Software-Defined Storage Market Overview

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Software-defined storage (SDS), a component of software-defined infrastructure, allows data centers to manage storage and IT resources with the automation and accuracy provided by software. 

The following market analysis and insight shows the major benefits of software-defined storage as well as its future as data center technology continues to shift: 

The Software-Defined Storage Market

SDS Market Growth

Mordor Intelligence expects a significant 25.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the global software-defined storage, jumping from an annual valuation of $9.4 billion in 2020 to $37.24 billion in 2026. The SDS market’s rapid growth, however, will not be matched by storage and security operators who can handle the transition, Mordor predicts. 

Software-defined storage has optimized on-premises data stores for enterprises that aren’t prepared for a full shift to the cloud. 

But software-defined storage can’t keep up forever unless it continues improving. Cyril Plisko, co-founder and CTO of Statehub, explained why SDS will need to innovate if it’s going to remain popular.

“In modern cloud environments, SDS is gradually losing its appeal,” Plisko said. “The cloud is more geared towards consuming resources as services, with storage becoming one of them. Applications do not require physical storage, they require data.”

Plisko sees a shift toward managed services, especially as cloud storage meets increasing enterprise needs for resources-as-a-service. 

Market predictions for SDS growth are still strong, suggesting that software-defined infrastructure isn’t leaving soon. However, the rise of managed services is something for enterprises to keep at the front of their vision for the future.

Features of Software-Defined Storage

Major features of software-defined storage systems include:

  • Thin provisioning: Rather than the traditional method of reserving chunks of drive space, regardless of current usage, thin provisioning allocates storage dynamically, depending on the current amount they’re using.
  • Broad variety of hardware: Because software-defined infrastructure depends less on vendor-specific hardware than traditional hardware-based infrastructure, it allows data centers to expand the hardware they can use.
  • Policy-based management: Predefined policies tell the infrastructure how to handle storage resources.
  • Increased automation: In software-defined data centers, a software layer manages the storage system, taking some of those management responsibilities away from humans.

Benefits of Software-Defined Storage

Software-defined infrastructure increases efficiency from a formerly hardware-based world: 

Managing Unstructured Data 

At least 80% of total enterprise data is unstructured. It’s much more difficult to search than structured data, which typically resides in a database and has characters and metadata that make it easy to locate. Unstructured data, on the other hand, makes up text files, multimedia files, email, and website data — which enterprises produce constantly. 

SDS vendor Datacore saw a rapid rise in unstructured data during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the shift to remote work created even more information that needed to be stored. Software-defined storage systems use intelligent technology to store data where it’s most beneficial, whether that’s hot storage for mission-critical workloads or cold storage for infrequently accessed data. 

Lowering Costs

Software-defined storage allows companies to use commodity hardware, such as x86 servers, which are less expensive than vendor-specific hardware. Also, SDS more accurately provisions the specific amounts of hardware that an enterprise needs, whereas a more rigid hardware-only approach won’t handle storage requirements as specifically.

Decreased Vendor Lock-In

Software-defined storage decreases the chance of having to pay to fix for hardware failures.

Improving Access Speeds

Software-defined technology hastens access to data. Global catalogs make storage resources available for ready access, speeding hardware provisioning within software-defined infrastructures. The ability to purchase and set up commodity servers also means overall faster storage provisioning. 

Software-Defined Storage Use Cases

Software-defined systems can allow users to test scenarios within their data center. 

For instance, a lead software engineer says that Nutanix’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution, AOS, “​​allows users to perform simulations load testing or stress testing our application for various environments” and “allows us to provision the system for right value per every core due to the results of our tests,” according to a review at Gartner Peer Insights. Being able to test workloads and provision storage and other resources accordingly allows data center administrators to view potential system loads in advance.

An IT engineer used Datacore’s SANsymphony for eight years and found multiple storage management features useful.

“Tiering technology was great (PCI-Express Flash Tier 1 + Classic SAS Hardware storage over FC-SAN),” they say in a review at Gartner Peer Insights. 

The user also notes Datacore’s snapshots, mirroring, and continuous data protection features. Often, SDS solutions incorporate data protection and recovery into their functionality.  

Software-Defined Storage Providers

These are some of the top companies in the software-defined storage market:

  • Citrix
  • Dell Technologies
  • Fujitsu
  • HPE
  • Huawei
  • Symantec
  • NetApp
  • Western Digital
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a staff writer for Enterprise Storage Forum and eSecurity Planet, where she covers data storage, cybersecurity and the top software and hardware solutions in the storage industry. She’s also written about containerization and data management. Previously, she wrote for Webopedia. Jenna has a bachelor's degree in writing and lives in middle Tennessee.

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