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The different faces of software-defined storage vendors

Software-defined storage (SDS) is everywhere, becoming so popular that some companies are reworking their products to follow the trend of software-focused options. Everyone is talking about it, but storage expert Jon Toigo had a few questions for software-defined storage vendors:

"What the hell is software-defined storage? Why are we talking about this? Is it a new architecture?"

In his Storage Decisions keynote, the CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International dove right into the software-defined storage hubbub.

According to Toigo, software-defined storage is nothing new -- it's just another example of storage attached to a server back end. "All storage is direct-attached storage, so there's nothing radical or revolutionary in the topology here," he said. The recent appeal, said Toigo, could be attributed to the newness of the technology, and the shiny new offerings from software-defined storage vendors.

All storage is direct-attached storage, so there's nothing radical or revolutionary in the topology here.
Jon ToigoToigo Partners International

However, Toigo said it can be difficult to pin down what exactly SDS is because many of those software-defined storage vendors have a different definition of the technology.

According to Toigo, software vendor DataCore is closest to getting it right with its SANsymphony-V. Toigo said the storage virtualization software comes closest to a true SAN, virtualizing the storage, centralizing the software and aggregating capacity. However, to another vendor, that might not even qualify as true software-defined storage.

From "Simple, efficient storage without the cost or complexity of dedicated hardware" to "Cluster Storage Spaces," Toigo cited varying vendor descriptions of SDS.

"I'm not about to say that there's no substance to it," explained Toigo. "I just don't think that the industry has agreed [on] what exactly it is. I think they're just giving different names to things we've already heard."

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Transcript - The different faces of software-defined storage vendors

Is it just the way to shiny new thing? Yeah, that's probably the best explanation for it. It's a shiny new thing and it's what people are buying because they won't buy SAN or NAS right now, because that stuff is all too expensive. So they try and go to cheap, or they're trying to follow whatever their hypervisor vendor is recommending to them, and they're buying the software.

If you read Wikipedia, which of course is the standard on defining all technology terms, they say, "it's a term for computer data storage technologies that separates storage hardware from software, that manages the storage infrastructure." OK. That's clear as mud. And of course, there's universal agreement, the industry with that definition, right?

Basically they were all over the place.

There are two SDS implementations that are gaining some notoriety right now. One is from VMware. Basically they're saying it's not a layer of hypervisor, [a] set of software that virtualizes your server that basically combines disk JBODs and flash and enables them to be attached to nodes in a multi-node cluster, a minimum of three nodes. And what you're going to basically do is replicate data between them. This is one of the reasons for that slide I showed last year about IDC projecting that we're going to experience 300% per year growth in storage capacity demand. Because we're replicating the data at least three times on every node. OK. That's a good way to accelerate your hardware budget right out of all semblance of order.

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