Software defined Storage and Converged infrastructure one-size fits all?

It has been quite a year, as I look back at it at the end of the year, I see that there has been a lot of new interesting technology emerging. One of the hot topic that has been in my head for quite some time is SD (Software defined) and Converged infrastructure/hardware. Now there has also been a lot of discussion about these terms, should we embrace them with open arms or are they for particular use cases or is it just a trend that is going to pass away ? 

Let’s look back at some of the largest software vendors in the world, what have they done within these areas the last couple of years.

Vmware launched VSAN (Software defined storage) and they also launched EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK which is a new converged infrastructure with has been adopted by different partners such as Dell, HP and Cisco. Vmware has also done a lot of work in the field of SDN (Software Defined networking) with their NSX features. On the other hand we have Microsoft which has done a lot with their Storage space features and will be expanded upon in vNext with shared nothing scale out server ( kinda like VSAN) and also with the work they have done on NVGRE (Software-defined networking) Microsoft also announced a finished converged infrastructure with their Cloudplatform Systems in partnership with Dell.

Now both of vendors are working actively with their software defined stack because they see the limitations with traditional virtualization architecture. If you think of a regular datacenter with dedicated SAN and FC switches for the hosts running some hypervisor. Now the last couple of years, the size amount of the SANs has grown but the speed has not, while today CPU’s and RAM is becoming more efficient and faster, same goes for the chipsets and controllers and cache sizes. Now many of the SAN vendors are adding SSD or flash cards to cope with the lack of speed in their solutions. Now the problem with SAN’s and a traditional way to setup infrastructure is that the components are connected trough a network which itself adds latency (not a huge amount) in 10 GB it is  5 – 50 microseconds and to compare that with a local bus it is about  20 – 100 microseconds (usec). Also the way that the different protocols interact in order to ensure data integrity adds latency. So therefore VMware and other vendors in the market like Nutanix created a solution where you have storage as close to the compute resource as possible to go away from the complexity and speed issues that traditional infrastructure might have. 

We also have other vendors like Atlantis, Pernixdata, Nexenta (all of these are software-defined storage) and we have VCE (Converfed infrastructure) which has all their different way to reach the goal. Now with all these different vendors delivering different solutions we have a huge list of different vendors to choose from! since it is all about the use case. Now all of these vendors offer more features and just increased throughput, since all these vendors have emerged in the last 5 years it is because it is a market for them, and customers has different demands. 

So is the traditional way of storing data going to go away, are SANs going to die ? I don’t think so, they are going to evolve with the software defined approach. Since more features are moving into the main components (hypervisor) they need to! Many SAN’s still has many good use cases, now the common ones are

* Backup
* Archiving

What else?

Web hosting (Are most common CPU and Memory hoggers, and in the many cases when a customer is running huge web platforms they have HLB as well)
General file servers (they need storage space and not in most cases a HUGE demand for speed) 
General virtual machine hosting( depends on if the customer is expected to grow in a huge scale or if they have need for some serious horsepowers) you can setup a pretty cost-effective hyper-v hosting solution with JBOD SAS and Storage spaces with Hyper-V. For a hosting partner it is important to deliver it in the most cost efficient way.

I could probably mention 10 more, but I’m not here to bash these different solutions. We should embrace these new vendors since they give us IT people more to choose from, more options that might be a better fit for OUR usecase I simple love it! and that we have no solution that fits all! going forward in 2015 we are going to see that Vmware and Microsoft are going to add more into their stack as well which means that the other vendors as well need to step up their game. 




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