The Business Case For SDS

by Michael Fiorenza on February 20, 2017


Software Defined Storage (SDS) is gaining ground in corporate data centers as IT managers discover the significant advantages it brings to an organization's data storage infrastructure. In a recent survey respondents indicated that almost 85 percent of companies are either already implementing SDS, or have a strong interest in doing so. The reason for that growing acceptance among IT professionals is that SDS makes the task of providing for an organization's storage needs much easier and more cost effective.
The basic concept underlying SDS is the virtualization of storage. With SDS, the intelligence of the storage system is lifted out of hardware and into a software layer that stands between the actual storage devices and users. This software manages the entire storage infrastructure, which may consist of many different types of devices and media, as a single, unified pool of storage. At the same time, it allows users to access and control that storage through a single, consistent interface, no matter the types, or even locations, of the devices that actually store the data.
This approach of abstracting storage services away from the physical hardware and into software provides substantial benefits not just for a company's storage infrastructure, but for the organization as a whole. Let's look at some of these.
SDS Can Save A Business A Lot Of Money!
In the traditional storage model, new capacity is obtained by using capital expenditures (CapEx) to purchase dedicated storage arrays, and to license the proprietary software that runs them. In contrast, since the software-defined paradigm places the intelligence of the storage system in software rather than in the hardware, SDS is well suited to the use of "dumb" storage devices, such as older hard drives. This allows organizations to minimize CapEx spending by using existing legacy hardware that is already installed in the data center, or by purchasing inexpensive commodity drive units in place of costly proprietary storage appliances.
SDS also allows existing storage units to be used to their full capacity. Because SDS software employs sophisticated algorithms to manage capacity and performance across the organization's entire storage infrastructure, the usage rates of individual devices can be maximized. Whereas many data centers were previously using their installed equipment only to about 60 percent of capacity, with SDS that usage rate can approach 100 percent. That means fewer storage units are required, further reducing the need for capital expenditures.
SDS allows an enterprise to shift many expenses from the CapEx to OpEx category. This is an important benefit, especially for SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses), and for companies anticipating rapid growth. Often smaller organizations are constrained in their ability to rapidly raise the funds needed for new capital spending. On the other hand, it's usually much easier for them to allocate the lower levels of funding required for day-to-day operations.
Plus, not only does SDS facilitate a shift from CapEx-intensive to OpEx-based funding, it also lowers spending overall. By reducing the amount of storage hardware a company must purchase, house, cool, maintain, and provide staff support for, SDS helps minimize both capital and operational outlays.
SDS Reduces The Need For CIOs To Be Prophets CapEx spending must normally be planned for and budgeted well in advance. Determining the amount of up-front funding that will be required is dependent on accurately forecasting what the demand for storage will be in the future. This is a notoriously difficult task. In order to be sure of not being caught short when inevitable surges in demand occur, storage administrators must over-provision to a significant degree.
This means purchasing reserve capacity that will be available in the data center, but which may never actually be used. In fact, according to a recent study, 10 million servers are currently sitting unused in corporate data centers, representing $30 billion in unproductive capital expenditures. To make matters worse, with the ever-accelerating pace of technological change, much of that already-paid-for equipment may become obsolete before it is ever put into service.
But SDS software is designed to automatically provision the resources required for any particular workload by seamlessly assigning storage units from its virtual pool, whether those units are located on-premises or in the public or private cloud. And because those resources are allocated as needed rather than based on prognostications made months or years in advance, the requirement that storage administrators be seers is eliminated.
SDS Can Help Uncover New Business Opportunities
For businesses seeking to uncover new opportunities to serve their customers and produce more revenue, data is gold. According to McKinsey & Company, enterprises that perform big data analytics on customer information realize a profit improvement of as much as 126 percent over those that don't. Insights gained through analysis of large and diverse datasets can uncover new sources of revenue that were never suspected before.
By treating all data, from whatever sources, as part of a centrally managed, unified pool of storage, SDS can greatly facilitate the analysis of large amounts of structured information, such as databases, and unstructured information, such as social media data.
In addition, the ability of SDS to quickly add inexpensive capacity when demands for storage grow provides the organization with greatly improved agility to respond quickly to changing business conditions.
SDS Can Make IT Staff More Productive With SDS, all storage is accessed and managed through a single, consistent software portal. There's no need for users (or using applications) to be aware of the types, locations, or interface protocols of the underlying storage devices. This simplifies the storage management task immensely. Storage best practices can be implemented system-wide, rather than for each individual device.
In the past, new or replacement storage units had to be manually incorporated and configured, a slow, labor-intensive, and error-prone process. As the amount of data continues to surge, and installed devices reach their capacity limits, the manual reprovisioning process has become more and more disruptive to data center operations.
With SDS the software performs such functions automatically, based on pre-programmed policies. This relieves IT staff of the necessity of spending valuable time and energy just on keeping the storage infrastructure running, allowing them to concentrate on activities that are of greater value in meeting the business goals of the organization.
SDS Is The Future of Enterprise Data Storage The software defined storage approach is still in its early stages of development. But it's already yielding substantial benefits for many companies today. If you haven't yet gotten your feet wet with this promising new technology, now's the time to start. And we'd like to help. Please visit our Next Generation Software-defined Storage page.

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