Software Defined Storage Reinvented

Cloud computing and virtualization have changed the landscape of IT forever. The abstraction of physical computing and networking resources through virtualization software has made IT much more responsive and nimble. Software-defined has become the IT industry’s buzzword and rightly so. Even VMware has boldly declared the Software Defined Data Center a couple of years ago.

Data and information, the lifeblood of all organizations, are kept in storage technology platforms. However, storage technology platforms remain the obstacle to realize full the potential cloud computing and virtualization. Historically, enterprise storage has followed a proprietary approach to physical hardware platform, and this has seen companies such as EMC, IBM, HP, NetApp and HDS establishing a deep foothold of the enterprise storage market. No doubt these companies are software driven, as their storage OSes and operating environments drive the proprietary implementations of their respective storage and data management technologies.

And there has been initial work to virtualize storage hardware as well. The Storage Virtualization technologies such as IBM’s SVC (SAN Volume Controller), HDS TagmaStore NSC (Network Storage Controller) and early versions of DataCore Symphony were what I would name as Software-Defined Storage (SDS) 1.0. But as the demands of greater flexibility of storage grow, the Software-Defined Storage has been evolving towards greater improvements that are able to match the agility, security and automation requirements of cloud computing and next generation virtualization.

SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association), the organization that represents the global storage networking industry, recognizes Software-Defined Storage in the context of the Software-Defined Data Center. In its annual dictionary definition, SNIA defines Software-Defined Storage as “Virtualized storage with a service management interface. SDS includes pools of storage with data service characteristics that may be applied to meet the requirements specified through the service management interface.” The full declaration of SNIA’s Software-Defined Storage can be found from this link. Last year, SNIA released the Software-Defined Storage whitepaper for benefit of the practitioners and professionals of the global storage industry.

In a neutral and balanced view, the diagram below depicts SNIA’s Software-Defined Storage concepts.

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Cloud computing and next generation virtualization demand greater storage resources agility, security and automation. The proprietary nature of Software-Defined Storage 1.0 is breaking down, giving way to Software-Defined Storage 2.0. We are beginning to see the elimination of proprietary legacy elements in SDS 2.0 and a new generation of technology vendors has emerged. Among these, ProphetStor is one of the Software-Defined Storage technology vendors leading SDS 2.0.

The foundation of Software-Defined Storage technology is storage virtualization. It requires the abstraction of any storage platforms, regardless of vendors, and the storage capacity resources to be pooled for provisioning to servers and applications up the stack. In SDS 1.0, the provisioned storage is either allocated as it is or tiered in a simplified fashion without any QoS (quality of service) or performance SLA (service level agreement). Interestingly, in SDS 1.0, many storage virtualization vendors choose to ignore the burgeoning storage platforms of the Intel x86 ODMs (original design manufacturers).

ProphetStor recognizes that SDS is not just about storage virtualization. Given the demands of business and operational agility and efficiency, SDS 2.0 has the responsibility to be much more. Whilst abstracting and virtualizing storage platforms, including Intel x86 ODM storage platforms via its FlexVisor technology, the ProphetStor Federator SDS reinvents SDS by defining storage performance QoS, having a patent-pending I/O traffic modelling algorithm which is able to predict applications storage usage, and a rich data management layer. At the same time, it is OpenStack-ready and is able to incorporate supported storage platforms through its Cinder volume driver to provision storage resources to OpenStack.

The diagram below shares the ProphetStor Federator SDS overview:

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The defined QoS allows the storage service administrator to define different policies or service buckets for the compute layer, depending on performance, level of protection and other data management features. Typically, most cloud service providers prescribe different storage SLAs such as Gold, Silver and Bronze to encapsulate the types of service offerings.

The benefits of SDS 2.0 are obvious. The storage virtualization engine of ProphetStor abstracts the underlying storage infrastructure layer. The pooling of capacity and performance resources from different storage vendor platforms creates aggregation, consistency and efficiency. Service architects and storage administrators do not have to be concerned about the different configurations and management framework of each storage platform, making it easy to design, provision and manage storage capacity and performance resources that are aligned to business needs.

Once storage capacity and performance resources are aggregated by ProphetStor, the underlying storage resources are less siloed, maximized with greater efficiencies and asset utilization. One very important feature of ProphetStor is the QoS. Without QoS, the precise provisioning of storage resources is always an art that has to be manually and constantly tweaked, depending on the business application needs at a particular time of the day. The QoS feature is significantly important to ensure that the right amount of resources are allocated accordingly to business applications.