What is Software-Defined Storage?

Written by Lynn Orlando

Written by Lynn Orlando

Published on March 13, 2020

Software-defined storage, or SDS, is a type of storage architecture that separates storage software from the storage hardware. It manages and unites all storage-area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) devices in your data center. SDS works on any industry-standard (i.e., x86) system, thus eliminating its dependence on proprietary hardware. This hardware-software split lets you increase your software-defined storage space as much as you want, whenever you want, without scrambling to add a piece of proprietary software.

You can also upgrade or downgrade hardware when you see fit. SDS is part of a vast ecosystem loosely defined as software-defined everything. All the software is split from all the hardware. This division gives you the freedom to choose what type of hardware you want to use and how much storage you’ll need.

SDS should have these features:

  • Automation–Simplified management that reduces costs
  • Standard interfaces–An application programming interface (API) to manage and perform maintenance on storage devices and services.
  • Virtualized data path–Supports apps written to APIs.
  • Scalability–Can expand storage infrastructure without disrupting performance
  • Transparency–Be able to oversee storage use while knowing availability and cost of resources.

How SDS Works

Software-defined storage (SDS) is used to manage data by abstracting data storage resources from underlying physical storage hardware. This creates resource flexiblity, which is combined with programmability to enable storage that can adapt to new demands immediately. SDSs software-independent nature makes it easy to manage and protect your data.

Advantages of SDS

SDS offers infinite flexibility and scalability. If you have several x86 servers that require different types of software to work, SDS lets you remove storage space on other, inflexible pieces of hardware and store everything in a single place with unlimited expansion availability.

You can build a storage structure by combining several data sources. You can utilize network object platforms, external disk systems, disk or flash resources, cloud-based services, and virtual servers to build a unified storage volume. Since SDS doesn’t depend on hardware, automation can pull directly from any storage volume. The storage system will adjust to SDS data requirements and performance without being disturbed by administrators or impeded by new connections or hardware.

Disks, enclosures, and networking components related to SDS are interchangeable, so the software intelligence that manages the hardware doesn’t need replacing. Innovations to SDS are always ahead of hardware, allowing SDS solutions to evolve when you develop new functions, including erasure-coding, deduplication and compression, encryption, cloud integration, and object and container storage.

Businesses need always-on data to ensure their websites are accessible to customers and clients 24/7. SDS (software-defined storage) achieves this by offering high availability, or HA, within a single database or across two databases that communicate via dark-fiber.

This is a type of N+1 architecture that requires 2 or more nodes. When one node fails, the second one will continue hosting production I/O without causing downtime to core applications. With 2 active/active SDS nodes provides a fully-automated failover infrastructure that virtually eliminates hardware-related downtime for hypervisors, databases, and applications.

SDS acts as a translator or bridge that can unify heterogeneous storage and keep it in a virtual storage pool. This helps administrators avoid many common issues that can occur when they merge data hosted in multi-vendor SANs.

SDS Deployment Models

Each feature and function on an SDS platform is run by several solutions. These solutions work in different ways: some on open source code, others on proprietary software code. Distributed File Services (DFS), object, or block-level storage can be used to manage internal structure of the SDS. Some platforms offer physical or virtual appliances, while others need to be downloaded and installed on your server or hyperserver. Doing thorough research will help you understand how different SDS platform solutions work.

There are three popular SDS deployment models. The most popular is the software-only model. It is extremely cost-effective, and can be adapted to your budget and infrastructure needs. You can either install SDS on an x86 server or on a VM, which enables you to run the platform as a virtual SAN without the server. You’ll get the same features that you would in an enterprise SAN, but at a much more affordable price. You won’t get stuck in vendor lock-in, giving you more leverage when you need to refresh your hardware.

The appliance and appliance + storage models have a lot of similarities. One main difference is that one comes with bundled storage capacity and no disks in the bare appliances. Each model powers computers at different levels. Their options are made to work with small, medium, and enterprise-sized companies. What works best for you depends on your needs.





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