Subject:::Software-Defined Storage: The Key to Futureproofing Data Centers - Next-Gen Service Provider
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November 13, 2013

Software-Defined Storage: The Key to Futureproofing Data Centers

The demand for inexpensive online storage is booming as consumer media is increasingly digitized and kept in the cloud.  According to Gartner, 36 percent of consumer content will be stored on the cloud by 2016, up from just seven percent in 2011. As this trend continues to skyrocket, the service providers that host this media will be required to balance ever-increasing demands for storage with profit margins and squeezed budgets.  To find a happy medium, many service providers are looking for greater flexibility in data center architecture and control over hardware costs.

Software-defined storage is one way to solve these problems. A software-defined approach to data center architecture moves features found in hardware to the software layer and frees providers from the dependency on server “appliances” with software tied in.

The Move to Software-Defined Storage

Although the term “software-defined” may seem like a recent trend, everyday electronic devices have been software-defined for years. For example, software installed on a PC can be installed on many different hardware platforms, allowing the end-user to customize both the hardware and software to meet their needs. An operating system like Linux can be installed on any PC, which allows for greater freedom to allocate budgets precisely as needed for specific tasks – whether an intense graphic design setup or a simple Web browser.

Even though there are definite benefits in flexibility, data centers have yet to embrace software-defined technologies. As is often the case, the upfront costs required to switch existing data center infrastructure to software-defined is delaying widescale adoption of the trend. However, given the sheer level of infrastructure in data centers, the outlays needed to switch systems can be very high indeed. Yet, there is no denying the increased rates of online content storage.

Data Centers Today

Existing data centers are comprised mainly of appliances – server hardware with proprietary, mandatory software baked in.  The software is designed for the hardware and vice versa, and comes packaged together in the same box. This can be a benefit for understaffed data centers that lack the tools and skills required to set up an in-house custom server deployment.  Yet since hardware inevitably fails, appliances traditionally include extra layers of identical hardware to anticipate and prevent failure.  These multiple copies of expensive components create higher costs in energy usage and add layers of complication to each appliance.  Since the actual cost per appliance is much higher than commodity servers, cost estimates often balloon outward when companies try to scale up their data centers...Read More

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