Whether you manage a small business; regional office; mid-size enterprise, or full blown enterprise data center with regional/multi-geo sites…data of all types is exploding and costs are increasing steeply. Storage inefficiencies (from innumerable copies, snaps, back-ups and save sets); constant provisioning; data migrations and fork lift upgrades of specialized storage hardware, raw capacity and bandwidth are hemming you in and cramping your style – and data center CAPEX, OPEX and budget. Your hair’s turning white, BP’s up and your spouse or significant other (and the kids and dog/cat) seldom see you.

On top of that, you’re battling vendor lock-in, insidiously escalating shadow IT public cloud usage (and monthly fees) and growing mumbling/grumbling from your less than happy users and SLA clients.  Oh…and, yes, it’s time to go back to the well and ask for even more $$$s as you realize your recently purchased and installed storage array is getting full/utilized at around 50% or so. Time to do a SWAG on how much additional raw storage capacity you’ll be needing over the next couple years and order another sizable array upgrade….and brace yourself for some downtime and tedious data migration(s) and provisions for RAID aggregates, groups, folders and volumes.  Billy Joel’s hit song “Pressure” comes to mind!  Is there a better way to go?  Yes!

Storm Cloud

What can I say, ‘The Cloud’ can be dark and scary as far as your data security is concerned…and it can sneak up on you.

Why not liberate your data center?  Liberate your data center with vendor and hardware neutral commodity based server platforms that monetize your host application servers’ direct attached storage (DAS) for  maximum performance and flexibility.  Also enjoy in the process lower TCO and a new software defined storage architecture that yields true linear capability for compute, storage capacity and throughput.  Liberate your data center with a storage platform that gives you total elasticity to add or remove resources in response to real-world, real-time compute and storage needs with the ability to scale (on the fly, with no down time) to many Petabytes and millions of I/Os per second (IOPS).   So liberate your data center with a software-defined (SDS) server SAN…and EMC’s ScaleIO!

Incidentally, SDS server SANs are optimal for building hyper-scale private, hybrid or public clouds.  Or perfect for building hyper-performance scalable and elastic enterprise storage systems (as in millions of IOPS) for high performance applications (HPAs).  Just start with a minimum of three servers (with DAS of any media type and amount of excess raw storage capacity)…and grow to thousands of nodes with Petabyte scale capacities. Grow at your convenience and need over time – with no disruptions to your operations. Just scale-out with more servers/nodes, repurposed or purpose bought to add to your server SAN..   And scale-up with more DAS devices on those same participating servers. What could be simpler?

The beauty is you won’t miss the extensive upfront planning and justification for additional storage provisioning, forklift upgrades, data migrations, long hours and downtime involved. Just grow in small, ‘baby step’ increments by adding new Flash SSDs and HDDs to existing or new host server local storage….and even create your own storage performance ‘tiers’ (or sub-pools) to match your application or volume’s performance or resource capacity requirements.  Make adjustments to your server SAN cluster using a simple dashboards GUI to monitor system status and enter simple English commands to manage this ‘fluid’ SDS based system.  THIS is the power (and freedom) of software defined platforms. They create an abstraction layer between physical resources and logical management of operations….monitored from a ‘single pane of glass’ application-like software install right on your host server(s).

ScaleIO GUI

ScaleIO’s GUI Dashboard monitors your server SAN’s status, performance and operation in real-time — and tells you when (and how fast) it’s rebuilding data (when servers and/or DAS devices are taken off-line for MX or any reason) or auto balancing across participating host servers.  Simple CLI English language inputs adds/removes host servers and storage devices; designate Protection Domains (for multiple tenants/data partitioning); create Server Fault Sets (to increase high availability and/or scheduled MX) and so on ….. ALL ‘on the fly’ with no service disruption or “outage”….leveraging your DAS excess capacity!

