Software-Defined Storage Buying Guide


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Earlier articles in this series have focused on the definition of Software-Defined Storage (SDS) as well as tips on how to implement it. Now we review some of the vendors involved, beginning with what the leading storage vendors are up to in this space. We're also covering some of the challengers and startups who aim to shake things up in SDS.


Through acquisition and internal development, Dell has assembled an impressive array of storage technology over the past decade. Its SDS strategy hews closely to its core hardware competency. As such, it is partnering with SDS specialists and putting the emphasis on the delivery of a strong hardware platform that integrates well with the overlying SDS virtualization layer.

Dell’s focus is on validating and hardening multiple SDS stacks on Dell hardware as the company has found that most new hardware doesn’t work automatically with SDS software. Problems can range from the software not recognizing the new hardware to intermittent disk failures. It can also lead to poor visibility into hardware issues.

“We have been working closely with our SDS partners to harden the software stack to run on Dell servers,” said Chandra Mukhyala, SDS Solutions Manager, Dell Storage. “In the process, we came up with Hardware Compatibility Lists (HCLs) and optimized reference architectures for various workloads.”

Dell’s Blue Thunder initiative involves partnerships with other vendors to bring together a software-defined storage portfolio. This includes integrating its hardware with open source software as well as hypervisor and SDS vendors. This includes cooperation with VMware, Microsoft, Nutanix, Nexenta and Red Hat. The Dell XC Series appliances, for example, are based on Dell PowerEdge servers combined with Nutanix software and Dell global services and support.

“The XC series offers customers a hyper-converged solution that integrates storage, hypervisor and compute into a single platform and, as a result, increases overall savings and decrease time-to-value,” said Mukhyala. “After announcing our OEM agreement with Nutanix last year and delivering our first appliances in November, we already began shipping the Dell XC Series Version 2.0 appliances this February with additional models and form factors.”


HP Storage views software-defined storage as a hardware- and hypervisor-agnostic abstraction that provides both orchestration and data services. HP OneView provides a common orchestration layer between underlying storage and VMware, Microsoft, and Openstack environments. HP StoreVirtual VSA and HP StoreOnce VSA provide data services for primary storage and data protection.

As HP provides technology that embraces storage, networking and compute, it advocates hyper-convergence of all these elements. So it is looking well beyond SDS towards software-defined everything.

“Our customer base is rapidly embracing hyper-convergence with the HP ConvergedSystem 200-HC StoreVirtual as a simple building block for virtualized environments,” said Dale Degen, HP Worldwide Software-Defined Storage Category Manager.


IBM is another company that is making a big SDS play. But unlike Dell, it has internally created a plethora of SDS and software virtualization components that it has pieced together to provide a unified software-defined front.

IBM focuses on the management of storage hardware and encompasses virtual, physical or in the cloud, said David Hill, an analyst at Mesabi Group. Its Spectrum Storage Family includes too many elements to lay out fully. Underlying much of it is IBM Virtual Storage Center (VSC), and there are various Spectrum products dealing with storage management, data protection (based on Tivoli Storage Manager), archiving (LTFS tape), SAN virtualization (SAN Volume Controller), SDS (XIV software), and high performance NAS and object storage (GPFS file system). It’s a little complex but an impressive line-up of well-established components lies behind it. The goal is agility, control and efficiency.

“What IBM wants to convey is that a spectrum of complementary yet still separate products is needed in this increasingly diverse storage world,” said Hill. “An overlying theme that IBM weaves throughout the Spectrum Storage is the need for transformation of data economics including provisioning, utilization and management.”

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