Best Software-Defined Storage (SDS) Companies & Vendors

With enterprises rushing to deploy software defined storage solutions, the list of vendors offering SDS solutions has grown very long. In fact, nearly every storage vendor offers at least one solution that it labels “software defined.”

SDS Resources:

However, according to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), true software defined storage solutions include the following characteristics:

  • Automation – Simplified management that reduces the cost of maintaining the storage infrastructure
  • Standard Interfaces – APIs for the management, provisioning and maintenance of storage devices and services
  • Virtualized Data Path – Block, File and/or Object interfaces that support applications written to these interfaces
  • Scalability – Seamless ability to scale the storage infrastructure without disruption to the specified availability or performance
  • Transparency – The ability for storage consumers to monitor and manage their own storage consumption against available resources and costs

Few of the SDS products on the market today completely meet all of these characteristics. Some analysts have even argued that no SDS companies offer a product with all the capabilities that a SDS solution should have.

With that caveat in mind, EnterpriseStorageForum compiled a list of 17 SDS leaders. It includes enterprise IT behemoths, small startups and plenty of companies in between. Some offer software only; some offer converged (or hyperconverged) appliances. One offers only hardware but has so many partnerships with SDS software vendors that it was worth including in the list.

Survey results: Data Storage Trends 2018 provides the most comprehensive portrait of storage today, from technology to hiring trends to budget decisions – including the rise of software defined storage.

Each of the vendors listed has become fairly popular and has been widely reviewed by journalists and analysts. Also, please note that this is a list, not a ranking, and the software defined storage vendors are listed in alphabetical order:

Jump to SDS Vendor Comparison Chart

1. HiveIO

For companies setting up a platform as a service (PaaS), virtual desktop infrastructure or another application that requires shared storage, HiveIO’s Hive Fabric promises simple management and low costs. However, it is not as feature-rich as some of the other software-defined storage (SDS) solutions available, and the company has not been around for very long.

Founded in 2015, HiveIO is one of the youngest software-defined storage vendors in the market. In 2017 it acquired Atlantis Computing, an SDS vendor founded in 2006 that had raised approximately $32.3 million in funding and received multiple industry awards. HiveIO is headquartered in Hoboken, New Jersey and is privately held. It has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Rally Ventures, Citrix Systems, Inc., Osage Venture Partners (OVP) and El Dorado Ventures.

HiveIO’s flagship product is its Hive Fabric platform for datacenter virtualization, which includes SDS capabilities.

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2. Cisco

Cisco is encouraging its customers to adopt software defined storage, but it doesn’t actually offer any SDS software of its own. Instead, it has partnerships with multiple SDS vendors, including IBM, Red Hat, Scality, Cohesity, DataCore, Hedvig, Nexenta, StorMagic and VMware. It positions its Unified Computing System (UCS) S-Series line of storage servers as the ideal hardware to pair with SDS software from various vendors.

Key features of the UCS S-Series servers include modular architecture, up to 600 TB of data storage, dual server nodes with Intel Xeon processors, I/O expansion capabilities, support for NVMe and flash, policy-based storage management and support for Ethernet or FibreChannel. Prices start at $26,666.67. Sales are handled primarily through resellers, and service and support are also available.

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3. DataCore

Founded in 1998, DataCore Software was one of the earliest proponents of storage virtualization and software defined storage. Its flagship product is SANsymphony, its software defined storage solution, which recently set a new world record for performance and price-performance on the Storage Performance Council’s SPC-1 benchmark.

The company promotes SANsymphony as a way to improve availability, optimize performance, reduce costs and centralize management of storage, and it targets customers in the healthcare, government and education sectors. DataCore claims that customers report a 75 percent reduction in storage costs, 10 times faster performance, a 100 percent reduction in storage-related downtime and 90 percent greater productivity on routine storage tasks. Key features include Parallel I/O Technology for fast performance, high availability, efficient asynchronous replication, continuous data protection, low total cost of ownership (TCO) and single-pane management. It supports up to 64 server nodes and can run natively in Windows or the Hyper-V kernel or as a VM with a Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer or KVM hypervisor.

SANSymphony is available through resellers, and pricing is based on storage capacity, nodes, and optional features. Support and service are also available.

