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Agility in Software Defined Storage: No More Buzzwords, Just Results

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Agility has found its way into the IT sales lexicon, and is used to describe everything from unattended installs to flexible purchases.  I’ve started tuning it out unless there are practical examples provided, so this article will focus on usable, quantifiable agility.

What is agility?  One source defines it as “the power of moving quickly and easily.”  How does software definition allow you to move quickly and easily through your day?

First, let’s look at server virtualization. One of the advantages VMware’s software defined infrastructure provided was the ability to make changes.  A few examples:

  • Give a workload more CPU, RAM, or NICs
  • Easily improve the availability and fault tolerance capability
  • Buy a completely different vendor’s hardware without changing the workload
  • Clone a VM as a backup before rolling out a patch

The list could go on and on.  Rather than an intangible buzzword, agility became real and practical, saving admins and IT decision makers time and complexity. Software defined storage like Dell EMC’s ScaleIO does the same thing.  Think of all of the decisions storage buyers have weighed in the last several years when considering physical SANs:

  • Drive rotational speed?
  • Flash or Spinning media?
  • SLC, MLC, TLC, Consumer or Enterprise Grade SSD?
  • Scale Out or Scale Up?
  • Large vs. Small Scaling Increments
  • Disruptive vs. Non-Disruptive Controller Upgrades
  • Migration Process and Impact
  • Synchronous or Asynchronous Replication?
  • Active/Passive or Active/Active Controllers?
  • FC Port Speed
  • And now… NVMe Capable?

With software defined storage, none of these decisions would have mattered.  If you became comfortable with consumer grade SSD, you throw them into the next server and it becomes part of the pool.  Need more capacity?  Add a few more nodes, or locally attached storage.  Want NVMe?  Get it today and throw it into the pool without waiting on “NVMe Ready” arrays.

For each of the bullet points I listed, I can name at least half a dozen customers who spent time in POCs testing different physical storage arrays head to head… sometimes for 6 months to a year before reaching a decision.  Software defined storage would have eliminated those POCs and the hard choices required at the end.  More than that, the storage infrastructure would have been flexible and future proof, just like we are enjoying through server virtualization.  This is real agility – not a buzzword but practical benefits that change how you can operate and do business.

In closing, the wave is here.  Software defined storage literally is everything you like about VMware, but for storage. Lots of options exist including ScaleIO, vSAN and Elastic Cloud Storage. Maybe you aren’t quite ready to put everything on software defined.  I won’t argue with that, but I encourage you to examine the adoption curve of server virtualization and see if you can start today and see the benefits with the lower end workloads that are probably clogging up your physical SANs.

Try it, and you’ll likely be as hooked as I was.  Find me at DellEMC world next year.  If I get a “ScaleIO changed my life” and a hug – I’ll hug you back.  Software definition changed my life once, and it is doing it again.

Missed the first in the series? Click here.

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