When businesses grow, their IT systems need to grow with them. The problem is that when a company upgrades its computer hardware, the system may no longer be compatible with the software used to store vital data.
The solution, according to IT experts, is to use storage software that can run on almost any hardware system — or what the industry calls software defined storage (SDS).
In simple terms, SDS means that the software that manages the company’s data is separated from the physical hardware. That leaves companies free to choose whatever hardware most meets their needs without having to worry about compatibility.
“The core benefits are that software defined storage increases flexibility, automated management and cost efficiency over traditional storage,” says Ben Ow, a technologist who has spent the last several years developing CloudLocker, a personal cloud service.
Understanding the basics
Software defined storage has two primary components. The first is that the software can run on any Intel-based operating system. The second is that its management interface allows users to customize storage and application needs.
Jim Fitzgerald, vice president of business development for software defined storage company Nexenta Systems, uses the term “virtual container” to describe this technology.
“A user’s environment lives within a virtual compartment and can be moved to different hardware resources as needed,” explains Fitzgerald. “All the ‘brains’ and management capabilities exist in abstracted virtual machines.”
The main benefit is that users will have an easier time managing their hardware.
“The customer can focus on a defined set of capacities and performance features,” says Fitzgerald. “On a day-to-day basis, they don’t need to be involved with the hardware that is managing these services.”
How the cloud fits in
Software defined storage allows cloud providers — which store a company’s data remotely — to pool server technologies and storage space. As a result, data centers can provide services at lower costs to their customers.
“Since the provisioning, functionality, features and size allotment of the storage are controlled through the policy management software, data centers can allow the use of shared servers and shared storage facilities,” explains Ow.
Storage facilities can use software to keep resources separate, which translates into added flexibility for both the data center and its end users.
“The days of storage being a behemoth within an IT organization are rapidly shrinking,” explains Prahlad Rao, principal consultant of IT consulting firm GlassHouse. “Consumers have the flexibility to choose any storage platform without having to worry about compatibility and mobility. These open standards ultimately enable users to consume storage as a service within a cloud framework.”
Impacts on cost
Software defined storage gives business owners the flexibility to choose system components and upgrades. This level of customization has a direct impact on cost.
“Expand-ability is also inherently easier because it’s a simple matter of changing the policies that govern the features, functions, storage and other attributes of the software defined network,” explains Ow.
Business owners can select exactly what they want — and need — to upgrade. This model also gives IT providers the ability to upgrade systems to constantly changing industry standards — which are becoming more efficient and cost effective.
“No longer is the user stuck with specific hardware and software,” says Fitzgerald.
Both business owners and data centers have complete flexibility to choose the hardware that they need — at prices that make sense.
Fitzgerald and Ow point out, however, that software defined storage technologies are still evolving.
“The greatest disadvantage today is that software tools are still maturing and may not yet solve the specific problems an IT manager is faced with,” says Fitzgerald.
Ow encourages business owners to become very familiar with their companies’ specific IT needs.
“It is important to make sure that software defined storage environment chosen matches the application needs of the company efficiently,” says Ow.Tags: Data Center,Productivity,Storage,Technology