Although SANSymphony is a software-only product, the company also offers an appliance that integrates Lenovo hardware with DataCore’s SDS software. In addition, it has a virtual SAN product and a database acceleration tool called MaxParallel for SQL Server.

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4. Dell EMC

Dell EMC offers three different products as a part of its complete lineup of software defined storage solutions. VxRail is a hyperconverged system with software-defined storage that is designed for Vmware environments. It offers object storage only. Key features include hyperconverged architecture, deep integration with VMware tools and SmartFabric Services to simplify deployment. Pricing is available on request.

Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) is Dell EMC’s SDS solution for object and file storage. It’s available as an appliance, software-only or as a managed cloud service. According to the company, it offers 48 percent lower TCO than public cloud services, and it is ideal for service providers, healthcare, life sciences, surveillance and media and entertainment companies. Key features include flexible deployment, 7.8 PB capacity per rack, enterprise-grade durability and availability, global access and native metadata search. Pricing is available on request, and a trial download is available for free.

IsilonSD Edge is Dell EMC’s SDS solution for SMBs and remote offices. It’s a software-only solution that runs on industry-standard hardware (including Dell servers and storage systems). It supports up to 36 TB of capacity per node. Other key features include multiprotocol support, high utilization of storage resources, integration with VMware ESX, Isilon OneFS operating system, data management, data protection and enhanced software support. Pricing starts at $24,450.00.

And of course, Dell also offers industry standard hardware suitable for use in SDS systems.

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5. FalconStor

FalconStor has been at the center of some controversy in recent years, and last fall, it was delisted from the NASDAQ exchange. Currently, its only product is FreeStor, its software-only SDS offering that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. According to the company, 23 percent of the Fortune Global 500 use Falconstor.

FreeStor’s key features include data migration capabilities, continuous availability, data protection and recovery, storage optimization features, heterogeneous analytics, secure multi-tenancy and support for flash. Pricing is available on request.

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6. Hedvig

Hedvig is a pure-play software defined storage vendor. It offers the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform, which is a software-only product that it describes as “a unified data fabric for private and multi-cloud.” It claims its platform reduces storage costs by up to 60 percent, and it says that it offers the “most complete” SDS solution with block, file and object storage that works with any OS, hypervisor or private or public cloud platform.

Key features include thin provisioning, encryption, client and server-side flash/SSD caching, zero-impact volume snapshots and clones, inline deduplication and compression, hybrid multisite replication, support for up to 1,000 nodes and container support. Pricing is available on request.

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7. HPE

In the past, HPE sold a software-defined storage product, but now it only offers a complete software-defined data center platform that includes SDS capabilities. HPE’s OneView is a complete IT management solution that offers software-defined storage, compute and networking capabilities. To use it, you’ll need to be using supported HPE hardware. The company claims that it reduces storage deployment time by 46 percent and results in 68 percent less unplanned downtime. It includes a global dashboard, security, remote support and more. Pricing starts at just $72.99.

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8. IBM

IBM offers a bundle of software defined storage products that it calls the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, and the individual components of the suite are also available for purchase. The suite includes IBM Spectrum Control for analytics-driven automation of storage provisioning, capacity management, availability monitoring and reporting; Spectrum Archive for low-cost archive storage; Spectrum Virtualize for storage virtualization, Spectrum Scale storage management for big data analytics, Spectrum Accelerate for software defined block storage that runs on industry standard hardware; and IBM Cloud Object Storage, the company’s cloud-based object storage service.

The Accelerate piece of the suite is the most critical for deploying SDS, and its key features include ease of management, flexible consumption, fast access to data and seamless data flow. It’s also available as a service through IBM Cloud.

The full suite offers flat pricing on a per-terabyte basis, but you have to contact the company to find out what that price per terabyte is. Accelerate licensing costs are also available on request.

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9. NetApp

Netapp offers a wide range of enterprise storage solutions, including a software defined offering called ONTAP Select. It promises “cloudlike agility” for on-premises storage based on “the industry’s leading data management software.” NetApp promotes ONTAP for remote offices, ruggedized deployments (such as emergency response situations) and hybrid cloud, as well as for general data center use.

