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Software-Defined Storage: Main Benefits

Software-Defined Storage: Main Benefits

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With the rapid growth in the volume and variety of data types being created, software-defined storage systems enable companies to effectively adapt to rapid growth. Recently, the very concept of software-defined storage has been actively promoted on the market, and as a result, not everyone understands well what this term actually means.

Software-Defined Storage: Main Benefits

Let’s take a closer look at what lies behind it.

It’s Not About The Software At All

When it comes to software-defined storage, it’s important to understand that it’s not the software that matters. After all, traditional storage arrays have always included complex software stacks, and software components have always been used to manage storage (for example, to transfer files and allocate volumes).

Also, extracting software from a traditional array and packaging it as a separate product does not make the storage system software-defined. So what’s the point then?

Software-defined storage is based on the principle of intelligently applying distributed computing techniques to storage design. Combining the power of distributed computing with off-the-shelf hardware and new ways to optimize storage improves space efficiency, performance, manageability, and scalability.

As a result, we get all the basic components for a cost-effective solution to the problem of exploding data volumes:

  • flexible horizontally scalable software storage systems designed to run on standard hardware,
  • local access to data via several protocols,
  • built-in geo-replication mechanisms,
  • and all of this is implemented using simplified and significantly more scalable controls.

As a result, companies can reduce capital and operating costs by:

  • increasing the flexibility, responsiveness, and scalability of storage management,
  • implementation of a simpler and more modern application usage model.

This is the concept of software-defined storage.

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Flexibility, Scalability, Simplicity, And No Compromise

Flexible horizontal scalability means the ability to incrementally increase storage capacity by simply adding standard nodes. As resource requirements grow, this flexible system can be expanded easily and predictably. However, traditional storage arrays, when reaching the single system limit, require the addition of new systems, each administered separately from the array.

This leads to management complexity, such as moving data between systems or developing complex resource allocation logic to select a system to host new workloads. And the principle of horizontal scaling, which involves the expansion of one logical system, makes it easier to solve the problem of a sharp increase in data volumes.

Flexible horizontal scalability allows you to store previously unimaginable amounts of data. The difficulties of storing various types of information are solved by access using several protocols and providing local access to this data in various applications.

A multiprotocol storage system is a system that provides access to the same underlying data through an interface of one or more protocols.

The use of multiple protocol interfaces is well suited for storing and processing unstructured data (audio streams, social media data, log files, telemetry data, etc.), which accounts for a large proportion. Such platforms can easily support data retrieval workflows using network application protocols (such as REST) while providing local analytics of this data in Hadoop and Spark infrastructures using access protocols (such as HDFS) optimized for processing streaming data.

Flexible horizontal scalability and the use of multiple protocols are key features of the new software-defined storage systems.

But what to do with existing storage systems? Does the concept of software-defined storage apply to the entire environment? Yes, but in a slightly different way. The last element of the concept allows problem-solving through the management and automation features that, to a certain extent, allow traditional storage infrastructure to be managed as if it were software-defined.

This is achieved by applying tried and tested principles of abstraction, resource pooling, and policy-driven automation to traditional storage environments. These management components, commonly referred to as software-defined storage controllers, automate many of the complex storage management processes for traditional infrastructures such as provisioning, protection, migration, and data repurposing.

This enables IT departments to reduce the operational costs associated with existing storage systems while improving service quality and reducing service delivery times.

Supply Of Software-Defined Storage With Hardware

In principle, software-defined storage systems operate independently of the hardware. But this does not mean that they must be purchased as a full software solution. While large enterprises can purchase the software and then build their own software-defined storage systems, this may not be an option for smaller companies.

Sometimes, to accommodate the broader interests of customers, software-defined storage can be shipped with standard hardware in a device form factor. This option combines the benefits of a software-defined stack with the acquisition method of traditional arrays.

So if you are wondering which is better: to buy software-defined storage in the form of a software solution or a hardware device, then the answer is very simple: choose the option that suits you best.

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Solving The Problem With The Data Center

Software-defined storage is one of the elements of a software-defined data center. The other two elements are software-defined computing (think virtualization and containerization) and software-defined networking.

Of these three elements, storage was the last to be implemented. Designing a system for reliable data storage with horizontal scalability, multi-protocol access, geo-distribution, local analytics, and even with simple controls is a real challenge. This is why storage vendors have taken so long to create systems that meet customer expectations.

Using software-defined storage, companies can create huge geo-distributed pools that require very little effort from the IT department and users to expand. It also offers unprecedented economic benefits as off-the-shelf platforms are increasingly being used as the basis for next-generation storage systems that are replacing more expensive custom arrays.

And it all starts with a proper understanding of the concept of software-defined storage: a storage design approach that uses the principles of distributed computing, and which allows you to implement flexible horizontal scaling, access using multiple protocols, geo-distribution, and local analytics, as well as simplify management.

This is how we will be able to solve the critical problem of storing the increased volumes of various types of data.

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