solutions if you don’t have a strong grasp of SDS capabilities. So, here’s guidance to educate and inform your choices as you look for a truly versatile, cost-efficient, unified solution.
The Building Blocks of SDS
Key components of an SDS platform include full flash compliance and freedom from vendor lock-in. It will be horizontally aligned and enable the kind of flexibility and performance that is critical to the future of storage.
The building blocks of an SDS solution include:
Unified storage: For transactions that require extreme scalability, like machine-to-machine and IoT transactions, object storage is needed. It seems to get all the press lately, but it isn’t good at managing unstructured data. That’s why you need file storage to have a truly useful solution. However, you need block and object store as well for a truly unified solution.
File features: SDS providers routinely offer file systems that are based on freeware and exclude some important features most Windows users are used to. Therefore, thoroughly vet the file-related features you are being offered; make sure they include snapshot, quota, antivirus, encryption and tiering.
Network-attached storage (NAS): A little-known fact is that consistency in a scale-out NAS—meaning files are accessible from all nodes at the same time—is very important. Look for consistency in the SDS solutions as part of your research.
Hyper-converged capability: Hypervisors must be supported if you are using hybrid cloud solutions. Therefore, the scale-out NAS needs to be able to run as hyper-converged as well.
Caching: SDS solutions have many benefits, but they need caching devices to increase performance. Both speed and size matter – as well as price. It is also important to protect the data at a higher level by replicating the data to another node before de-staging the data from the cache to the storage layer.
Sharing: In enterprises that make use of a hybrid cloud set-up, each office location needs both a private area and an area that they share with other branches. So then, only parts of the file system will be shared with others. Selecting a section of a file system and letting others mount it at any given point in the other file systems provides the flexibility needed to scale the file system – making sure that the synchronization is made at the file system level in order to have a consistent view of the file system across sites. Being able to specify different file encodings at different sites is useful, for example, if one site is used as a backup target.
Metadata storage: Metadata describes the structure of the file system and is very important in a virtual setting. For example, one metadata file can contain information about what files and folders are contained in a single folder in the file system. That means you will have one metadata file for each folder in your virtual file system. As the virtual file system grows, you will get more and more metadata files. Make sure your prospective solution’s storage layer is based on object store so that you can store all your metadata there. This will ensure good scalability, performance and availability.
Scaling for the Future
Digital transformation brings with it a data deluge that requires agile, fast storage solutions that are also cost-effective. SDS makes an excellent choice – but only if you do your homework and avoid the marketing hype. Keep the essential building blocks in mind as you research SDS options to ensure that your organization gets the storage solution it needs to scale to meet current and future demands.
To explore how the strategies the Best-in-Class are embracing to boost speed, increase reliability, and see a major return on investment for their storage infrastructures, check out this in-depth research report by Aberdeen’s Jim Rapoza.
Stefan Bernbo is the founder and CEO of Compuverde.