How does this all work?  Simply put, a SDS server SAN system pools together disparate, isolated local storage (DAS) from participating host application servers and forms a single, aggregated virtual SAN that grows bigger and faster as you add more host servers and storage devices to it.  Non-traditional storage….that’s what we’re talking about here.  No specialized storage hardware (host bus adapters, hardware arrays, FC switches or extensive racking and thick expensive interconnect cabling need not apply).  Freedom via commodity hardware-based systems and vendor neutral/agnostic storage solutions….  Live free!

Folks, this is what’s driving hyper-converged storage solutions in the storage industry now…for block (structured data) or file data and object data (unstructured data)  storage. What about the Cloud?  Why rent when you can own….cheaply…using familiar commodity based physical or virtualized servers?  Ever look closely at somebody’s (hopefully not yours) monthly usage utility bill from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure or Google’s public cloud?  Be prepared for sticker shock from the ‘we charge you for everything’ usage detail and escalating costs as your “user troops break ranks” and create their own shadow IT operation by subscribing to more and more Cloud services and compute and storage capacity.

And with a robust, resilient and fast performing SDS server SAN you can build your OWN private Cloud on premises….and not have to worry about data security or access when relying on the Public Cloud.

EMC’s ScaleIO is an example of “a robust, resilient and fast performing SDS server SAN.”  OK…so I work at EMC.  Just search for “ScaleIO” on the web and you’ll see what I mean.  YouTube videos walk you through this new technology, architecture and SDS product platform too.  If for no other reason, get up to date on this newest emerging technology that is truly liberating data centers with software based, hyper-converged (all application, CPU, networking and storage functions/resources in one HW platform…or “node”) infrastructure.  Skeptical?  Why not try ScaleIO yourself with EMC’s free and frictionless ScaleIO download. Just like that memorable TV ad a few decades back…”Try it, you’ll like it.”…

Sure, other vendors out there are offering similar SDS product solutions…either via pure software only licensing (usually capacity based) or a pre-packaged/bundled “hyper-converged storage appliance” or both forms. ScaleIO is sold in both forms….software or appliance…and that gives you more flexibility as both formats serve their purposes.  You might also have heard about Ceph and “ICE” (Inktank’s Ceph Enterprises distributed commercially by RedHat).   But when you look at ScaleIO’s inherent high performance, ability to scale from 12TB to 16PB raw capacity, dynamic elasticity and flexibility to add or remove nodes, storage devices and servers without any disruption to operations and other quality of service (QoS) features/functionality ScaleIO brings to your datacenter rack(s)….nothing out there comes close.  Bold statement?  Indeed.  But as they say, “an informed buyer is an educated and confident buyer…” 🙂 (OK…I took some liberties with that saying for sure.)

Does this mean the end to “traditional storage platforms” as we know and (mostly) love them today?  No.  Not hardly.  There will always be a need, use and place for traditional SAN (block), NAS (file) and archival (object/cloud) storage platform products.

The challenge, of course, is in identifying and rationalizing respective use cases, assimilating new technology/architectures and integrating ‘the new and old’ into seamless, efficient deployments that leverage (and monetize) each other’s strengths, specialized features/capabilities and value add that fit YOUR data center and IT needs.   With the storage industry leader like EMC, you’ll be getting all the advice, support, products and solutions (across the entire storage spectrum) to help you take advantage of both newer and traditional storage technologies and value propositions.

In closing, this was definitely an unabashed paid endorsement for EMC’s ScaleIO.  But more importantly, hopefully this post highlights just how much these new SDS server SANs in general are changing the datacenter landscape and freeing IT/MIS CIOs, directors, admins and managers from hardware and vendor lock-in and older, more traditional storage architectures.  It’s happening as you read this….

Want to know more?  Check out @EMCScaleIO on Twitter!   Get on board the emerging storage technology and ScaleIO train.  Live Free…and Don’t Cry!

Rodger Burkley

Principal Product Marketing Manager at EMC
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