Monthly Archives: September 2014

Is Storage the Killer App for Software-Defined Networking?

Software Defined Networking (SDN) has always looked a bit like a solution in search of a problem, at least in the enterprise data center. But there are lots of potential applications that need a dynamic and scalable network. In my mind, storage is chief among these, since scalability and flexibility has always been extremely difficult to achieve.

As I have written before, one of the most vexing problems in storage is the backwardness and intractability of the protocols for we use. SCSI and NFS simply were not designed for flexibility and scalability, yet they are the primary protocols in use in today’s data center.

Numerous attempts have been made to overcome these limitations, but few have gained any real traction. Where is pNFS? Where is FCoE? Even iSCSI has been relegated to smaller businesses and applications. The only real success in evolving storage protocols for the modern world is Microsoft’s SMB, and that has more to do with Redmond’s ability to push through changes then any real customer demand.

There have long been just three ways to add flexibility to storage:

  1. Change the protocol, switching to something more dynamic like XAM, pNFS, CDMI, etc. But this requires client and server adoption, and one or both of these have derailed each of these efforts. The only real success so far is Amazon’s S3 protocol, and that’s because developers were so fed up with enterprise IT that they simply walked away and wrote their own protocol! And Microsoft is making real advancements in SMB, if anyone pays attention.
  2. Trick the protocol using client or server wizardry to address multiple targets, allow live modification to storage allocation, and the like. This is how Isilon can scale NFS like no one else, but it’s a difficult game to play. I’ve seen dozens of storage companies whose claim to fame is some way to trick SCSI into being more dynamic without the client or server knowing what’s going on, and none have made much impact.
  3. Move up the stack, adding a volume manager or similar host-side storage layer.  This is the VSAN approach, which moves storage allocation and management out of the hands of storage devices while using conventional protocols only for low-level connectivity. It’s worked for decades, from Veritas Volume Manager to Microsoft Storage Spaces, and is the core IP of high-profile newcomers from Nutanix to PernixData.

But what if there was a way to get the network involved? Storage has always treated the network like a dumb pipe, pushing bits from one end to the other with a priority on performance and reliability. Although networks could offer high availability, flexibility, and scale, storage has largely ignored these capabilities.

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) could change this picture. SDN is coming to the datacenter, with pretty much every networking provider adopting the concept and specific implementations, like OpenFlow and OpenDaylight. Eventually, the storage industry will “open its eyes” and realize that this capability has huge potential as a “fourth way” to add flexibility to storage.

The most amazing outcome might be “storage area networks” that finally live up to the promise of that term. To date, Fibre Channel SANs have been quite simple in execution, acting as a bus to push bits from one place to another. But SDN-powered SANs could be something else entirely, bringing dynamic, scale-out attachment and adding storage services in the network, not just at the end points

VMware Announces Software Defined Infrastructure with EVO:RAIL

Wow, the world of converged infrastructure sure is on fire. It seems that everyone is looking to stuff all of the data center food groups into an appliance-like node for simpler data center architecture models. Further validating this idea, VMware has entered the ring with their hyper-converged infrastructure offering called EVO (check out the landing page, here).For a moment, however, let’s take a step back and look at the various tiers of convergence that are available to data center customers today:

The IT industry operates to a key word: Evolution

Evolution is transformation of the present into the futuristic. Envisioning the next big thing while keeping an eye on the prevailing mores is what helps the industry grow. Globalisation dynamics, rapid digitisation and evolving customer expectations continue to alter the business world in fundamental ways. A careful review of the IT scenario today reveals certain broad-based trends, which indicate the direction the industry must take in the years to come.
A number of these trends have the potential to fundamentally change the manner in which businesses interact with their clients, paving the way for a far more comprehensive and engaging consumer experience. It is becoming absolutely vital that these business enterprises, and more importantly, their IT partners gear themselves for these changes that will help them remain perpetually ahead of the curve when it comes to market essentials.
Cloud technology, for one, is going to become a crucial aspect for companies in conducting their business. Within the next two years, nearly half the IT spending is going to be allocated to cloud computing. The focus will be on delivering constant innovation, rather than merely facilitating warehousing and gate-keeping.
Customised and highly refined cloud solutions will be the norm rather than the exception. The effectiveness of thoughtS’ very own patent-applied Cloud Service is a testament to the fact.
A parallel evolution is seen in the field of data center solutions. The adoption of virtualisation and increasing push for automation in recent years has led to IT companies opting for co-located data centers as opposed to on-site ones. Our own state-of-the-art infrastructure in Maharashtra facilitates the provision of high quality managed hosting, managed servers, server racks & cages and system security.
The latter, especially, has become particularly vital lately. A slew of recent revelations (think Snowden and the NSA) have meant that consumers globally now have a huge trust deficit in the ability of Internet-based service-providers to keep their private data private. In the years to come, ensuring security and confidentiality of data must become an overarching priority for the average data center and cloud operator, in a world where even behemoths like Google, Yahoo and Facebook have discovered that their vast reservoirs of data are targets for intelligence snoops.