5 Trends in Software-Defined Storage

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Within a software-defined infrastructure, software-defined storage (SDS) manages all storage hardware, implementing changes and provisioning devices as needed. Software-defined storage also plays a key role in data center and edge technologies. 

The following trends reveal the direction of the data storage market, as the demand for software-managed resources extends across storage architectures:

Software-Defined Storage Trends

  1. Growth of Hyperconverged Storage
  2. Running Container Environments
  3. Flexibility Through Digital Change
  4. Artificial Intelligence Assisting Storage Security
  5. Shift to Managed Services

1. Growth of Hyperconverged Storage 

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is growing as enterprises need their storage resources, as well as computing and networking, to scale quickly. 

Hyperconverged systems can take a couple of different forms: Some providers offer full appliances, which are often servers pre-configured with networking, storage, and compute capabilities. Other HCI solutions are software-defined: IT teams deploy them on hardware they want to use, such as commodity servers, without needing to worry about vendor lock-in.  

Typically, in hyperconverged storage systems, a virtual data plane or hypervisor manages storage resources. These resources can include attached storage devices, virtual machines, a cloud, or commodity servers. 

Hyperconverged infrastructures are cost savers because they only require commodity servers, which enterprises typically use when deploying software-defined hyperconverged systems. 

Additionally, hyperconverged infrastructures keep networking, storage, and compute together in one system. This keeps stored data close to processing and networks, so it can be quickly used and transmitted.  

HCI offers enterprises the chance to scale accurately and run applications on limited hardware, according to Mark Chuang, VMware‘s head of product marketing for cloud storage and data.

“Customers want a single HCI platform to run and manage all their applications, from business-critical to modern apps,” Chuang said. “With distributed workforces and increasing use of IT resources outside the core data center, HCI will be needed in small form factors to support these use cases.

“VMware HCI partners have developed remote/edge-ready HCI servers that are ideal for non-data center uses, such as retail, gas stations, oil rigs, and more.” 

Hyperconvergence is useful for small-scale storage and computing environments as well.

Also read: Top Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Vendors

2. Running Container Environments

Software-defined storage improves container run-time environments by speeding provisioning and providing more consistent storage. SDS can integrate with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, according to Commvault, which makes workload management easier. Enterprises are also able to manage different storage architectures with fewer data silos.

Those reduced silos and Kubernetes integration will play an important role in hyperconverged infrastructures, according to Chuang.

“Kubernetes support, frictionless access to block, file and object storage, and consistent infrastructure from the data center to the public cloud are rapidly becoming IT imperatives to keep up with needs of the business,” Chuang said. 

“In addition, customers want the flexibility to add storage- or compute-only nodes as applications require. VMware is well positioned to meet customers’ needs on all of these fronts, with Kubernetes well integrated into VMware vSphere.”

Also read: What is Container-Native Storage?

3. Flexibility Through Digital Change

Software-defined infrastructures increase enterprises’ options as they look for greater flexibility for different types of storage. Companies need support for multiple protocols and a balance between cost and performance, according to Nutanix VP of Products Greg Muscarella. 

“As companies become more digital and react to changes in the market, they are increasing their use of clouds, containers, and machine learning,” Muscarella said. “As they transition, they are looking for flexibility from their storage to serve all their needs.

“Software-defined storage helps customers meet their developers’ needs quickly as workloads shift and requirements evolve and grow. They can do this with simple configuration changes rather than entirely new systems and hardware that legacy storage typically requires.”

Because software-defined infrastructures support a greater variety of servers and storage devices than legacy storage systems, enterprises are able to provision them more quickly overall. Time savings and support for block, file, and object protocols are examples of how SDS helps enterprises prepare for technological growth. 

4. Artificial Intelligence Assisting Storage Security

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are crucial for enterprise environments because they automate storage tasks, such as checking the accuracy of data, and increase security. Software-defined infrastructures use AI-based automation to perform tasks without human administration.

AI in software-defined environments is being used more for security in storage, particularly to protect from ransomware. The real-time response of AI allows storage systems to react to potential threats more quickly.

5. Shift to Managed Services

As-a-service offerings, which save costs and allow businesses to use quality technology without purchasing all of it, could force software-defined infrastructures to innovate quickly.

Software-defined storage will have ground to make up once enterprises more widely implement managed services, according to Cyril Plisko, co-founder and CTO of Statehub, a managed Kubernetes data fabric service.

“This realization will prompt enterprises to adopt more services that automate data provisioning, networking, and assure the availability of data across any infrastructure,” Plisko said. “The SDS market will have to extend its offering to match managed services.”

Murli Thirumale, Pure Storage‘s VP and GM of the cloud-native business unit, suggested an even more dramatic shift within the storage industry. 

“The old IT ecosystem relied on building traditional hardware infrastructure,” Thirumale said. “Then software ate the world. Middleware emerged to become the connective tissue, gluing everything together, with applications sitting on top of the stack.” 

According to Thirumale, 2022 will herald the growth of as-a-service IT, and companies that can’t meet the demand for managed services won’t last. 

“As-a-service will eat software,” he said.

Though software-defined storage is a highly useful technology for data centers, the future may narrow its use cases or force providers to shift to a more service-based approach. 

Read next: Best Software-Defined Storage Companies

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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