The Year of Software-Defined Storage

2013 is, according to many, the year of software-defined storage.  Let’s discuss what is new and different about it this year.

The words “software defined” are used in many ways: They are applied to networks, storage and data centers. Hardware-defined objects are just as the word implies: Hard. Once wired and set up, they stay that way. But today’s environments crave the flexibility of a less static environment. Software definition allows reconfiguration with software rather than actually moving of cables and boxes. Actually, we are using software to define an abstraction layer.

You may say that storage has been software-defined for years. The translation from physical blocks on a disk to a collection of files, hierarchically placed in directories, independently from the geometry of the disk or RAID group is abstraction. The logical volume management, and even the caching use of SSD, are more examples of an abstraction layer that allows the application software to create, modify, read and delete files without knowledge of the underlying physical plant. 

So what is new with software-defined storage?  What additional abstraction is provided?

What is provided is the same thing that computer and network virtualization provide: The ability to add and subtract resources and provision as necessary. Today, many people over-provision storage because they do not want to run out. Running out of storage can be a problem even with logical volumes. Network virtualization allows you to collect all of your network pipes into one big pipe and then redeploy it as needed.  You can increase the bandwidth of any pipe as long as you do not exceed the overall bandwidth. CPU virtualization is the same. You can collect all the computer power in your individual servers and redeploy it as needed. As long as you do not exceed the overall capacity, you can enjoy maximum flexibility. 

The same applies to software-defined storage. A storage hypervisor allows you to collect all of your storage capacity into one huge store and then redeploy it as needed. And you may increase the size of any of the elements as long as you do not try to exceed the total amount of storage available. As you can imagine, this gives you consolidation, and it gives you the ability to carve out storage as needed. You can also dedupe and clean and optimize based on usage patterns. As with other types of virtualization, this is a change in paradigm that is expressed in different architectures and implementations rather than a single approach.

Acronis  already provides this capability with storage centers located in Europe and America. These storage centers can be used as your off-site solution to backups. You can directly copy or stage and copy your backups to this storage. Your vaults are encrypted and safe. And this storage will grow as you need it to because the entire center is software-defined. The benefit to you is very low-cost storage in an off-site location. So that is what we mean by software-defined storage: It’s a flexible, expandable, safe and cost-effective location to host your vaults for data protection and disaster recovery.


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