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Does SDS Pose a New Risk for Enterprises?

Remember the days when you could pop the hood of your sputtering 1974 Chevy Caprice and fiddle with the carburetor or the throttle cable and somehow magically everything started to work again? Call it skill or call it luck, there was a time when getting your hands dirty to mend your ailing engine was part of the requirement to operate a motor vehicle.

Fast-forward 30 years and try to do the same with your brand spanking new Volvo. Everything is computer controlled and you find yourself lost in a myriad of sensors and actuators that you don’t have the slightest idea what they are for, much less what to do with them. Worry not, it’s not you. You haven’t lost your mechanical prowess; it’s just that your car got better. Much better. The car is basically computer controlled and software driven. Without special digital equipment, you can get your hands dirty all you want yet there’s not much you can do about the car even for a minor hiccup. In fact, pretty much everything else in life has got a microchip or two in it. People are getting used to it and all but few embraced this new high-tech world quite gracefully.

When things break, call the professionals.

Curiously, when the above concept was applied to the latest trend of software-defined storage technologies, it raised a few eyebrows. We all agree that the ultimate goal of SDS is to serve different applications better through automation such that allocation of storage resources can be done at a virtualized layer without having to deal with individual LUNs, world wide names, port addresses, or any other attributes associated with the underlying physical devices. The keyword here is automation. However, pundits of the industry warn that this very idea of isolating management from the actual storage constructs poses a new risk for enterprises as now they are at the mercy of the hardware vendors when anything goes wrong with their storage devices. IT managers will be spoiled by the easy-to-drive nature of various SDS implementations that they gradually lose their ability to resolve any hardware issues that inevitably hit every enterprise at certain point in time. They argue that SDS is merely a fancy name for the good old storage virtualization with a pretty graphical user interface, and it does not address the fundamental efficiency issues that plague the monitoring and management of the storage equipment.

Well, these pundits’ concerns are absolutely valid, but they are barking at the wrong tree. What we should be conscious about is that SDS as we know it today could be a lot better, and other than a handful of perceived obstacles, there’s nothing to stop the industry as a whole from making it better. So, just because a few DIY diehards refuse to give up control over their ownership of the hardware doesn’t mean that the world should cease to move forward. Storage will be commoditized. Hardware will be self-tuning, self healing, and isolated from the IT management, except a state-of-the-art monitoring and diagnosis system that keeps the storage administrator on top of any potential equipment health issues, and in case of failure, a standardized procedure to troubleshoot and engage vendor support if necessary.

Again, you are not a lesser driver if you don’t know how to change your engine oil. It’s OK to leave it to your favorite mechanic.