Key features of ONTAP Select include support for commodity hardware, support for any OS and hypervisor, SSD or HDD support, simplified operations, fast deployment and scaling of storage resources, data reduction, data protection and dynamic workload scaling and balancing.

Pricing is based on the number of nodes or virtual machines, and it is available on request. The company also offers a free 90-day trial of the software.

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10. Nexenta

Nexenta’s logo proclaims that it’s the “global leader in software defined storage.” It offers three different SDS-related software products: NexentaStor unified block and file storage, Nexenta Edge high-performance, scale-out block and object storage and Nexenta Fusion for monitoring, analytics and orchestration when using its other two products. Through partnerships with a variety of hardware manufacturers, it also offers fully configured appliances that incorporate its NexentaStor software.

NexentaStor is an award-winning unified SDS platform that offers enterprise-grade data integrity, performance scaling into the petabytes, unlimited file system sizes, inline data reduction, unlimited space-optimized snapshots and clones, periodic or continuous asynchronous long-distance replication, VMware integration and support for Docker and OpenStack. The company touts it as a good option for generic NAS file services and Home Directory storage, archive and backup, and cloud backend storage for VMware, OpenStack or CloudStack. There’s a free 45-day trial, and pricing is available on request.

For object storage, Nexenta offers Nexenta Edge. This is a more advanced SDS product with inline deduplication, compression, Quick Erasure Coding (Quick EC), Docker Datacenter integration, a Web-based GUI, superior data protection and support for high-performance, all-flash arrays. As with NexentaStor, a free 45-day trial is available, but customers will need to contact the company for pricing.

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11. Nutanix

Nutanix offers software defined infrastructure, which includes SDS, as well as hyperconverged appliances. Available as software-only or as an appliance, its Enterprise Cloud platform includes Prism infrastructure management, Acropolis hyperconverged infrastructure, Calm application automation and lifecycle management, and Xi cloud services.

The company offers solutions for VDI, cloud computing, big data, remote and branch offices, and data protection and disaster recovery, and it targets the education, energy and utilities, financial services, healthcare, retail, service provide and government sectors. Key features of the Enterprise Cloud platform include the ability to run any application at any scale, fast time-to-value, simplified storage, built-in resiliency, application and data protection, and non-disruptive upgrades.

In addition to the standard editions of the software, with pricing available upon request, the company offers a free community version and an Xpress version for smaller organizations, with prices starting at $25,000.

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12. Red Hat

Red Hat offers two software defined storage products, both based on open source technology. Ceph Storage offers unified block, object and file storage. It’s well-suited for cloud infrastructure, data analytics, media repositories and backup and recovery systems, and it is especially popular with OpenStack users. Key features include flexible storage policies, data durability via erasure coding or replication, advanced monitoring and diagnostics, multisite and disaster recovery options, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SLA-backed technical support and compatibility with Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and NFS. Pricing available upon request.

Formerly known as Red Hat Storage Server, Gluster Storage is a file-storage solution that is best for backup, archiving, analytics and similar applications. Customers can run it on bare metal, virtual machines, containers or in the cloud. Key features include fast deployment, automatic storage tiering, open source licensing, agile storage capacity, easy management and no vendor lock-in. Pricing is available upon request.

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13. Scality

With 500 million users, Scality claims to be the “world leader in object and cloud storage.” Its customers include Time Warner Cable, Bloomberg Media, Comcast, Rackspace, Renault, Staples and many others.

According to the company, its software defined storage product, RING, reduces costs by up to 90 percent compared to traditional storage arrays and offers a 229 percent return on investment (ROI). It’s a scale-out file and object storage solution with features like distributed architecture, peer-to-peer routing and object storage, policy-based data protection, self-healing, native multi-site support, 100 percent reliability and Amazon S3 compatibility. Pricing is available on request.

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14. StarWind

Founded in 2003, StarWind offers Virtual SAN (VSAN) and virtual tape library (VTL) software as well as hyperconverged appliances. The company targets its VSAN product at organizations that want to incorporate legacy hardware into their SDS solution, as well as those that want to reduce costs.

According to StarWind, its VSAN offers “more features than any alternative software defined storage platform.” Those features include a simple base configuration, asynchronous replication, in-line and offline deduplication, log-structuring, multi-tiered RAM and flash cache, perpetual licensing, easy management, a minimalistic I/O path, automated storage tiering, grid architecture and Web-based management.

