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Is VSA the future of software-defined storage?

By Kate Davis, @KateAtHP, WW Product Marketing Manager, HP StoreVirtual Storage

 

HP on software-defined storage: why VSA is the future

 

KateDavis.jpgIn my last post, I posed a question: How do you define software-defined storage? I offered up a base definition of what software-defined storage means to HP. Since then IDC has released a new taxonomy on software-defined storage which includes this definition:

 

IDC defines software-based storage as any storage software stack that can be installed on any commodity resources (x86 hardware, hypervisors, or cloud) and/or off-the-shelf computing hardware and used to offer a full suite of storage services and federation between the underlying persistent data placement resources to enable data mobility of its tenants between these resources.(1)

 

Our definitions are very similar: industry-standard hardware layered with feature-rich storage software.

If you think about it, software-defined doesn’t mean software-only. There’s no requirement that a hypervisor layer must be in the mix. It’s left open to allow the end-user to decide what’s best for their infrastructure. But focusing on the software, the biggest benefit the application brings to the environment is the increased utilization of the hardware infrastructure already in place with the addition of better efficiency all around.

 

4 reasons Virtual Storage Appliances (VSA) are the future

 

So why has the storage software option become a more viable alternative? It’s due to four factors:

 

  1. New, more powerful servers are widely available to now provide a robust platform that can handle serving apps and storage services.
  2. The wide adoption of virtualization creates demand for highly available shared storage that performs well with virtual machines.
  3. The increase in solid-state disk performance and capacity now has software-based storage performing more than adequately (and sometimes better) than ever before.
  4. Economic pressures have forced business leaders to analyze how they can reduce power and cooling costs as well as footprint within the data center.

 SDSrevised2.jpg

All of these factors have shown a dramatic increase in demand for virtual storage appliances to better tackle these issues.

 

Let’s take a look at the HP StoreVirtual products.

 

When LeftHand Networks first started about 10 years ago, it was not a hardware company. LeftHand made storage software. Industry-standard hardware from different vendors was chosen to create their appliances. What that entails is a ground-up approach to writing storage software that is independent of the infrastructure that it runs on.

 

This approach has allowed us at HP to create storage appliances on a variety of rack and blade systems and also a virtual storage appliance that runs in a virtual machine (VM). Not everyone can do this. It’s hard to take software that’s been written for a dual-controller architecture and turn it into a software-defined storage solution. Traditional storage software has been written specifically for the hardware that it’s running on.

 

Now let’s compare approaches to VSAs.

 

When comparing different VSA approaches, there are typically two camps: legacy storage vendors such as EMC and NetApp that are trying to create a new software model and new startups that are focused specifically on a VSA product.

 

The challenge that hardware vendors have is that they are trying to force fit legacy architecture into a software-defined VSA model. Core features, such as high availability, were designed with hardware in mind—dual-controllers being the most evident example. Those hardware features simply do not translate into a software -defined model where the hardware is unknown to the VSA vendor. If dual controllers are used for high availability—and you move the architecture to a single controller system, such as an industry standard server—what happens to the availability model?  For HP, our Network RAID inherently provides data availability and data protection for these situations—a critical requirement for production environments. 

 

On the flipside, new software vendors have their own set of challenges. While they are designing products specifically for the software-defined market, any production-capable storage offering should have several key features—for example, centralized and remote management, call-home functionality, and disaster recovery protection (such as being able to recover data from snapshots or back up to an offsite location). Many of these startups simply haven’t been around long enough to fully develop and integrate today’s core storage requirements.

 

HP StoreVirtual VSA has been in production since 2007 and other vendors are trying to catch up.  Key StoreVirtual VSA features include:

 

  • Easy to use deployment tool
  • Scale-out clustering
  • Hypervisor independence (supporting both ESX and Hyper-V)
  • Network RAID for high availability
  • Thin provisioning
  • Federation  

Where HP differs is that our StoreVirtual products are designed primarily at the software layer and then applied to industry-standard hardware. So extracting that software as a virtual storage appliance is a natural process.

 

It will be interesting to see what happens with the storage market as companies start adopting more software-defined storage options. Care to make any predictions?

 

I invite you to comment below or connect with @HPStorageGuy or me, @KateAtHP, on Twitter if you are interested in joining the conversation

 

The software-defined storage conversation continues on Around the Storage Block.

 

(1)“IDC’s Worldwide Software-Based (Software-Defined) Storage Taxonomy, 2013,” IDC, #240500, April 2013.

 

 

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This profile is for team blog articles posted. See the Byline of the article to see who specifically wrote the article.
About the Author(s)
  • 25+ years experience around HP Storage. The go-to guy for news and views on all things storage..
  • This profile is for team blog articles posted. See the Byline of the article to see who specifically wrote the article.


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