The pace of data generation continues to accelerate thanks to trends such as cloud, social, mobile, big data, and the Internet of Things.
These developments create additional pressure on datacentre managers already struggling to make do with flat or decreasing IT budgets, and resellers must advise customers on the best solution.
The Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) promises better scalability, availability and flexibility, with a lower total cost of ownership. Companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook prove every day that SDDC is the future.
The SDDC concept has three pillars: compute, storage and networking.
The last decade saw the transformation of the compute layer thanks to virtualisation. The channel now needs to promote the next stages: storage and networking.
While Software-Defined Networking (SDN) was all the rage a couple of years ago, actual market traction and customer adoption has been slower than expected. Industry players continue to work to align all the technology pieces required to deliver full SDN offerings.
However, storage – typically the most expensive part of an enterprise's infrastructure – is seeing a dramatic acceleration in the adoption of Software-Defined Storage (SDS).
SDS can provide improved scalability, availability, flexibility and cost. But it is important to ensure that customers can see through legacy vendor marketing that dresses high-margin, inflexible proprietary hardware in SDS clothes.
Thanks to some fairly creative marketing, many storage vendors make some claim related to SDS. Yet almost all are selling "closed" hardware products with the 60 to 70 per cent margin that has been the norm in the enterprise storage market over the past decade. Simply calling a product something does not make it so.
Having a lot of software in a given hardware product – as most storage arrays do – might make a product software-based, but it does not make it software-defined. Neither does simply adding a management layer or an abstraction layer to existing proprietary hardware make it software-defined.
It is important that resellers help their customers understand this.
What legacy storage vendors are doing is very similar to what Unix vendors of old did when they added virtualisation and new management software to their legacy OSes to compete with VMware.
True SDS allows customers to do things they could not do before, fundamentally changing the economics of the enterprise storage business.
True SDS allows customers to deal with their storage assets like they deal with their virtualised compute infrastructure. Pick a software stack for all their storage services and swap industry-standard hardware underneath as cost, scale and performance requirements dictate.
This should eliminate vendor lock-in without compromising availability, reliability and functionality.
True SDS must be able to support any ecosystem – VMware, HyperV, OpenStack and CloudStack, and any access protocol – block, file and object – on a wide variety of hardware configurations, be they all flash, all disk, or hybrid.
Having a strong open-source DNA, with an active community of users and developers, helps. SDS openness will become more important as customers move towards converged software-led stacks.
This is a breakthrough year for what we like to call Software-Defined Everything (SDx) – when the building blocks of software-defined compute, storage and networking are all in place.
Thomas Cornely is vice president of product management at Nexenta
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