Software-Defined Storage: What’s Fact or Fallacy?

December 5, 2022

Software-defined storage is often misunderstood, yet those who utilize it see it as a valuable resource. Software-defined storage (SDS) is a controversial topic, a term that has been bandied about in recent years and has captured a substantial portion of the spotlight.

As the notion gained popularity, so did the myths that accompanied it. According to recent research conducted by open-source software firm SUSE, 70% of enterprises globally are worried about the cost, efficiency, and complexity of conventional storage. According to this report, SDS’s scalability and efficiency appeal to a remarkable 95 percent of these organizations, with over two-thirds planning to use SDS next year.

Nonetheless, there is a significant misunderstanding about what SDS really entails. Why? Because some items are labeled as SDS when they are not, and it isn’t always evident how SDS might improve storage performance and capability. Furthermore, it isn’t easy to differentiate the reality from hyperbolic assertions regarding SDS’s influence on the larger infrastructure.

Before delving into software-defined storage myths, you must first understand what it is.

Software-Defined Storage Definition 

SDS is a deviation from the typical usage of network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN). Unlike hardware-centric NAS and SAN, storage virtualization governs storage through a software layer isolated from actual storage devices. Storage pooling and automated storage management are possible with this method. The SDS program can handle data replication, snapshots, deduplication, thin provisioning, and backup rules.

In general, Software-Defined Storage provides more quick and more cost-effective storage scalability than proprietary hardware-based storage arrays. Standard x86-based storage devices may be used with SDS. Moreover, SDS setups are often more straightforward to alter than storage operating on dedicated hardware.

“SDS Solutions are All the Same.”

From a distance, SDS solutions might seem to be the same. In contrast to conventional storage, which is controlled by the hardware, SDS is simply a storage solution in which the intelligence is in the software and is physically independent of the server and storage hardware. This separation provides cost, versatility, and scalability advantages.

However, SDS design and application differ significantly across vendors. Some providers merely supply software, and the customer purchases the hardware. In contrast, others sell the SDS combined with preconfigured commodity gear, and others mix optimized hardware with their SDS solutions.

“SDS Doesn’t Function Since It Cannot Give the Same Level of Dependability as a Typical Storage Array.”

This used to be correct. Older SDS systems were sluggish or unable to scale out, making them incompatible with high-end storage arrays.

As the old business adage goes, the next wave is “faster, better, and cheaper” than all-flash arrays or high-end storage. SDS systems now outperform conventional arrays in terms of durability, performance, scalability, and cost. The advantages of SDS are not limited to storage. Compute, network and storage become more closely linked with software-defined technologies. Consequently, SDS is about computers and networks just as much as it is about storage.

“It is Exclusively Available to Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.”

Without a doubt, SDS meets the demands of the majority of SMBs. However, it would be a significant error to think that it is not also appropriate for large businesses. You might be excused for thinking this was another lie created by conventional storage businesses seeking to maintain their high-end market dominance.

SDS has grown to the point where it can meet the needs of even the most prominent companies. This features vast scalability, intelligent auto-tiering, non-disruptive data moving and migration capabilities, centralized management, capacity provisioning across various storage devices, high performance, and the best availability, dependability, and uptime.

“SDS Does Not Care About Hardware.”

It is frequently stated that SDS will function well regardless of the setup or hardware configuration. As surprising as it may seem, SDS solutions are only as good as the hardware they operate on.

What works for one person may not work for another. Because each SDS solution is unique, the hardware requirements vary greatly. Choosing the correct hardware may dramatically lower running expenses while providing a speedier system with more reliable metrics. Therefore, it’s critical to do your homework before integrating new technology.

“SDS Allows You to Have a Unified Storage Solution.”

While it is technically conceivable to integrate a block, a file, and an object into a single unified solution, it is not feasible. This is why: think of unified SDS as a Swiss army knife; it consists of a knife, scissors, a screwdriver, and a bottle opener. When you have it in your pocket, it’s a brilliant idea; however, none of these tools is as efficient as the standalone versions.

The same is true for storage. Customers with complicated demands should avoid mixing block, file, and object storage since they perform poorly.

“SDS is Extremely Slow.”

Many SDS systems may struggle to match the IOPS or latency performance of some conventional storage technologies. However, this is not true for all options. For instance, Data Core’s SANsymphony SDS platform’s Parallel I/O technology and self-tuning, responsive caching deliver exceptional performance.

However, top speed is not always the most crucial component. In general, businesses use a tiered storage tactic. Databases and high-performance implementations get the fastest high-value storage. Backup and archiving require high-capacity storage with a low performance and cost profile. Everything else is usually done on the middle tier. Intelligent auto-tiering capabilities in SDS solutions ensure that data is always transferred to the most appropriate storage location, continuously maximizing the balance of the performance and economics equation. This is how DataCore approaches both SANsymphony and vFilO.

Dispelling SDS Myths

Overall, SDS is not a phrase to be accepted at face value; it is often misinterpreted. As adoption rates climb, it will become increasingly critical to grasp precisely what SDS can achieve and how to tell the difference between a true SDS solution and a technology that is branded as SDS but is not.

To do this, IT managers must ensure that their future acquisitions are well-researched. SDS provides high cost, flexibility, and scalability advantages; however, these benefits will not be realized unless a solution is carefully selected.

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