Flexible, scalable data storage is an important aspect of corporate digital transformation, and software-defined storage is a novel storage architecture that gives organizations the ability to expand their storage resources without adding or purchasing additional hardware. In addition, software-defined storage (SDS) makes storage resources programmable, making data storage more efficient and infinitely scalable.
Flexibility in data storage and data access is vital for modern business. However, traditional physical storage resources and the underlying hardware are typically inflexible. This post will explain what software-defined storage is, how it works, and why it is beneficial for businesses to use this data storage infrastructure in their operations.
What Is Software-Defined Storage?
Software-defined storage is a unique architecture that decouples software from the underlying hardware. Traditionally, organizations used a network-attached storage or a storage area network system dependent on specific proprietary hardware. The major issue with this approach is that it offers businesses almost no flexibility in terms of storage capacity or hardware.
Software-defined storage systems are designed to perform on any hardware or x86-based system. SDS removes the dependence storage software has on proprietary hardware, which gives organizations the ability to expand their storage capacity as they see fit without adding additional hardware. Rather, organizations can make hardware upgrades, or even downgrades, whenever it suits their needs to do so.
Software-defined storage is a part of a broader IT ecosystem approach termed hyperconverged infrastructure. Hyperconverged infrastructure is sometimes referred to as software-defined everything. The basic premise behind this approach is that all software is separated from all hardware. The division between software and hardware gives businesses the freedom to purchase whatever hardware they want without sacrificing performance.
How Does Software-Defined Storage Work?
If software-defined storage seems very similar to cloud computing to you so far, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. However, while SDS and cloud computing might seem similar, they are very different, as we will see later. So how does SDS work? First, let’s quickly describe how traditional data storage works.
Traditional data storage is monolithic. Organizations purchase specific, industry-standard hardware and the associated proprietary software. Furthermore, the software and hardware are often sold as a single bundle, making it monolithic and inflexible for businesses.
Software-defined storage doesn’t physically separate the storage from the hardware. Instead, SDS is an additional layer of your technology stack that operates between the software and hardware. Software-defined storage abstracts the processes that control data storage requests, not the actual stored data. At its core, SDS is a software layer that operates between physical storage and the data requests being made, which gives organizations the ability to manipulate where and how data is stored.
Here is an example of how SDS works. Suppose your business has several servers with differing capacities for storing data and require different storage software to function. SDS allows your organization to remove or bypass each server’s storage capacities and software requirements and put all storage resources in one place that is completely flexible and infinitely scalable.
Now, that example of SDS might sound a lot like cloud computing or even storage virtualization, but there are important distinctions between SDS and these two concepts. Cloud computing is a pool of virtual resources that can be accessed on-demand through a self-service portal. SDS is a software layer that feeds data into the cloud and works within a cloud environment to provide unified storage.
Storage virtualization is another HiTech concept that many people might confuse with software-defined storage. Both SDS and storage virtualization involves abstraction from storage hardware, but they are very different. Virtualization is used to pool the storage capacities of several devices to make it appear as if all the data is stored on one device. On the other hand, SDS separates the storage software from the device itself.
The Benefits of Software-Defined Storage
Businesses are always looking for a competitive advantage, and SDS can help provide the edge that organizations need to outperform their competitors. Software-defined storage has several benefits for organizations regardless of industry, including:
- Hardware independent
- Infinitely scalable
- Data source variety
Smart organizations are always looking for ways to optimize spending and maximize the value of their resources. Software-defined storage is a popular data storage choice among forward-thinking businesses because it is cost-effective. With other systems, you have to scale up to increase capacity, but since SDS is a distributed system, businesses can scale out instead of up, which helps save businesses money.
Additionally, since SDS scales out, organizations can optimize capacity and performance independently, allowing businesses to spend financial resources where they can be the most effective.
Hardware independence gives organizations more options, flexibility, and the ability to strategically spend financial resources. Your business doesn’t have to commit to a specific vendor or hardware brand. SDS-based storage systems allow businesses to use any hardware or x86 server they want.
Plus, software-defined storage helps your organization prepare for future tech advancements. Technology improves rapidly. With SDS, you can keep pace with the latest advancements in hardware without drastically changing your systems or breaking contracts with vendors. Instead, future-proof your systems so your business is not left behind by the latest innovations.
Since software-defined storage is not reliant on hardware, developers can program unique functions and automate important operations. Automation has shown its immense value in web and app development, but it can also be put to good use in SDS systems. For example, software-defined storage systems can utilize automation to adjust real-time data needs and performance levels.
An organization’s needs can change at a moment’s notice. As a result, scalability is a highly valued attribute by modern businesses. SDS systems are infinitely scalable because they don’t rely on nodes like traditional storage area networks.
Data Source Variety
Organizations can build their data infrastructure using various sources when they employ software-defined storage. For example, a business could network disk resources, external disk systems, object platforms, cloud-based resources, virtual servers, and more to create a singular, unified data center. In addition, SDS systems give organizations the ability to use the technologies and tools best suited to their needs, not just the hardware bundled with their software.
Software-defined storage is a great data center approach for businesses. SDS might seem complicated, but when you work with a dedicated app development partner, your business will see how simple and effective it can be. If your organization needs help determining if software-defined storage is right for its needs, contact a development partner to learn more.