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Don't be conned over software-defined storage: how to spot the real deal

As with all technology success stories, software-defined storage is moving beyond hype because it so clearly delivers what businesses are crying out for.

Getting the real deal

As a new technology, however, business understanding of software-defined storage has not yet caught up with the tech itself. Unfortunately this means that it is all too easy for truly software-defined storage solutions to be lost amongst other products that claim to be software-defined but, in fact, are not.

In some cases a software-defined 'whitewash' has been applied to products that have been around for years and businesses must take care to ensure that what they are buying is the 'real deal'.

So how can they do that? First and foremost, a truly software-defined storage solution should be vendible as a pure software play. Certainly there is value in delivering the software as part of an integrated appliance. However, if the software requires proprietary hardware, this is usually a hint that all is not well. Software-defined storage worthy of its name must be able to support third-party commodity hardware so that the customer, if they wish to, could 'rack and stack' their own system (although this is of course not mandatory and the vendor can still, if required, build the system for the customer).

A truly software-defined storage solution will, moreover, deliver two things to businesses.

Firstly it will deliver management and automation capabilities that enable businesses to extract maximum value from their existing storage resources. It does this by abstracting existing storage assets into a virtual, software layer. This allows users to manage physical storage resources over a simple-to-use digital interface and automate provisioning. This makes a business' storage assets as easy to manage as those found in a typical public cloud alternative and delivers business advantage from day one.

Secondly, it offers hardware independence. For example, an organisation could use existing file storage capacity to store object data. This means that businesses can test REST-based applications on file based arrays before making a call on whether to invest in a dedicated scale-out infrastructure. If the latter, software-defined storage then allows the business to build a commodity infrastructure for the application without needing to rewrite the application itself. Step-by-step, businesses can create a storage infrastructure best suited to each individual application in a cost effective manner and with complete control.

The competitive imperative

The impact software-defined storage is already having on businesses should not be underestimated. By providing hyper-scale at the right cost profile it is delivering to all businesses capabilities that have traditionally only been available to a handful of technology specialists.

By so doing it is opening up the power of private cloud, mobile and big data applications to all. As Gartner has identified, the time is now ripe for all organisations to start migrating to software-defined storage. For those that make the journey the soonest, the benefits will be felt in terms of a business agility that will leave competitors trailing far behind.

  • Kate Canestrari is Director of Product Marketing, EMC Advanced Storage Division