02/08/2014

By Jill Orhun, VP of Marketing at Nexenta


‘The Internet of Things’, or connected devices, is an integral part of many people’s daily lives. From its beginnings in Internet banking and online grocery shopping, the Internet of Things has moved on to driverless cars, learning thermostats and wearable fitness technology — and the future only holds more opportunities. As these advancements in technology continue and become more widely adopted, we will become increasingly reliant on the services they deliver and the data they generate. And the Internet of Things is only one of several ingredients contributing to today’s explosion of data — key trends like mobility, social media and big data also are driving strong demand.

The net effect of these trends and technical advancements is that data is growing at an exponential rate. Analyst firm IDC [1] predicts the digital universe will increase to 40 trillion gigabytes by 2020, equating to more than 5,200 gigabytes for every man, woman and child. It also forecasts the digital universe will double every two years from now until 2020. This data growth is not only driven by people, but also by the huge number of devices permanently connected to the Internet, transmitting data 24/7. Important questions arise — where will all this data live? And how will we manage it?

Over the next 5 years, CIOs anticipate up to 44% growth in workloads in the Cloud, versus 8.9% growth for “on-premise” computing workloads [2]. While consumer behavior often lags behind that of enterprises, the expectation is that over time greater and greater amounts of data will live in Clouds. All of this data will put huge pressure on hosting providers to deliver industry-leading data management systems — ones that are simple, flexible, and economically friendly. We see evidence of this not only locally, but also globally.

Thankfully, help is on the horizon with the emergence of the Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC). The SDDC promises to deliver new levels of scalability, availability and flexibility, and will do so with a dramatically lower total cost of ownership. As companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook prove every day, SDDC is the future and is built on three key pillars: compute, storage and networking.

The last decade saw the transformation of the compute layer thanks to technologies from the likes of VMware, Microsoft and the open source community. The next stages are storage and networking. While Software Defined Networking (SDN) was all the rage a couple of years ago, actual market traction and customer adoption has been slower than expected as industry players continue to work to align all the technology pieces required to deliver full SDN solutions. The story is quite different for storage. With storage typically being the most expensive part of an enterprise infrastructure, we are witnessing a dramatic acceleration in Software-Defined Storage (SDS) adoption.

Having a lot of software in a given hardware product (as most storage arrays do) might make a product Software-Based, but it does not make it Software-Defined. Similarly, adding an additional management layer or abstraction layer on existing proprietary hardware (a la EMC ViPR) might increase the amount of software sold to customers, but really does not make the solution Software-Defined. What legacy storage vendors are doing is very similar to what Unix vendors of old (remember Sun, HP and IBM) did when they added virtualisation and new management software to their legacy Unix operating systems to compete with VMware. While these were technically interesting extensions to legacy technology, it was VMware running on standard Intel based servers that truly unleashed Software-Defined compute and changed the economics of enterprise compute forever. The same is true for SDS.

Done right, Software-Defined Storage allows customers to build scalable, reliable, full featured, high performance storage infrastructure from a wide selection of (low cost) industry standard hardware. As such, SDS is about much more than the latest technology innovation. True SDS allows customers to do things they could not do before while fundamentally changing the economics of the enterprise storage business. True SDS allows customers to deal with their storage assets in the same way they deal with their virtualised compute infrastructure: pick a software stack for all their storage services and seamlessly swap industry standard hardware underneath as cost, scale and performance requirements dictate. SDS will fundamentally change the storage industry by eliminating vendor lock-in without compromising on availability, reliability and functionality.


[1] IDC IVIEW - The Digital Universe in 2020
[2] Tech Trader Daily