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What’s the Difference Between Software-Defined and Virtualized Storage?


Few areas of IT are as exciting and busy as the storage realm. Everyone from large banks to individuals want their information or files stored — from clients’ financial information to photos of that fun vacation in paradise.

So, as you can imagine, the amount of data needing to be stored is rapidly increasing along with the demand for technologies that can help manage the enormity of the storage-related tasks.

In recent years, software-defined storage (SDS) has gained a lot of traction within the IT storage industry. Let’s explore what makes this storage type so popular.

Software-Defined Storage

Traditionally, hardware such as disks and flash managed and automated storage infrastructures. SDS, however, as its name implies, separates those responsibilities from the hardware and shifts them to software. This separation enables SDS to provide more flexibility, better-automated management, and increased efficiency, compared to previous hardware-based storage solutions.

For example, smaller companies might find it beneficial to ditch their more expensive and space-consuming hardware for SDS solutions. 

Software used in SDS environments provide services and features that perform crucial storage functions such as replication, thin provisioning, and snapshots. SDS also can reduce common concerns about interoperability and under- or overutilization of resources. And, of course, SDS software provides the all-important backup and restore capabilities that every organization needs.

There are many vendors in the SDS marketplace. Some of the leaders include EMC, NetApp, VMware, RedHat, HP, IBM, DataCore, Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, and SwiftStack. Be sure to do your homework as there are a lot of varying opinions about each vendor’s SDS solution.

Be sure to do your homework as there are a lot of varying opinions about each vendor’s SDS solution.

Virtualized Storage

So where does virtualized storage fit into all this? Anthony Sequeira does a great job of explaining this very concept in his webinar, “Enhancing Storage Networking with Virtualization.”

Here’s the difference between SDS and virtualized storage. The two are often confused, and there’s a key difference. Whereas SDS involves separating functionality and features from hardware, virtualized storage is concerned with separating capacity from hardware — meaning that it’s ideal for grouping devices on a single device. This can enable companies to use resources on an as-needed basis.

Take a storage administrator who is tasked with backing up and archiving his/her organization’s data. Virtualized storage can assist with such tasks by masking the actual complexity of the storage area network, commonly known as a SAN.

As storage continues to be a pressing issue for companies, it’s important for IT pros to stay up-to-date on technologies such as SDS and virtualized storage, especially as many technologies can work together and provide even more robust solutions for storing data.

Let’s just say that we’ve come a long way from these four awesome early storage systems, including the insanely complex physical storage device that launched astronauts to the moon.

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