Software Defined Storage Platforms: Buying Guide

Posted on October 14, 2014 By Drew Robb

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Research firm IDC defines software defined storage platforms (SDS-P) as:

“Platforms that deliver the full suite of storage services via a software stack that uses (but is not dependent on) commodity hardware built with off-the-shelf components.”

The analyst firm’s most recent Worldwide Storage Software QView show the worldwide storage included SDS-P for the first time. According to Eric Sheppard, an analyst at IDC, although sales of SDS-P were just 3.5% of the total storage market, it grew more than 15.7% during the second quarter.

Let’s take a look at some of the companies that are leading the way in this sector.

IBM

IBM came out tops among all vendors in IDC’s rankings for SDS-P, based on software revenue. Its SDS product line includes its Elastic Storage global file system to automatically manage data, SAN Volume Controller for storage virtualization and Virtual Storage Center for backup, restore and administration. The point is to deliver the entire platform as software regardless of the underlying hardware.

“While we offer our SAN Volume Controller integrated with IBM Storwize, we also offer it independently where it can virtualize IBM or non-IBM storage,” said Bernie Spang, Vice President of Strategy, Software Defined Environments at IBM. “Elastic storage is an evolution of the General Parallel File System (GPFS) which now comes with support for object storage via the OpenStack Swift API.”

He explained that while many vendors sell software defined storage, few offer a complete SDS platform. IBM’s SDS-P, he said, includes storage management and protection via Tivoli Storage Manager and IBM Smart Cloud Virtual Storage Center. IBM recently announced that Elastic Storage is now supported on Linux running on IBM System Z (mainframe systems), as well as running in the IBM Cloud (for those that don’t want to buy software and integrate it).

“Elastic Storage (ES) Server provides from 4 TB up to a PB of storage,” said Spang. “Up to 512 ES servers can be integrated into a single file system.”

EMC

ViPR is EMC’s SDS-P offering. ViPR software defined storage is actually two individual but related products: EMC ViPR Controller and EMC ViPR Services. Think of EMC ViPR Services as a combination of software and hardware. The software stack exposes protocols for I/O (e.g. block, file) and uses persistent media (e.g., disk, Solid State Drive) to store the data.

ViPR Services separates the software layer from the hardware, which allows it to be installed on a variety of commodity servers, running bare metal or virtualized.  As a result, users can buy it either as a storage appliance with bundled hardware (EMC ECS Appliance), or as a software product that can be installed on user-provided operating systems and hardware options – either EMC and non-EMC file-based arrays or commodity disks. You scale the number of ViPR Services nodes according to capacity and performance requirements.

EMC ViPR Controller automates repetitive provisioning and configuration tasks, provides self-service access to storage, meters usage by multiple tenants and facilitates chargeback and showback. You can’t deploy ViPR Services without ViPR Controller. The latter abstracts and pools multi-vendor storage arrays and commodity platforms into a single virtual storage pool that can then be managed by policy.

“ViPR Services also features separate storage engines for structured and unstructured data,” said George Hamilton, Senior Product Manager, EMC Corp. “The drivers of structured content and unstructured content are best served via separate storage engines: a structured storage engine that maximizes IOPS and an unstructured engine that maximizes throughput and storage efficiency.”

HP

For Software defined storage platform, HP provides a choice in orchestration tools, underlying hardware and hypervisors. For example, SDS can be deployed, managed and provisioned from within VMware vCenter, Microsoft System Center, or any OpenStack-based environment. On the data plane, HP has architected its Virtual Storage Appliances (VSA) to be hypervisor agnostic.

HP StoreVirtual VSA is scale-out primary storage which has amassed over a million licenses worldwide. It is available as a free 1 TB download for any Intel based server and is built into each HP ProLiant and HP BladeSystem that ships.  For larger capacities, users can purchase StoreVirtual VSA software in 4 TB, 10 TB, and 50 TB size licenses, starting at $1000 per license with three years of support included.

“HP’s open standards-based strategy provides integrated management tools for servers, storage and networking in all environments,” said Dale Degen, HP WW Software-Defined Storage Category Manager.  “Whether you are an OpenStack, VMware of Microsoft administrator, our approach allows you to manage a common set of data services as business needs change over time.”

DataCore

DataCore’s software defined storage portfolio consists of two products:

SANsymphony V10, the software-defined storage platform used by more than 10,000 midsize and large datacenters and service providers.  It pools, replicates, and accelerates all types of storage, including DAS, SAN and cloud. Automation and monitoring under centralized management is said to simplify provisioning, data protection, performance acceleration and load balancing. The list price for an entry-level 2-node, synchronously mirrored configuration, including technical support is under $10,000.

DataCore Virtual SAN software pools direct attached storage (flash and magnetic) across a cluster of 2 to 64 server nodes into a converged storage environment. It can also utilize storage capacity from a central SAN and cloud storage. The software works with all the major hypervisors including VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Linux KVM and Citrix XenServer. The latest release, available November 2014, doubles the scale of nodes from 32 to 64 enabling virtual SAN configurations to support up to 64 petabytes and over 100 million IOPs. Pricing starts at $4,000 per server, which includes auto-tiering, adaptive read/write caching, storage pooling, metro-wide synchronous mirroring, thin provisioning and snapshots.

“Rather than create data islands and operational divergence as other approaches do, SANsymphony-V10 integrates and unifies how customers pool, provision, protect, accelerate and manage their storage assets,” said Augie Gonzalez, Director of Product Marketing, DataCore Software. “Other competing products are incapable of sustaining serious business workloads and unable to leverage capacity in the SAN or Cloud. “

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


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