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Wax Your Boards: The Software Defined Storage Wave is Here

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We’ve heard the hype about software defined storage for years.  Software Defined Storage (SDS) is historically about provisioning and management, but new products like Dell EMC’s ScaleIO, Elastic Cloud Storage, and VMware’s vSAN have taken it to the next level – using appliances, application servers and direct attached storage to create a scalable virtual storage network that can be built and managed dynamically by administrators rather than the previous process of installing hardware storage arrays.  Many IT professionals (aka pragmatists) have adopted a “wait and see” attitude.  The jury is back, and it is a real thing.  Let me correct that; it is a current thing and many are missing a great ride on the biggest IT wave since VMware virtualized x86 servers.

Back in the early days at VMware, I had lots of interesting conversations with customers large and small.  Looking back on those conversations is a case study in the adoption curve of revolutionary technologies.  At times it was unbelievably comical.  One week I heard a story about a smaller customer grabbing one of our staffers at a trade show, hugging him, and telling him “VMware changed my life!”  The next week I was in front of a large enterprise customer who stated that virtualization wasn’t ready for prime time and they couldn’t abandon the one workload per bare metal server policy.  “We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket.”  It was a severe case of not seeing the forest for the trees.  A year later they were the biggest VMware customer on the planet, with over 200,000 virtual machines.  What happened?  Did the technology mature?

No, but their understanding of the impact of software definition matured. They stopped looking at the thing we have all been trained to look at, namely feature parity.  IT decisions can’t be made effectively by comparing two lists of checkboxes.  We have to be strategic and look at where the tech can take us, if there is a process to get there, and a vision to go even further.  Once the customer understood the vision, they spent the next 18 months reducing compute costs by 90%, promoting everyone who was associated with the project, and winning awards.  The only sad part is that they could have done that a year earlier and been even further ahead of their industry.  They wasted 90% of their server budget, and I missed out on a year of hugs and “VMware changed my life” affirmations.

Consolidation, Abstraction, Pooling, and Agility are what launched the virtualization wave, and that is exactly what software defined storage doesThis series will examine those four things that software definition enabled and were previously missing from traditional infrastructure. With those four elements at work no amount of hardware based features could compete in their target space – the ghastly volumes of servers that sprawled to support necessary infrastructure workloads.   The same thing is happening today with sprawling storage, and enterprises have traditionally coped with multiple sprawling hardware arrays. Software definition can solve, or at least alleviate much of that pain. Let’s compare the value of software defined infrastructure to software defined storage, and see if it makes sense to jump in now.  Spoiler alert – software defined storage is everything you love about server virtualization… but for storage.

First up:  Abstraction

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