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Gyrocom Blog

Steve McGarry

SDS and the impact on the future data center

by Steve McGarry

on Sep 9, 2014 8:57:00 AM

In the technology driven world we live in, there is always a ‘new’ emerging technology that is the hot topic usually with a catchy acronym to back it up; one such topic is SDS – Software Defined Storage … What is it, and how does it fit in to the current IT landscape ?

Historically Enterprise grade storage has been implemented using dedicated proprietary hardware that needs to be carefully sized at the time of deployment to appropriately accommodate the current and future needs of a business.

As these hardware based solutions depend on ASICs and specific hardware such as RAID controllers, to provide an expected level of service, there is a finite boundary to their capabilities. If the usage profile of an array changes, such as a company merger or expansion, it can be very hard and expensive to accommodate and adapt to that change. The characteristics above, amongst others are some of the influencing factors in the birth and evolution of SDS.

The server/compute tier of the Data center has been revolutionized with the adoption of virtualisation technologies such as VMware and Citrix, by providing an abstraction layer between the physical hardware and virtual machines to provide numerous advantages over traditional architectures.

Unfortunately most storage systems are still using methodologies aligned to meet the needs of the legacy traditional approach of ‘Yesteryear’, and have not yet caught up with the world of virtualisation.

SDS simply put, is taking a fresh view of the existing challenges in the storage arena, and providing a more dynamic, scale-out distributed solution based on commodity hardware, that is better suited to the hypervisor workloads commonly found in the ’Wild’ today.

As more capacity and performance is required in a scale-out environment provided by SDS, additional nodes are added in to the configuration on the fly to provide a predictable, repeatable increase to both metrics.

This performance gain is a linear increase; as with each new node the additional disks provide an increase in performance in the same way as legacy array would with extra shelves attached. However each new node also provides compute resource comparable to adding extra controllers in to an array. The key difference here is unlike a SAN array, that is hard coded to a maximum number of controllers, SDS can continually reap this benefit for each cycle of expansion.

The scale-out architecture adopted by SDS, overlaps with the web-scale approach originally pioneered by the likes of Google, Facebook and AWS; hardware is deployed based entirely on the current or short term requirements, then scaled up (or indeed down) as required. Huge CAPEX expenditures or procuring hardware based on what MIGHT be needed in one or three years is simply not needed.

Where SDS solutions are based on generic x86 commodity hardware, vendor lock in can be avoided, whilst also providing a greater degree of flexibility - not only in the initial implementation and procurement, but also in hardware lifecycle management, with ‘fork lift’ upgrades of expensive purpose built hardware becoming a thing of the past. 

With this revised approach to provisioning storage, the mindset changes from a ‘Gold plated’ hardware solution that has multiple tiers of resiliency with a premium price tag, to a comparatively cheap to deploy/replace solution where the resiliency is built in to the software on the premise that the hardware will fail. 

SDS still provides the majority of features we are used to seeing in the enterprise such as Replication, Snapshots, and Deduplication etc... In addition, advancements in technology that happen year on year providing more compute power in the same form factor, coupled with reduced cost of flash storage, means that historically tagged ‘Premium’ features such as ‘Caching’ and SSD tiering are achievable at much more attractive prices. 

So in summary there are now several SDS solutions on the market available as both Open source and commercial offerings, integrated x86 appliances or as standalone software suites, that provide a cost-effective alternative to using traditional ageing technology, not optimized for the virtualised environments widely in existence today …

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to look at alternative software defined storage solutions, and the benefits that can be experienced by your business.

Gyrocom are proud to work with leading vendors in this space, so pick up the phone and give us a call on 08456 123 994, or email info@gyrocom.co.uk.

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Topics: SDS, Software defined storage, commodity hardware