ESG Blog: Do You Wonder About or Fear Software-defined Storage? (Video)
Concern, confusion, and simple lack of understanding can all cause our nervousness to increase, and moreover cause people to do - or indeed not do - things that may not be best for them.

Nov 15, 2016
Mark Peters   ESG Blog: Do You Wonder About or Fear Software-defined Storage? (Video)
Author: Mark Peters


concern.jpegConcern, confusion, and simple lack of understanding can all cause our nervousness to increase, and moreover cause people to do--or indeed not do--things that may not be best for them. Moreover there is a thing that I like to call the Assumption Gap, which only serves to make matters worse: it's that point at which new things go from "new and OK to enthusiastically discuss and investigate," to suddenly [apparently] being "understood - at least by everyone else! - and thus to studiously avoid investigating and discussing lest one displays supposed ignorance." This assumption gap can make erroneous or incomplete "knowledge" and rumors become received wisdom.

My colleague Scott Sinclair and I think we might be at about that point with software-defined storage (SDS). It's been a term for long enough now that I think many people not only think they should understand it, when they really do not and so instead they become more or less fearful of it. Scott is going to be putting out a number of more detailed explanatory blogs and briefs about the various aspects and types of SDS over the coming months....but in the meantime, we pulled together this short video about the "Understandable, but Unnecessary, Fear of Software-defined Storage." Depending where you stand relative to the Assumption Gap you may find it revelatory or merely cathartic.....but don't worry, we're not taking names!

Video transcript

It's basic human nature to be wary of change. Most of us have found a rhythm or a routine that offers comfort, whether in our daily life or our careers. This need for familiarity, for security also seems to align directly with the scale of responsibility. When responsibilities extend beyond ourselves to others or to the business, we can find ourselves trying to return to the familiar. This phenomenon is all too familiar in IT organizations when it comes to protecting the business's data. Unless you've been asleep for the past decade or so, you are familiar with modern businesses reliance on digital content. The responsibility of the IT infrastructure or storage team to ensure that the right content is available where and when it is needed while ensuring it is always, always protected can lead to a measure, many might say an overabundance of prudence when it comes to the adoption of new technologies, especially storage technologies. One area where this is grossly apparent is that of software-defined storage, or SDS for short.

The potential of software-defined storage technology derives from its ability to abstract the storage software intelligence and functionality from the underlying hardware infrastructure. This abstraction layer, however, is leading some IT organizations to pause when evaluating the technology. For them, the concept of straying from the tight hardware and software integration inherently offered by traditional storage systems generates a major anxiety. And frankly, this hesitation is hindering businesses from reaping the benefits of emerging and increasingly mature SDS technologies.

ESG research certainly shows that the interest in SDS technology is considerable, dramatic even. A combined 60% of respondent organizations reported being committed to SDS as their long-term storage strategy, with one in five having actually begun their implementations. As for the drivers of SDS technology, more than a half of current or potential users identified simplified storage management as a factor in the decision.

There is, however, also a clear economic element as evidenced by the fact that nearly half of current and potential users cited TCO, reduced OPEX, or reduced CAPEX as their most important factor driving their SDS consideration. While benefits to manageability and TCO are nearly universally applicable, the abstraction of SDS offers businesses much needed agility, given the current state of the industry. Data center technology is in the midst of significant disruption. Storage infrastructure alone has been impacted with innovation such as solid state or flash storage, new deployment models such as converged, hyper-converged and cloud. Additionally, the ramp in hardware innovation is only just beginning, for example, memory-based storage technologies on the near horizon.

The abstraction layer delivered with SDS technology significantly increases the level of hardware choice available to IT organizations. It is perhaps this added decision requirement that may cause some organizations to pause, concerned at the risk of making the wrong hardware decision. That said, the turbulent state of IT technologies and application demands in general means just in the nature of things that the chances of making a suboptimal technology architecture decision are increasing in any case. And with traditional storage systems which, by the way, often demand costly and lengthy data migration processes to switch technologies, the ability of a business to adapt and stay competitive can be severely hindered. Software-defined architectures abstract the hardware, and thus ease the ability to switch or integrate new technologies as demands change.

Given the ever-increasing and shifting demands being placed on IT organizations, an architecture that's able to adapt like SDS will be advantageous, providing firms the potential for competitive advantage. And remember, we're not suddenly adding software definition to storage. It's always had to have a software element to make the silicone, metal and plastic do anything useful. All SDS is really about is changing where the software sits in and across the stack, which all means that ultimately, it's actually those traditional monolithic storage systems, the ones that seem so familiar and so safe that might actually have become too risky for your business.

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