The growth of cloud-based infrastructure and the rising adoption of virtualization technologies by small and medium-sized companies in addition to industry giants have contributed to an explosive growth in data. As storage requirements balloon, organizations are looking for options that are cost-effective. Processing these huge volumes of data has created the need for storage approaches that can deliver greater flexibility. As a result, software-defined storage, or SDS, is gaining traction.
IDC projects that the SDS market will see a compound annual growth rate of 13.5% over the 2017-2021 forecast period, with revenues of nearly $16.2 billion in 2021. Enterprise storage spending is shifting from on-premises IT infrastructure toward private, public and hybrid cloud environments and from hardware-defined, dual-controller array designs toward SDS.
But not all SDS is created equal. It’s important to make sure that your solution can handle your enterprise workloads before making the switch. Here are some things to look for.
Benefits of SDS
First, an overview. What is SDS? SDS solutions have multiple advantages over traditional storage architectures. They can run on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware while delivering better and faster functionality, such as provisioning and de-duplication, via software. SDS offers easier and more intuitive autonomous storage management capabilities that lower administrative costs, offer greater agility and reduced expenditure due to the lower-cost hardware.
Without proper market education of software-defined storage solution capabilities, those in charge of purchasing decisions could end up with a lot of marketing hype and less-than-satisfactory solutions. So, here’s guidance to educate and inform your choices as you look for a truly versatile, cost-efficient, unified solution.
Key components of SDS to look for
The horizontally aligned, software-defined storage platform will be completely hardware-agnostic as well as fully flash compliant. It enables the kind of flexibility and performance that is critical to the future of storage.
Look for the following components in an SDS solution:
File features: Many times, the file systems that SDS providers offer are based on freeware and exclude some important features most Windows users are used to. Therefore, thoroughly vet the file-related features you are being offered; make sure they include snapshot, quota, antivirus, encryption and tiering.
Network-attached storage (NAS): Consistency in a scale-out NAS—meaning files are accessible from all nodes at the same time—is very important. Look for consistency in the SDS solutions as part of your research.
Caching: To increase performance, SDS solutions need caching devices. From a storage solution perspective, both speed and size matter – as well as price. It is also important to protect the data at a higher level by replicating the data to another node before de-staging the data from the cache to the storage layer.
Storing metadata: Metadata is a very important piece of the virtual file system. In this setting, metadata are bits of information that describe the structure of the file system. For example, one metadata file can contain information about what files and folders are contained in a single folder in the file system. That means you will have one metadata file for each folder in your virtual file system. As the virtual file system grows, you will get more and more metadata files. Make sure your prospective solution’s storage layer is based on object store so that you can store all your metadata there. This will ensure good scalability, performance, and availability.
Unified storage: Object storage is used for machine-to-machine/IoT transactions and other applications that require extreme scalability and has no performance requirements. It seems to get all the press lately, but it isn’t good at managing unstructured data. That’s why you need file storage to have a truly useful solution. However, you need block and object store as well for a truly unified solution.
Sharing: For hybrid cloud users, it is probable that different office locations within an organization need both a private area and an area that they share with other branches. So then, only parts of the file system will be shared with others. Selecting a section of a file system and letting others mount it at any given point in the other file systems provides the flexibility needed to scale the file system – making sure that the synchronization is made at the file system level in order to have a consistent view of the file system across sites. Being able to specify different file encodings at different sites is useful, for example, if one site is used as a backup target.
Hyper-converged capability: Hybrid cloud solutions, of course, require support for hypervisors. Therefore, the scale-out NAS needs to be able to run as hyper-converged as well.
Making an informed choice
As organizations transition to digitization, they need an affordable, fast and flexible storage solution. SDS has all these points in its favor, but not all solutions are created equal. Look for a unified approach that is scalable and can handle all storage types. As you explore SDS approaches, use the guidance above as you conduct research to make sure you are getting one solution that provides all the elements your organization needs.