Software-defined storage will help manage data growth

The amount of data that we create, share and collect continues to grow each year, both in our personal as well as our professional life.

The provisioning of sufficient storage to support the growing end-user demand has become an important task of IT departments. For small businesses, this eventually means that they will have to switch from consumer-grade Network Attached Storage (NAS) products like QNAP or Synology to more advanced storage solutions.

Traditionally, IT staff would start looking at Storage Area Network (SAN) solutions like HP StoreVirtual, Dell EqualLogic or EMC. This could potentially leave them in shock as the price difference between a consumer NAS and a professional SAN system is stagering.

For example, an entry level HP StoreVirtual SAN configuration consisting of at least three nodes for high availability and data loss protection with 22TB of raw storage will easily cost $60.000 - $70.000 dollar. An 8-disk Sinology with 21TB costs $2.000 - $3.000 dollar.

Reinventing the storage cluster

A common design pattern for data center configuration is to separate storage from CPU and Memory. In many IT infrastructures you'll find expensive dedicated hardware for storage and separate, cheaper hardware for computing.

With virtualisation IT staff managed to get more computing power with less hardware, which resulted in fewer physical servers to buy and maintain. Unfortunately, with the growing amount of data, the dedicated storage server farm continues to expand.

But what if you could use the same cheap commodity servers that are running your virtualisation platform to accommodate your storage cluster?

Software-defined storage, or SDS, allows IT staff to leverage the mostly empty hard-disk drive bays of existing servers to create their own storage cluster. This will eliminate the need for dedicated storage hardware. In most cases, it will also be possible to achieve better performance and at the same time accommodate more storage space.

Oh and the really good news: it's much cheaper. Especially if you use GlusterFS, the open source SDS from Red Hat, inc.

There are also commercial SDS offerings like EMC ScaleIO, Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform and the HP StoreVirtual VSA.

Additional information on SDS

You can read more on Software-defined storage on Wikipedia. There are also two in-depth articles here and here.