What I learned about software-defined storage at Gartner Catalyst

By Rob Whiteley | | Software-defined Storage

I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Gartner Catalyst Conference last week in San Diego. Catalyst is Gartner’s more technical conference aimed at IT architects and implementers. As always, the conference focuses on how to get started on big IT shifts around big data, mobility, security, and cloud.

This event is always a good reality check on disruptive trends. The goal is not education on the trend, but rather implementation of the trend’s underlying technology. As a marketing guy I appreciate the distinct lack of marketing hype. (As an aside, Gartner actually polls attendees live in breakout sessions and asks them if a given trend is marketing hype or not. What a great pulse check!)

This year had an entire track session dedicated to software-defined data centers (SDDC). You can read the full track descriptions here. The SDDC track was well organized, including an overview session; deep dives on the pillars of compute, storage, and networking; and even a live customer, FICO, presenting on their use case.

It was a jam packed four days, but I walked away with three clear learnings.

1. The modern data center is an and — not an or — as companies mix VMs and containers.

Gartner Managing VP, Tony Iams, kicked off the SDDC track. He provided a good overview of modern data center choices, couching it in the Bimodal IT frameworkGartner has coined. This is completely consistent with our experience with customers. Organizations building modern clouds are doing so in parallel to their existing legacy infrastructure. Net new workloads (Mode 2, in Gartner parlance) are deployed on a private or public cloud, and legacy (Mode 1, or core) workloads are migrated over time — if ever!

Three great snippets from Gartner on SDDC:

  • Mode 1 workloads are all about stability, reliability; they’re marathoners; Mode 2 workloads are about flexibility, velocity; they’re sprinters. Classify apps as such to figure out which infrastructure they belong on. — Tony Iams

  • 2014 Gartner Catalyst live poll indicated 31% of SDDC was all vendor marketing hype. This year? Just 5%. — Tony Iams

  • The SDDC will be a combination of containers and VMs, with containers providing density, speed, and agility benefits. — Alan Waite

2. OpenStack is the API of the modern SDDC.

Gartner Research Director, Alan D Waite, gave a great overview of OpenStack as part of the modern SDDC. He opened up with a very memorable soundbite: “OpenStack is our one true hope of a single API to the software-defined datacenter.” He further pointed out that OpenStack’s slow start (at least in enterprise production environments) are due to complexity and interoperability issues that are mostly in the past. Bottom line? News of OpenStacks death are greatly exaggerated.

Three great snippets from Gartner on OpenStack:

  • OpenStack is the best cross-platform API with containers and VMs as two options for providing workload packaging. — Alan D Waite

  • Quote of the day: “Yes! You are wasting corporate assets if you do not deploy software-defined infrastructure.” — Tony Iams

  • Software-defined compute is an often overlooked part of software-defined infrastructure. It consists of Docker/containers, OpenStack, EC2, and some sort of automation to tie it together. — Alan D Waite

3. Software-defined storage is the most economical of the SDx trends.

Admittedly I’m biased, but the most interesting session came from Tony Iams again, this time diving deep on the specific subtopic of software-defined storage (SDS). He compared and contrasted SDS with software-defined networks (SDN), noting that the business case for SDS is much more concrete. It includes significant CAPEX (through commodity infrastructure) and OPEX (through automation and provisioning advantages) benefits. But perhaps the most compelling point is how SDS helps IT close a critical capabilities gap — enabling IT to keep pace with new business demands. See below for a picture I captured of Tony presenting this very point.

Three great snippets from Gartner on SDS:

  • Software-defined storage is 60% less expensive from an acquisition cost than traditional storage. It’s even more compelling when OPEX is considered in the TCO. — Tony Iams

  • When should you adopt SDS? When your total, fully-loaded cost per TB RAW > $2,500/yr and/or your average number of TBs RAW per admin > 300. — Tony Iams

  • Gartner considers hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS, available from vendors like . Nutanix and SimpliVity) alternatives to SDS, not actual SDS solutions. — Paul Delory

This last point is particularly interesting. The modern data center requires modern storage. At Hedvig we believe this is a true software-defined approach designed to accomodate all data center needs, including containers, microservices, APIs, virtualization, OpenStack, and even legacy workloads.

Click below for an intro webinar highlighting how we work with Docker containers, VMware, OpenStack and other modern datacenter trends.

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