Does flash and software defined storage spell doom for OEM business?

Does flash and software defined storage spell doom for OEM business?

Summary: Sanbolic believes companies want storage, not storage hardware. Is this the end of the storage business as we know it?

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flash and software defined storage OEM business

Momchil "Memo" Michailov, CEO of Sanbolic, reached out to me recently to discuss how the combination of flash storage devices and software defined storage (read: a virtualized storage environment) is changing the storage hardware business. I always enjoy conversations with Memo. He likes to challenge current beliefs and point out new ways to look at events and technology.

Memo believes that the storage business, as we currently know it, is going away. He points to nearly $1 billion in acquisitions of suppliers of storage virtualization technology to point out that innovation is trumping the old rotating storage business.

What is software defined storage?

Software defined storage is the use of storage virtualization technology to separate the control of storage from where and how the data is actually stored.

This innovation makes it possible to place objects where it makes sense and use storage devices that match the requirements for storage capacity, performance, latency, reliability and cost that each workload presents.

It is then possible to use low cost storage elements when required; to use high cost, high performance storage elements when required; to move data objects as needed to meet service level requirements without requiring operator intervention; and to hide this movement, sometimes called "auto tiering," from IT staff and workloads alike.

Also, software defined storage enables the pooling of  many storage devices to present a single huge storage capability. These elements may come from different manufacturers, and they may be any mix of solid state, rotating media or tape as needed by the workload.

Finally, software defined storage automates the allocation, provisioning, use, de-provisioning and de-allocatation of storage to meet the needs of workloads and also minimize the physical storage used.

What does software defined storage mean to organizations?

When it is possible to build vast storage configurations using any combination of system memory, flash storage, rotating media and tape that address the performance, reliability and archival requirements of workloads, it is likely that the need for expensive and complex storage servers and combined with racks of disks will go away.

Organizations, after all, want an effective storage mechanism not disks. Disks just happen to be the best way to store volumes of data today.

When it is simpler and less costly to purchase a large number of 1U systems and use their memory and any included rotating media as a huge, flexible, easy to set up and manage storage utility, organizations are likely to take that route rather than to continue to purchase today's storage servers, storage area networks and rotating media.

In Memo's view, this means that smaller, innovative suppliers of storage virtualization technology are likely to win out over today's large suppliers of storage equipment.

Snapshot analysis

If we take a look at the history of information technology, it is easy to see that organizations seldom abandon old approaches. They, instead, add new approaches when there is a need for a new workload and keep the old systems as they are. The older systems are updated with new processors, memory, storage, networking and the like on a regular cycle, but as long as what they're doing is needed, they will continue to be used.

An old joke

While listening to Memo, I found myself thinking of an old joke about the CEO of a well-known tool manufacturer speaking to his sales force about the performance of the company at the end of a year. The CEO told the sales folks that he had good news and bad news and asked what they wanted to hear first. The crowd yelled that they wanted to hear the good news first.

The CEO told them that their sales had reached an historic high. He thanked them for their work and promised a nice bonus in their next pay envelope. The crowd then yelled "what could possibly be bad news?"

The CEO told them that no one wanted their drills. The crowed shouted "that's crazy, drills are our number one product, customers are buying them like crazy."

The CEO told them that folks bought drills because they wanted holes. Customers don't really want drills he told them.  He went on to say that when someone comes along that offers a better way for customers to get the holes they need, their drills would fall by the wayside.

He promised to invest in research to keep on top of the best ways to create holes. He advised them to always listen to customers about their need for holes and not get too arrogant about the success of the company's drills.

What happens when there is a way to store objects without traditional media

Sanbolic is right to point out that when it is possible to store data objects without having to deploy rotating media, companies are likely to slowly turn away from traditional storage media. The key word here is "slowly." Once a technology makes it into the data center, it stays there for a very, very long time. Companies often operate workloads developed 30 years ago as part of their overall IT infrastructure.

The revolution is coming, but it is likely to move in slow motion.

What do you think?

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Topics: Storage, Hardware, Virtualization, Channel

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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2 comments
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  • sigh . . .

    "Software defined storage is the use of storage virtualization technology to separate the control of storage from where and how the data is actually stored."

    Cute. You just renamed the virtual disks that every virtual machine supports. I suppose if you put the words "software defined . . ." in front of something, you hope to support the idea that somehow software is replacing hardware, which is certainly not the case.

    "It is then possible to use low cost storage elements when required; to use high cost, high performance storage elements when required; to move data objects as needed to meet service level requirements without requiring operator intervention; and to hide this movement"

    In other words, reinvent the virtual memory system that Windows (and other OSes) has supported since Windows 3.11, which in fact has always had the ability to swap between DRAM and the HDD since day one (which is basically what you are describing here).

    This also sounds like "storage spaces" and other unified storage system technologies that are floating around these days.

    I guess what Momchil "Memo" Michailov really wants is to pen the next buzzword. He's certainly not talking about anything new.
    CobraA1
    • new buzzowrd

      CobraA1, thanks for reading the article. Comparing what Melio does to Microsoft Storage Spaces, or virtual disks is a bit like apples and oranges if not worse. Melio is a 3 layer platform with storage and volume management capability replacing / eliminating the need for hardware RAID controllers and thus the cost associated with them while providing scale-out capability to 2048 nodes and 65,000 storage devices. The second layer is a clustered file system or data management platform allowing data to be concurrently accessible from multiple physical and virtual servers for scale-out and high availability, and the 3rd layer being an application clustering component to insure application clustering and migration across any number of servers. So no I am not wanting to pen the next buzzword, instead help customers improve their economics in a similar way to what public cloud providers have done. Or would you say that they use storage spaces, virtual discs, and proprietary storage arrays? :-) You can learn more on our website http://sanbolic.com/melio-platform/platform/
      Best regards,
      Momchil
      Momchil Michailov