The growing importance of data to a business, coupled with ever-increasing capacity needs and always tight IT budgets, means chief technology officers (CTOs) are looking for solutions to help them optimise storage.

By Hayden Sadler, country manager at Infinidat South Africa

Software-defined storage (SDS) has many purported benefits, from greater agility to enhanced scalability, increased performance, greater fault tolerance, improved economies of scale and importantly reduced cost.

While SDS offers flexibility and can help reduce costs, it is by no means a silver bullet. Hardware centric storage solutions still maintain market leadership, and the benefits of SDS can prove elusive if the right technology is not implemented, as SDS solutions can introduce new challenges.

Alternative, intelligent solutions have thus emerged to deliver the best of both worlds: the flexibility and affordability of SDS combined with the resilience of hardware centric storage solutions.

The promise of SDS

One of the biggest drivers for any storage decision, today, is cost. CTOs want to lower storage acquisition and ownership costs, and SDS seems to fit the bill.

By enabling all different areas of storage to run on standardised commodity hardware, organisations can theoretically leverage greater economies of scale and a lower purchase price. SDS also promises better performance and fault tolerance – two aspects that have become increasingly important in today’s data driven world.

The reality

Unfortunately, many businesses have struggled to obtain the full benefit from SDS implementations, especially when it comes to mission-critical environments. One of the biggest reasons for this is that SDS storage failures are difficult, expensive and time-consuming to recover from.

Performance improvements can also be difficult to quantify because organisations often have no baseline reference to measure performance increases against. In addition, for performance improvements to be sustained they typically require frequent maintenance and tuning, which can become a costly exercise. If improved performance is a requirement of SDS, it is important to firstly create a reference point and then partner with an SDS provider that can assist with measuring the new implementation against this.

Another challenge organisations’ often face is that the economies of scale they achieve are often not as beneficial as anticipated. This is usually because there is an upper limit to the reduction in cost that can be achieved. Put simply, there is a point at which, no matter how many more servers or storage arrays you purchase, the price will not get any lower.

An SDS storage provider needs to set this expectation from the outset so that results achieved are not considered disappointing or a failure.

An alternative solution that offers the best of both worlds

SDS may not be the solution to revolutionise storage for most businesses. In addition, if implemented in the wrong environment or through an inappropriate solution it can become expensive and create more problems than it solves. There is, however, a way to obtain the benefits promised by SDS without any of the risks or accompanying downsides.

Intelligent solutions are available that integrate storage software technology with sophisticated hardware validation, qualification, and support structure. This delivers the affordability and flexibility benefits of SDS with resiliency that is equal or superior to hardware-centric solutions.

These solutions offer high availability and virtually zero downtime, combined with unprecedented cost-effectiveness to deliver the ideal marriage of hardware-integrated reliability and SDS affordability. They also offer superior storage performance, reliability, and protection capabilities, multi-petabyte scalability, fast, optimised, data-aware recovery and self-healing capabilities and extreme power efficiency.

The confluence of massive data growth, budget constraints, and reliability demands means that CTOs are under increasing pressure to ensure that their storage architecture offers optimal performance and cost effectiveness.

While SDS may not be the solution in many instances, technology can still provide the solution. Intelligent solutions are available to deliver the perfect combination of affordability, resiliency, and manageability. Enterprises can easily leverage the benefits of both SDS and hardware centric storage in a single solution that ensures that their data storage needs are met both today and in the future.