Software-defined networking has earned a large share of press coverage when it comes to trendy IT topics, and with all the new demands now being foisted on networks, the attention certainly is deserved. But software-defined storage is also a major part of the big new distributed IT picture, and similar issues involving security, high data volumes, and management continue to disrupt systems old and new.
Software-defined storage is data center infrastructure that is managed and automated by intelligent software as opposed to the storage hardware itself.
In an effort to try and understand these problems, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based storage software provider DataCore each year conducts a survey of global IT professionals to get more specific about current storage challenges that enterprises are facing and find out what market forces are driving demand for SDS.
This year's "State of Software-Defined Storage 2014" report, released April 17, indicates that these IT managers expect SDS to simplify management (26 percent) of their "isolated islands" of storage devices, enable them to reduce disruptions (30 percent), better protect investments (32 percent) and future-proof their infrastructure (21 percent) to absorb new technologies such as solid-state flash media.
A Lot to Ask for Software to Accomplish
That's a lot to ask from a particular set of IT tools and products, but that's what the market is saying.
DataCore, of course, has more than a passing interest in this topic, since its SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software is, in fact, software-defined, deploying standard Windows servers and using off-the-shelf hard or flash disks to provide a high level of shared file services at a lower price point than most bigger-name vendors.
Here are some of the key data points in this year's DataCore research, a targeted survey that included insights from 388 highly placed storage managers and administrators.
--Organizations look for software-defined storage (SDS) to both simplify management (26 percent) of their incongruous storage devices and enable them to future proof their infrastructure (21 percent).
--More than half the respondents (63 percent) said that they currently have less than 10 percent of capacity assigned to flash storage.
--The two main factors that impede organizations from considering different models and manufacturers of storage devices were the plethora of tools required to manage them (41 percent) and the difficulty of migrating between different models and generations (37 percent).
--Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that they don't run into these concerns because independent storage virtualization software allows their organizations to pool different devices and models from competing manufacturers and manage them centrally.
--Nearly 40 percent of respondents said that they were not planning to use flash or solid-state disks for server virtualization projects due to cost concerns.
--When asked how serious an obstacle performance degradation or the inability to meet performance expectations was when virtualizing server workloads, 23 percent of respondents ranked it as the most serious obstacle and 32 percent viewed it as somewhat of an obstacle to virtualization.
--Similar to last year, both the ability to enable storage capacity expansion without disruption (30 percent) and the improvement of disaster recovery and business continuity practices (32 percent) ranked highest for reasons that organizations deployed storage virtualization software.
Why SDS Can Be an Effective Approach
The bottom line, according to the findings, is that software-defined storage, if installed and automated correctly, can be an effective tool to stop the proliferation of separate storage islands within IT infrastructures. The added benefit is that most legacy hardware can be kept online, with only the software needing updating.
"One of the biggest and most frustrating IT problems organizations face is the difficult task of managing diversity [of data] and migrating [data] between different vendors, models and generations of storage devices—which prevent them from entertaining more attractive alternatives from competing suppliers," said DataCore President and CEO George Teixeira.
"Software-defined storage is not only designed to help organizations pool all of their available storage assets, but it allows organizations the ability to manage end-to-end and to add any type of storage asset to their existing storage architecture."