Gartner goes from skeptical to all-in on software-defined storage

By Rob Whiteley | | Hyperconvergence

“I was skeptical about software-defined storage. Now I’m all-in.”

That’s my favorite quote, uttered on stage by Roger Cox, from this year’s Gartner Data Center Infrastructure, Operations and Management Conference.

The event gathers roughly 3,000 senior infrastructure & operations (I&O) leaders. It’s a great event for cutting through the hype of datacenter tech trends. There was talk of digital business transformation, big data, and Internet of things (IoT), but that wasn’t the focus. The primary agenda focused on the reality of hybrid cloud, how to build software-defined data centers, implementing “Bimodal IT” — and the storage implications for all three.

What is Bimodal IT and why should I care?

Bimodal IT was a hot topic last week. It was probably the most uttered word at the conference, with “hybrid” and “hyperconverged” not far behind. Interestingly, I got a lot of pushback on social media and from various peers at the conference on this topic. Some claimed it was all hype; others claimed it was nothing new; and still more claimed it was wrong.

From my perspective it’s very real. Our customers are living this world. IT simply can’t keep pace with the business and a bimodal strategy is their response. The Gartner audience agrees (yes, I understand participation and confirmation bias). According to a live audience poll, 35% are already doing Bimodal and measely 8% have no plans.

So what is Bimodal IT? It’s the need to run parallel infrastructure to run the core of your business (legacy, Mode 1 apps like SAP and Oracle) and separate cloud infrastructure to bring new services to market (emerging, Mode 2 apps like Hadoop or Cassandra). Yes, there are going to be debates on if, how, and when to migrate. But the stark reality is that modern enterprises become irrelevant if they don’t embrace a new IT approach.

What does Bimodal IT mean for storage?

A Bimodal IT strategy requires simple, flexible infrastructure. Traditional approaches to storage or anything but. Below is a great picture of Arun Chandrasekaran and Stanley Zaffos onstage breaking down what Bimodal IT means in a storage context.

What it means at a more practical level is an acceleration towards software-defined storage (SDS) and hyperconverged infrastructure systems (HCIS). Both provide the simplicity and cost-reduction needed for Mode 1 apps, while also providing the flexibility and scalability for Mode 2.

It’s no surprise these topics dominated the breakout sessions. I tookaway three key observations from the conference:

  • Gartner is very bullish on software-defined storage. There was a lot of content aimed at SDS, all positive. This is a noticeable departure as Gartner has been neutral to negative on this topic at past events. This brings us back to Roger Cox and his observation of being “all in” on the technology. His colleague, Angelina Troy, explains how capital drivers like commodity infrastructure and operational drivers like automated provisioning make SDS a necessity.
  • But Gartner is OVERLY bullish on hyperconverged. Gartner was even more positive on HCIS. I agree with the power of this technology architecture, however, I’m not a big fan of how they positioned it. They made the distinction that all hyperconverged solutions must contain SDS (along with software-defined compute and a management layer). But they were recommending an appliance-centric approach, which isn’t agile enough for Mode 2 apps. A software-only approach is needed. The audience agreed with only 25% voting for hyperconverged appliances.
  • Incumbent storage vendors should be scared. Regardless of whether you make a distinction between SDS and HCIS, there was a clear conclusion: Traditional (mostly SAN) storage solutions are on the decline. My favorite data points: 53% of the audience is dissatisfied with the ease of use of their SAN solution and 43% have bought storage from a nonincumbent storage vendor in just the last 2 years (72% in last 7 years).

Working with emerging storage startups
It’s encouraging to see Gartner advising clients to get started on emerging storage architectures. A new approach is needed to curb the crippling costs of storing Mode 1 data while still providing the flexibility to accommodate the scale of Mode 2 data. It doesn’t surprise me that 40% of the conference audience is already seeking to work with innovative storage startups like Hedvig.

Want to learn more about how Hedvig solves your bimodal IT challenges? Then click below to watch our on-demand webinar introducing the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform.

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