With software-defined storage solutions and appliance-based products like Microsoft’s Azure StorSimple hybrid cloud storage promising increased affordability, the future of traditional storage area networks is in question. Or is it?
“Software-defined storage is beginning to open up a whole new venue for [people] to provide pretty good virtualization capabilities, and also to do a pretty good job of security under the right circumstances,” says Walt Hubis, storage architect and owner of Hubis Technical Associates, a storage consultancy in Lafayette, Colo. However, he believes that it’s not an out-and-out replacement for SANs. “I’m seeing it more as an adjunct, especially as we’ve moved into a lot of what I would consider to be lower-cost systems.” These less expensive solutions, he adds, could be suitable for many SMBs.
But for midsize or larger businesses requiring scalable solutions, Lazarus Vekiarides, CTO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, a storage services provider in Boston, notes that software-defined storage doesn’t necessarily eliminate the issues associated with traditional SANs. “You’re still going to have just as many disks as you had before, and just as many servers. Depending on the type of capabilities you want, you may even have more boxes than you had before because you may be doing complete mirroring,” he says.
Also, the components necessary to construct a software-defined solution don’t always play well together. “If you’ve ever tried to build a storage array, you quickly find out that … all these disks, they’re not created equal, they’re not equally tested, they don’t all work exactly the same, [and] there are all sorts of nuances to getting these things working.” For IT organizations, this requires a significant investment in human resources.
That said, equipped with the right skill sets, channel pros stand to benefit from including software-defined storage in their portfolios, argues George Crump, president and founder of Storage Switzerland LLC, a Dallas-based technology assessment and research firm. That’s not to say you should cut ties with your SAN providers; instead, it’s another option you can offer your customers. “The resellers that I’ve worked with to develop that kind of a model have been quite successful,” Crump says.
Hubis notes that regardless of the specific solution, it all comes down to management. “I think that’s probably where the existing SAN infrastructure has some benefits, because the management technique is well known, it’s well understood, and it’s comfortable for a lot of people,” he says. “As we look at the way that storage continues to expand and grow, I believe that management is going to be a key part of it.”