Software Defined Storage vs. Converged Infrastructure, Or: (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman winning the Oscar for best movie is kind of old news.  But discussions continue about the movie, the quality of its execution, the meaning of the film, and what the film should mean to us.   This last article I read on the subject struck a particular nerve: what does it mean to be Relevant? The Birdman character struggled with his own relevancy throughout the story. So do many technology products… and their struggles run the risk of taking you down with them.


Software Defined Storage is… Storage

There’s been growing buzz over the past couple years about Software Defined Storage (SDS), including significant deals struck with major Telcos, acquisitions, and declarations of the ‘year of software defined storage’. The dust seems to have settled on what it is: Wikipedia explains SDS is a storage system with software separate from the underlying hardware, capable of providing a data virtualization layer, along with data services and policy-based storage system management. A key takeaway of the Wikipedia definition, as well as the trend overall, is that there are many deployment models…. almost as many as there are vendors. But in all cases, the relevance of SDS is that it’s a new approach to storage. And that’s it – it’s just storage.


SDS vs. Software Defined Systems

Like SDS, there are other products that take this software-defined approach: Software Defined Networking such as VMware NSX, PLUMGrid and Pluribus Networks, software defined security and perimeter offerings, even a software defined workspace. And then there are entire software defined systems that combine multiple capabilities into a single unit such as EVO:Rail, also appropriately known as Hyper-converged systems. So analogous to traditional IT infrastructure where we’re seeing the evolution of do-it-yourself to converged systems, we’re seeing that software-defined solutions are not immune to these same forces, i.e. the desire of organizations to achieve more with thier time and money by moving to more complete solutions.


The separate storage mindset

An IT professional put it this way:  “People have to get out of the mind-set of separate compute and storage.  When you buy a laptop, you don’t buy storage and compute separately.”  Granted a laptop is a little different than a billion dollar enterprise data center, but the analogy is correct, and relevant.  Converged and Hyper-converged approaches are letting IT teams efficiently solve difficult challenges in a timely and cost-efficient manner.  With constant demands on our time, we need products that make our lives easier – not take on new challenges via the latest shiny thing.  Buying storage as a separate item still has its merits for specific refreshes and isolated data-intensive projects.  But the majority of the market is moving towards converged solutions, not just storage solutions, whether software defined or otherwise.


Read about one of the more recent EVO:Rail offerings, a software-defined integrated solution from NetApp.


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