Buying Guide: Software-Defined Storage

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Who’s who in software-defined storage (SDS)? Pretty much everyone claims to be an expert.

Here are some of the more interesting market entries. While some of the established names are included, we tried to broaden the search and also cover some less well-known approaches to SDS.

Infinidat InfiniBox

Infinidat sees SDS evolving. Companies want to focus on core competencies – those activities that best drive growth and profitable revenue for their businesses. In most cases, that isn’t IT infrastructure. SDS facilitates this by offering the flexibility to run software on any hardware. However, from the viewpoint of most companies with limited IT resources, the integration and testing should be owned and underwritten by the software vendor in order to provide users with a solution that meets SLAs while also driving lower costs.

“The rise of software-defined storage is a direct result of legacy storage platforms’ struggles with economics and flexibility,” said Steve Kenniston, vice president of product marketing, Infinidat. “However, there are few organizations large enough to allocate the necessary resources to effectively use software-only storage solutions as a true replacement for modern, integrated storage solutions.”

Infinidat seeks to change that with InfiniBox. Kenniston believes that the future of SDS will be to provide greater scale, higher reliability and better performance, with better integration within solutions and to other applications in the client’s environment, including cloud offerings. The onus for doing that will be put back on the storage vendor, so that their customers can focus on their core competencies to drive profitable revenues for their stakeholders, as opposed to getting into the systems integration and interoperability testing business.


One candidate that is regarded as being more software defined than many other so-called SDS products is SwiftStack. It has no fixed hardware configurations, allowing freedom to choose any server hardware desired. This takes the hassle out of migration as well as provisioning. One of the disruptive aspects of SDS tools such as SwiftStack is that the software is licensed for the amount of data stored, and not the total amount of hardware capacity. This allows users to pay-as-they-grow with annual licenses.

“With software defined, the latest new hardware introduced years later is taken advantage of and old hardware can be life-cycled, without any impact on the availability of data and any need to migrate,” said Mario Blandini, vice president of marketing, SwiftStack.

HPE StoreVirtual VSA

HPE StoreVirtual VSA is storage software that runs in a VM on any virtualized server (VMware, Hyper-V, or KVM) and turns any media presented to it via the hypervisor into shared storage. It presents out to all physical and virtual hosts in the environment as an iSCSI array. Unique to StoreVirtual, VSA is said to have the ability to run on any x86 platform and any hypervisor. Additionally, StoreVirtual VSA is part of an integrated family of solutions, including StoreVirtual arrays and HPE’s hyper-converged systems, that share the same storage OS.

HPE StoreOnce VSA

StoreOnce VSA is software-defined storage from HPE that provides backup and recovery for virtualized environments. It enables users to reduce the cost of secondary storage by eliminating the need for a dedicated backup appliance. It shares the same deduplication algorithm and storage features as the StoreOnce Disk Backup family, including the ability to replicate bi-directionally from physical backup appliance to SDS.

Metalogix StoragePoint

Up to 95 percent of all SharePoint content is unstructured, referred to as BLOBs (Binary Large Objects). BLOBs quickly overwhelm the SQL database that powers SharePoint, resulting in a poorly performing environment that is expensive to maintain and grow, and that frequently does not adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements. Additionally, many rich media formats are too large to store in SQL Server due to technical limitations, resulting in a collaboration platform that cannot address all the content needs of an organization.

StoragePoint optimizes SharePoint Storage using Remote Blob Storage (RBS). Whether you are unable to store all your content due to file size, user query times slow down or backups begin to fail, it provides a way to address these issues. It externalizes SharePoint content so it can be stored and managed anywhere. An automated rules engine places content in the most appropriate storage locations based on the type, criticality, age and frequency of use.

VMware vSAN

Previously known as VMware Virtual SAN, vSAN addresses hyper-converged infrastructure systems. It aggregates locally attached disks in a vSphere cluster to create storage that can be provisioned and managed from the vCenter and vSphere Web Client tools. This enables organizations to evolve their existing virtualization environment with the only natively integrated vSphere solution. It leverages many server hardware platforms to deploy an ecosystem of supported software.

“With vSAN, IT departments can reduce TCO [total cost of ownership] by up to 50 percent or more thanks to server-side economics, affordable flash, on-demand scaling and simplified day-to-day operations,” said Lee Caswell, vice president of products, storage and availability, VMware. “Hyper-converged storage powered by vSAN can be expanded into a complete software-defined storage solution that provides the foundation for a multi-cloud architecture, delivering a common enterprise storage platform that extends from on-premises deployments to the public cloud.”

Microsoft S2D

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) is part of Windows Server 2016. It can be combined with Storage Replica (SR), which is also part of Windows Server 2016, along with resilient file system (ReFS) cache tiering to create scale-out, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software-defined storage for Windows Servers and Hyper-V environments.

“It is part of Windows Server, so it has the ability to leverage existing and known tools as well as flexible configuration deployment options,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group.


Pivot3’s virtual storage and compute operating environment, known as vSTAC, is said to maximize overall resource utilization, providing efficient fault tolerance and giving IT the flexibility to deploy on a wide range of x86 platforms. A distributed scale-out architecture pools compute and storage from each HCI node into high-availability clusters, accessible by every VM and application. Its Scalar Erasure Coding is said to be more efficient than network RAID or replication protection schemes, and it maintains performance during degraded mode conditions.

The vSTAC OS also consumes less than 10 percent of overhead on each x86 platform. By converging compute, storage and VM management, Pivot3 automates systems management with capabilities including self-optimizing, self-healing and self-monitoring. The Pivot3 vCenter plugin provides a single pane of glass to simplify management of single and multi-site deployments.

“As data centers modernize to be more agile, efficient and economic, policy-based management of software-defined infrastructures is key and will become a greater priority for businesses in 2017,” said George Wagner, sr. product marketing manager, Pivot3. “Businesses are moving quickly into the world of HCI and software-defined data centers, and QoS technology must evolve from static to more dynamic implementations to meet the needs of IT.”

Other Worthy Candidates

Of course, there are plenty of other worthy candidates, but we don’t have room to detail them all here. These include Hitachi Data Systems, Coraid, Red Hat Storage Server (Ceph), Scality, Hedvig, Cohesity, Datacore, Dell EMC ScaleIO and ECS, IBM, NetApp StorageGrid, and Starwind. There are many others that should be included, but this will do for now as a decent sampling.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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