SDS: Software Defined Storage solutions


Software Defined everythingStill a very hot item in the ever strong developing IT landscape.

In the year 2012 ‘Software Defined’ looked like just another buzzword, but the market is changing direction more and more towards software defined solutions. The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) is nowadays supported by Software Defined Storage (SDS), Software Defined Network (SDN) and security solutions. All very cool stuff!! I want to take a closer look at SDS in this blog post.

So…What is Software Defined Storage? Everybody has an idea on what it should be. My idea of SDS matches the quote below:

Software-defined storage (SDS) is the process of using software-based techniques to create, deploy and manage storage resources and infrastructure. It enables abstracting or separating storage services from hardware devices by using software or programmatic access to extract and manipulate storage resources

Another cool quote by VMware on Duncan Epping’s blog describing SDS:

Abstract, Pool, Automate

As the first quote describes, a SDS solution should be 100% software and not being bound to specific hardware. It should be capable of abstracting the storage services from hardware devices. A SDS solution should, in my opinion, be able to leverage all types of underlying storage hardware. Meaning it should not make a difference if you utilize ‘local’ storage or some shared storage solutions.

In a nutshell; I think a SDS solution should enable you to create a highly scalable environment whilst maintaining performance and availability demands and allows for easy management and deployment. Next to that, it should integrate seamlessly with your hypervisor and other software solutions, ie your backup environment.

SDS should support your storage needs for your specific purposes by knowing what storage is high performance, highly available, replicated or whatever. In a perfect world you should be able to select just the storage characteristics you need for your deployment, and the SDS solution will take care of the rest in the background. VMware is taking major steps in these demands by introducing vVOL together with some major storage vendors. Software Defined StorageIt’s pretty awesome to see how vendors are positioning themselves within the SDS category. There are a bunch of products to create a Virtual SAN, or software to accelerate and/or prioritize your storage. On the other hand there are vendors who’s SDS solution is used for their (hyper) converged solutions and vendors who claim to use SDS for their specific hardware platforms. All good stuff and we will definitely try to test the majority of them!!


Virtual SAN solutions

Let’s take a look on some of the solutions available that allow you to create a virtual SAN. A virtual SAN is most commonly created out of localhost storage devices which are logically put together to form a distributed storage platform. Check out the list of software products for creating a Virtual SAN:

It’s funny to see that a few products listed above have been around for quite some time now. Datacore, HP, Nexenta and Starwind all have had some years developing their software already!

Although being different solutions, they practically all support the most important storage features like read and/or write caching on flash devices, thin provisioning, fault tolerance, etc. etc.. Click on the product listed above to check out their specific features!


Acceleration solutions

Another great example of SDS inventions are the ones which provide storage acceleration. These solutions are 100% software and fully support VMware vSphere. Especially Pernixdata as it integrates in the vSphere kernel!

Development is going strong! Atanlantis ILIO will definitly improve even further. Pernixdata FVP is working on a new release which will also support RAM based caching and NFS support. They even might support Hyper-V in the near future. Atlantis ILIO already does.


Hyper-converged solutions

These kind off solutions taking market share as we speak! Being a ‘datacenter-in-a-box’ these solutions provide a complete solution utilizing their software on their own hardware. The best known solutions are:

Both utilizing their own developed software to create a distributed file system as part of the complete solution. Be sure to check out both! I can imagine that they will eventually make their software available to their customers with the freedom to run it on other hardware then the appliances they are selling now.

Nutanix just recently announced an OEM deal with Dell. And I thought I did read they will sell the software separately in time. But, correct me if I’m wrong!


Having said all this; I guess the term Software Defined Storage is still open for some interpretation. Especially the part of SDS solutions being hardware independent. It is always nice to hear other perspectives on the matter, so feel free to share your opinion!

Note: I’m sure I forgot some other very cool vendors/start-ups, and I hope you will let me know which ones!!

Show 6 Comments


  1. Hi,

    Strange that you not mention/forget the VSA that exist the longest on the market: HP StoreVirtual VSA aka Lefthand. Already more than 7 years on the market… Good to see that it is, like you mention, hardware independent, and you don’t need from the start SSD’s, like you need with VSAN for instance…


  2. David M

    EMC ViPR is as close to an abstract control plane as I can think of for when we talk about the ‘abstract’ in abstract pool and automate.

    • Niels Hagoort

      Hi David, sorry for my ‘way-to-late’ reaction. Of course ViPR should be listed! Where ScaleIO is a solution to turn JBOD into a ‘virtual SAN’, ViPR seems to deliver the full package on SDS!

      Should be a great combo though; ViPR with(!) ScaleIO.

    • Thanks Dan for the mention!

      @Niels, let me know if you want more info about the open-source project Open vStorage! We can even do it in Dutch as we are from Belgium 😉

      Wim Provoost
      Product Manager Open vStorage

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