Home > Big Data and Hadoop > Software Defined Storage – Old wine in a new bottle?

Software Defined Storage – Old wine in a new bottle?

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

old wine new bottleThe world of Cisco and Juniper is ablaze with a new buzzword: “Software Defined Networking” (SDN).  Acquisitions and spin-offs are in the air with VMware acquring Nicira, Brocade acquiring Vyatta, Cisco acquiring Cariden while also investing in its own spin-off Insiemi and VCs rushing to fund any venture with the magic words SDN.  Existing companies like Cyan with proven technologies and paying telco customers are likely to ask what the hoopla is all about – didn’t Cyan roll out SDN before it was fashionable to even call it SDN?  and that too to conservative telcos never known to adopt bleeding edge technologies?

The world of EMC, HP, IBM, NetApp and HDS didn’t want to be left behind and  their world of high margins on proprietary enterprise storage is now threatened by barbarians pounding at the gates.  Upstart startups flush with new VC funding  are promoting their own buzz-word “Software Defined Storage (SDS)” and talking about the end of proprietary storage arrays.  Could SDS be just a new take on an old idea namely the Virtual Storage Apppliance (VSA)?  What should an enterprise CIO do?

To step back, the principle behind VSA is that if you are already deploying virtualization (VMware, Hyper-V) you don’t need dedicated enterprise storage appliances – read “big iron” from EMC, HP, IBM, NetApp and HDS.  A  Virtualized Storage Appliance  is just software that runs in a Virtual Machine (VM) and calls upon a pool of physical storage (SSD, SAS HDD or SATA HDD).  This pool of storage is created using un-used direct attached storage (DAS) in stand-alone physical servers used for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

For VSA you have many choices: VMware offers VSphere VSA which runs in a VM and turns the direct attached storage (DAS) on upto 3 physical servers into a pool of iSCSI block storage made available to other applications that run in VMs on any of these 3 servers.  In addition VMware VSA provides a way to move data from the VSA to shared network storage without any disruption.

HP will tell you that VMware is too limiting wtih just 3 servers and will recommend technology that it acquired from the acquisition of LeftHand Networks and will tantalize you with support for Microsoft Hyper-V beyond  just VMware.

Dell will tell you that HP is in dire straits with its $8.8 billion write-off related to the questionable acquisition of Autonomy and that you should focus instead on Dell VSA technology based on the acquisition of EqualLogic by Dell.

NetApp will suggest that you look at NetApp VSA which is a virtualized version of arrays like the NetApp FAS2220 with NetApp FlashPool technology to integrate your hard disk drives with SSD.

EMC will tell you that they offer not one but many VSA options: EMC VNX VSA or Celerra VSA or even EMC Atmos running in a VM!

Startups like Nexenta will tell you that they offer better choices running the Sun ZFS file system on commodity hardware.  Nexenta’s competitors in the startup world will tell you that Nexenta is limited to just 2 storage controllers and is not a scale-out option.

So what is an enterprise CIO to do?  My advice: Let the dust settle, let the startups be acquired by the bigger players, whoever is left standing will be a safe bet.  In the interim, if you tire of the ongoing hits to your IT budget from your big enterprise storage suppliers, then experiment with VSA on a small scale.  If the cost savings from using VSA are tangible share your findings with your enteprise storage vendor – they may suddenly remember that they can offer you better discounts afterall !  If they don’t,  then your startup of choice will be more than happy to sell you their wares at very competitive prices in return for some quotable positive press.  This is a good time to be a customer!  Now if only congress would sort out the fiscal cliff by year end it will truly be “the most wonderful time of the year!”.

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