The software-defined storage (SDS) market, according to MarketsandMarkets, is expected to be worth a whopping $5.41 billion by 2018. On the other hand, a survey by ManageEngine revealed that several storage admins (about 47% of the respondents) are not even sure if SDS will benefit their storage strategy. These differing view points on SDS suggest that storage admins have a lot of questions about SDS. Fortunately, we have some answers below.

 So what is SDS?

SDS is a centrally managed, supervisor software program that combines the storage capacity of multiple storage devices into one pool. This improves the availability, speed, and utilization of storage. As long as it complies with basic standards, any type of storage can be pooled by using SDS. This gives admins more flexibility because they can fully leveragtheir existing storage hardware, which eventually drives down the costs.

Are SDS and storage virtualization the same?

Storage virtualization abstracts the storage hardware from the software. In turn, the internal functions of a storage device are hidden from a host application to facilitate independent management of storage. Combine storage virtualization with features like storage pooling, tiering, data deduplication, data compression, and replication, and you get SDS. So, SDS is really an extension of storage virtualization.

SDS vs. traditional storage arrays?

SDS is mostly incorporated in the storage framework to pool capacity. It gives better scalability, protection, and availability, and  it’s cheaper than NAS or SAN systems. However, it doesn’t provide features like data deduplication, thin provisioning, replication, data compression, or snapshots. Some SDS tools provide data deduplication or compression, but not all of them. Serious SDS providers could incorporate these features to differentiate themselves in the market and add greater value to their existing products.

What effect does  SDS have on data life cycle?

Data is the new currency for businesses, and SDS has a huge impact on the way the data life cycle is managed. SDS capabilities combined with storage tiering, which some of the vendors now provide, can help reduce the burden of administration. Automated storage tiering in SDS would ease  data migration between storage devices – traditionally done by the application server – by transferring actively used data to faster devices, such as flash, and inactive data to lower-cost devices such as  hard disk drives . This reduces service delivery time while increasing application performance. The combination of SDS with storage tiering will give enterprises the freedom to use untapped storage capacity from various devices, thus fully utilizing each one of them and reducing operating costs.

 Is SDS important for small businesses?

 Probably not. Here’s the deal: an SMB typically requires 20 to 40 TB of storage. When evaluating their SDS and storage array options, SMBs need to remember that SDS does not add capacity. SDS leverages existing capacity. Storage arrays add capacity. SDS makes sense if you have a large number of storage devices to pool, which can unearth a fair amount of unutilized capacity. Large enterprises ought to consider this. SMBs rarely have such unutilized capacity in place. SDS will not provide an SMB the much-needed leap in capacity provided by a storage array. Also SDS is in its nascent stages, and its implementation will require more skill and time. A cost-benefit analysis of the financial and human resources spent for getting the added storage will reveal its feasibility for SMBs.

What are the hardware requirements and deployment options for SDS?

SDS deployment options comes in two forms. The first form is for users who want to avoid vendor lock-in by buying  SDS software and installing it on their own servers. SDS software-only solutions are hardware-agnostic and can be deployed on any physical or virtual server. Some of the prominent names in this space include Microsoft Windows Storage Server, VMware VSAN, CloudByte, DataCore, NetApp Ontap Edge, Nexenta, and Ceph. Enterprises with a multi-vendor storage strategy can use this option to fully leverage the capabilities of SDS.

The second form is the software solution that’s bundled with a host server, a.k.a. “tin wrapped software.” These appliance-based solutions typically come from the big vendors like EMC, Dell, Nutanix, HP, IBM, Cisco, and Nimble to name a few. Users who have a single vendor storage environment or those who wouldn’t want to experiment can go with this option depending on their comfort level with that vendor.


We hope that you now have got a basic understanding of SDS by now. Tune in to watch this space for more on storage technologies. Until next time.

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