StarWind VSAN comes in standard, enterprise, and datacenter editions, and a free product is also available. Pricing for the other editions is available on request.

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15. StorPool

StorPool boasts that its distributed block storage is “arguably the fastest and most efficient software defined storage solution on the market today.” Designed for public and private cloud environments, it integrates with OpenStack, OpenNebula, CloudStack, OnAPP, VMware and other cloud computing software.

StorPool’s key features include high-performance scale-out block storage, advanced data-integrity capabilities, high availability, thin provisioning, snapshots and clones, trim and zeroes detection, data tiering, write back cache, self-healing and QoS. Pricing is available on request.

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16. StorMagic

While most of the SDS vendors target a variety of use cases, StorMagic focuses on just one: software defined storage for edge computing. Its SvSAN was designed for remote and branch offices, industrial IoT and other environments where organizations need storage at the edge of their networks but find it cost-prohibitive to install a traditional SAN or NAS appliance.

SvSAN supports VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. Key features include synchronous mirroring, stretched/metro cluster support, volume migration, VSA restore, VMware vSphere integration, atomic test and set, write same, centralized monitoring and management, remote witness, predictive storage caching and more.

The product comes in two editions — standard or advanced — and pricing for both is available on request. A free trial is also available. In addition, the company offers pre-configured hyperconverged appliances in partnership with Cisco and Lenovo.

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17. VMware

Used by more than 10,000 customers, VMware’s vSAN is a software defined storage solution that integrates with the company’s popular vSphere software. It has won numerous accolades, including being named as a leader in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure.

Ideal for organizations that run vSphere, vSAN is tightly integrated with the VMware hypervisor and boasts very fast performance. Other key features include integration with other VMware management tools, native HCI encryption, low TCO, flash-optimized, granular non-disruptive scale-up or scale-out, deduplication, compression, erasure coding, QoS, Cloud Analytics, policy-based management and more.

VMware vSAN comes in standard, advanced or enterprise editions, as well as special versions for VDI and remote office/branch office applications. The company also offers a hands-on lab where potential customers can try the software. VMware has a licensing guide that explains in-depth how it calculates fees, but actual pricing is available only on request.

