How to Evaluate Software Defined Storage Vendors?

By CIOReview | Friday, August 26, 2016

Today, with the rapid growth of data sources around the businesses,enterprises are striving hard to control and manage the vast data. EMC’s study on digital universe reports that the digital universe is growing nearly 40 percent a year into the next decade. With so much of data, the one question that persists is: “How are we going to manage and store all the data?”

Till date, IT teams have been dealing with big data by expanding their storage system. This conventional extension of hardware is not only expensive but also contains complex architecture that slows down the system. The promising solution to the problem of mounting data is the concept of Software Defined Storage (SDS). SDS offers great strength to storage hardware and provides flexibility to managers and IT buyers by centering the complete storage environment on a single management platform, regardless of the vendor. With this, functions such as implementation, RAID protection, and data tiering can be done on a single platform. This allows the system to be independent and free of hardware restraints, while enhancing the overall performance.

Most of the storage vendors make excellent storage hardware without investing in the storage software. These vendors are grouped into 2 different classes namely Tier 1 hardware vendor and tier 2 vendors. Tier 1 vendors mainly focus on hardware product, such as Dell’s Power Vaultline and NetApp’s E Series, while tier 2 vendors like Promise technology and Imation Nexsan focus on software.

Types of SDS

Software-defined storage is classified into two types— software-only SDS and vendor-provided SDS. 

Software-only SDS: Vendors in this space offer a way to implement SDS as a software-only solution and let users gather storage by combining existing storage resources. Companies that focus on software-only SDS allow users to install the software on a suitable hardware and provide a common storage features to various storage systems. The code can be executed in a hyper-converged mode enabling storage software to be hosted in a virtual environment.

For instance, EMC ViPR is one of the SDS offering from EMC Corporation. ViPR extracts control over storage from distinct arrays into a single pool of storage capacity that makes it easier to automate storage management. Each vendor has its own ways of performing storage services. At first, EMC had offered a single interface to command and control the storage platforms. Subsequently, EMC has extended their support to alternative vendors such as NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). It also includes features that were not present in the core systems, such as an HDFS interface that comes with a Hadoop connection to the platform as a whole.

Vendor-provided SDS: The second type of SDS is Vendor-provided SDS that comes with a package of storage hardware. These vendors have implemented the fundamental principle of SDS, ensuring that the software is bundled with appropriate hardware. Vendor-provided SDS have enhanced its performance by incorporating features like— rich API, automated management, policy based provisioning and intelligent tiering.  Despite the fact, this type of software-defined storage is not regarded as ‘True’ SDS it can still prove its worth for a customer by providing centralized management of corporate storage and cost effective hardware.

Dell, IBM and a multitude of startups are included in the space of SDS Vendors. These vendors mainly concentrate on ability of the software and try to incorporate more of storage hardware. These products must allow vendor to pass on benefits like cost effectiveness to customers, and offer flexibility in hardware migration. It’s crucial for customers to cautiously investigate each SDS vendors for its capabilities.

Choosing right SDS vendor

Software Defined Storage is not denoted by a specific service or product that one could simply go out and buy today. Instead, it’s a certain way of transforming the organization’s storage function, and each SDS vendor has different notion on exactly what this might entail. Organizations must be clear of their requirements and be sure of their objectives in the move to SDS.

Benefits of SDS

Here are few advantages of SDS.

Empowerment: SDS offers the flexibility to use third party hardware so that users are not restricted with single vendor for capacity storage. It also provides the liberty to users in choosing their hardware supplier for system implementation at the beginning.

Adaptability: There is no constraint of hardware to a single vendor. Users can select suitable components for applications from any vendors, such as huge disk drives for capacity and flash storage for performance. It also simplifies configuration of software services for individual workloads.

Advancement: The extraction of storage services from hardware enhances SDS storage systems to ‘ride the hardware development curve’. It also offers ability to carry out other activities such as hyper-convergence.

Economy: SDS comes with reasonable rates. It allows stakeholders to leverage commodity hardware, software-only SDS storage systems and save costs.


In the near future, the use of SDS is going to improve and complete IT hardware can be handled using the software. An IDC survey on SDS, reports that nearly 16 percent of the companies are dedicated to specific storage technology and another 35 percent are assessing the worth of storage technology for the future use.

However, the key point to remember about SDS is— it’s about delivering the characteristics of storage in software, not simply shifting into commodity infrastructure. It’s worth watching over the coming years on how the companies shape the future of storage system.