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The future of software-defined storage v1.0

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Industry dynamics and market drivers
  3. Defining software-defined storage
  4. Market landscape
  5. SDS suppliers and products
  6. Guidance and recommendations
  7. Key takeaways
  8. About Microsoft SDS
  9. Appendix: Summary of findings from SDS interviews
  10. About Anil Vasudeva


Software-defined storage (SDS) conforms to the real needs of IT customers who are looking to optimize their infrastructure at the lowest capex and opex. Infrastructure must meet the requirements of applications. Different applications require specific storage characteristics such as performance, resiliency, cost, and security. SDS abstracts software functionality from the hardware. It logically supports various physical or virtualized servers. It virtualizes all underlying storage systems and storage networking to a common abstraction layer and federates all types of storage systems into a single “virtual” scale-out storage offering unified automation, orchestration, provisioning, and management capabilities at the individual virtual machine (VM) level, while providing a central point of access to management functions.

SDS enables industry-standard hardware in place of dedicated storage arrays. It thus reduces initial entry and recurring costs and provides better performance and simplified storage management. Unifying major storage services into a single automated platform, obviates the need for customers to purchase advanced storage features – snapshots, clones, DR, backup, thin provisioning, compression, de-duplication etc. – separately from multiple vendors.

In May and June 2014, Gigaom Research interviewed ten senior executives (CTO, CIO, Director of IT, and President) across a variety of verticals including healthcare, software, insurance, government, technical services, and IT consulting about their SDS strategies. Questions focused on current pain points in their data centers and what plans were in place over the next two years to solve them, storage automation solutions that offered the best value, goals they expected to achieve by implementing SDS, what IT initiatives they expected to have an impact on storage spending in the next two years, and the biggest challenges moving to cloud computing.

This report, which is based data gathered from those interviews, will assist enterprise IT executives, who are tasked with providing strategic directions and leadership, so that they can leverage emerging technologies that will result in significant capex and opex reductions. It will also assist storage architects and data center operations managers, who implement automation policies for IT operations through software-defined virtualized data centers. CFOs will embrace the potential net savings achievable through implementing SDS, in particular, at the private cloud, public and hybrid cloud levels.

Key findings from this report include:

  • SDS provides an optimal storage platform for next generation infrastructure of on-premise/private data centers that offers public cloud scale economics, universal access, and self-service automation to private clouds.
  • SDS has potential to reduce operational and management expenses dramatically, using policy based automation, deployment simplicity, programmable flexibility, and centralized management while providing hardware independence and utilizing high-volume industry-standard components to lower storage system costs.
  • SDS allows policy-driven data center automation that provides the facility to instantly provision storage resources based on workload demanded by each VM in virtualized data centers. These inherent capabilities of SDS will entice data-center managers to embrace and deploy SDS offerings and thereby improve their opex and capex, providing a quick return on investment (ROI).


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