Software defined storage (SDS) is an implementation of one or more storage virtualization technologies. (See Sorting out the different layers of virtualization for a discussion of the role different layers of virtualization technology play in today's modern data center).
The goal of SDS is to separate management and control functions from the underlying data management functions. For the most part, I see vendors using that phrase when talking about their hardware products and when they have added storage virtualization technology into the hardware's storage controllers or storage servers. However, this technology doesn't have to be hidden in the storage servers — as two suppliers of storage virtualization software, Sanbolic and DataCore, have proven.
Why bother with SDS?
As a recent demonstration of Sanbolic's software shows, SDS provides a number of useful benefits, including:
- SDS makes it possible for the storage subsystem to tune itself to make the best possible use of available rotating media, flash caching and flash storage modules without also requiring applications know or care what media is supporting their work.
- SDS makes it possible to deploy a small number of large, expensive storage devices; a herd of smaller, less expensive devices; or a combination of storage devices that make the most sense considering an organization's workloads, budget and performance requirements.
- SDS can provide more highly available storage without also requiring the purchase of expensive, special purpose storage devices.
- Available storage can be seen as a pool of resources that can be assigned and reassigned as the organization's workloads change over time.
- Storage can be shared between Windows, Linux, UNIX and other workloads even though the different operating systems use storage devices differently.
- New storage technology can be added to and used along side of older forms of technology without requiring application changes.
If any of these resonate with the organization's needs, SDS might be for you.
A powerful demonstration
Andy Melmed, Sanbolic's VP of Enterprise Solutions, recently dropped by to demonstrate a multi-platform, multi-site use of SDS that was quite impressive. He added and removed systems and moved data around — all without having to change operating system tuning or application parameters.
Although I've seen similar demonstrations offered by other suppliers of storage virtualization technologies, the demonstrations seldom show how a mix of hardware suppliers, operating systems, and applications could easily utilize a mix of different types of storage.
If your organization wants the benefits named above, talking with these folks just might be the ticket to help you on your way.