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SDS Vendor Comparison Chart

Vendor SDS Product(s) Type Key Features Pricing
HiveIO (formerly Atlantis Computing) Hive Fabric Software only ● fast performance
● simple management
● hassle-free deployment
● cost savings
● shared storage
Available on request.
Cisco Cisco UCS Hardware-only (software available through partners) ● modular architecture
● up to 600TB of data storage
● dual server nodes with Intel Xeon processors
● I/O expansion capabilities
● support for NVMe and flash
● policy-based storage management
● support for Ethernet or FibreChannel
$26,666.67 and up
DataCore SANSymphony Software-only (integrated appliances available through Lenovo) ● Parallel I/O Technology for fast performance
● high availability
● efficient asynchronous replication
● continuous data protection
● low total cost of ownership (TCO)
● single-pane management
Product available through resellers. Licensing fees depend on storage capacity and selected features.
Dell EMC VxRail Hyperconverged appliance ● combine VMware vSAN and Dell EMC PowerEdge servers
● hyperconverged architecture
● deep integration with VMware tools
● SmartFabric Services to simplify deployment
● single point of support for hardware and software
● reduces costs up to 52%
● scales up to 64 nodes
Available on request.
Dell EMC Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) Software-only, appliance or managed cloud service ● flexible deployment
● 7.8 PB capacity per rack
● enterprise-grade durability and availability
● global access
● native metadata search
Available on request.
Dell EMC IsilonSD Edge Software-only ● ideal for SMBs and remote offices
● up to 36 TB of capacity per node
● multiprotocol support
● high utilization of storage resources
● integration with VMware ESX
● Isilon OneFS operating system
● data management
● data protection
● enhanced support
$24,450.00 and up
FalconStor FreeStor Software-only ● data migration capabilities
● continuous availability
● data protection and recovery
● storage optimization
● heterogeneous analytics
● secure multi-tenancy
● support for flash
Available on request.
Hedvig Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform Software-only ● unified block, file and object storage
● thin provisioning
● encryption
● client and server-side flash/SSD caching
● zero-impact volume snapshots and clones
● inline deduplication and compression
● hybrid multisite replication
● support for up to 1,000 nodes
● container support
Available on request.
HPE OneView Software-only (hardware also available) ● Unified management for software-defined compute, storage and networking
● APIs that enable infrastructure as code
● map view
● smart search
● dashboard, monitoring and reporting
● remote management
Starts at $72.92
IBM IBM Spectrum Storage Suite Software-only or software with cloud services ● support for industry standard hardware and cloud services
● ease of management
● flexible consumption
● fast access to data
● seamless data flow
Pricing per terabyte; available on request.
NetApp ONTAP Select Software-only (hardware also available from vendor) ● support for commodity hardware
● support for any OS and hypervisor
● SSD and/or HDD support
● simplified operations
● fast deployment and scaling of storage resources
● data reduction
● data protection
● dynamic workload scaling and balancing
Available on request; based on the number of nodes or VMs.
Nexenta NexentaStor Software-only (also available in an appliance through partnerships with hardware manufacturers.) ● block and file storage
● enterprise-grade data integrity
● performance scaling into the petabytes
● unlimited file system sizes
● inline data reduction
● unlimited space-optimized snapshots and clones
● periodic or continuous asynchronous long-distance replication
● VMware integration
● support for Docker and OpenStack
Available on request.
Nexenta Nexenta Edge Software-only ● object storage
● inline deduplication
● compression
● Quick Erasure Coding (Quick EC)
● Docker Datacenter integration
● web-based GUI
● superior data protection
● support for high-performance, all-flash arrays
Available on request.
Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform Software-only or hyperconverged appliances ● software defined infrastructure (not just storage)
● the ability to run any application at any scale
● fast time to value
● simplified storage
● built-in resiliency
● built-in resiliency
● non-disruptive upgrades.
Community edition is free. Xpress edition starts at $25,000. Other pricing on request.
Red Hat Ceph Storage Software-only ● unified block, object and file storage
● open source licensing
● flexible storage policies
● data durability via erasure coding or replication
● advanced monitoring and diagnostics
● multisite and disaster recovery options
● Red Hat Enterprise Linux included
● SLA-backed technical support
● compatibility with Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and NFS
Available on request.
Red Hat Gluster Storage Software-only ● file storage
● fast deployment
● automatic storage tiering
● open source licensing
● agile storage capacity
● easy management
● no vendor lock-in
Available on request.
Scality RING Software-only ● scale-out file and object storage solution
● distributed architecture
● peer-to-peer routing
● policy-based data protection
● self-healing
● native multi-site support
● 100 percent reliability
● Amazon S3 compatibility
Available on request.
StarWind Virtual SAN (VSAN) Software-only or software with a hyperconverged appliance ● simple base configuration
● asynchronous replication
● in-line and offline deduplication
● log-structuring
● multi-tiered RAM and flash cache
● perpetual licensing
● easy management
● a minimalistic I/O path
● automated storage tiering
● grid architecture
● Web-based management
Free version available; pricing for other editions available on request.
StorPool StorPool Software-only ● high-performance scale-out block storage
● advanced data-integrity capabilities
● high availability
● thin provisioning
● snapshots and clones
● trim and zeroes detection
● data tiering
● write back cache
● self-healing
● QoS
Available on request.
StorMagic SvSAN Software-only; hyperconverged appliances available through partners ● support for edge computing environments
● synchronous mirroring
● stretched/metro cluster support
● volume migration
● VSA restore
● VMware vSphere integration
● atomic test and set, write same
● centralized monitoring and management
● remote witness predictive storage caching
Available on request.
VMware vSAN Software-only ● vSphere integration
● native HCI encryption
● low TCO
● optimization for flash
● granular non-disruptive scale-up or scale-out capabilities
● deduplication
● compression
● erasure coding
● QoS
● Cloud Analytics
● policy-based management
Available on request.

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10 data storage trends to watch in 2018


combines VMware vSAN and Dell EMC PowerEdge servers
Cynthia Harvey
Cynthia Harvey
Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years.

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