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Introduction

Neuralytix coverage of Cloud Expo Europe/Datacentre World 2015 (CEEDCW15) continues with Software-Defined Storage (SDS), and its role in delivering data to authorized users, anywhere, any way, across any application.

While only a few years ago, the idea of any application, anywhere, on any device, by any authorized user, seemed cumbersome at best, and utopian at worst; this same idea is now a reality, and something on which the progress of economies depend.

But the practicalities of achieving this is not as simple as the desire.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) brought the world an easy way of consuming enterprise-quality software, without the need to provision infrastructure, configure software and maintain and support the entire installation.

This allowed enterprise users to focus how technology brings business benefits to their organizations.

Analysis

However, even with the most advanced SaaS implementation, there is still one more crucial question – how does one aggregate data, and view it holistically, such that an analyst, or a business leader can take advantage of it?

From a fiscal perspective, how does an enterprise achieve this without “ripping and replacing” massive existing investments in technology infrastructure, collected throughout the years?

This is where SDS comes in. Like any form of software-defined solution, it is essentially an aggregation and virtualization layer. For storage, this means the ability to aggregate disparate and discreet storage pools and storage systems into a single “virtual” pool, and then to abstract that out to the required users or applications.

These applications could be as straightforward as reporting applications, standard enterprise applications, or as advanced as behavioral analytics applications and regulatory/corporate compliance applications.

Storage vendors have, for several years, intimated their versions of SDS. Primarily, they have used a uniform branding as a way of suggesting their ability to deliver SDS. Others, such as EMC with ViPR put more venom in their bite with actual software solutions that complemented its storage systems.

Then appeared the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) vendors who, truly did use software to define their infrastructures, but these definitions often went way beyond storage, to encompass compute (hypervisor), network and storage software definition.

On the truly software defined, software driven front, a small number of emerging vendors stand out: they include DataCore, Nexenta, Nutanix, Scality, and SimpliVity.

SDS Vendors Exhibiting at CEEDCW15

At CEEDCW15, DataCore, Nutanix and SimpliVity were all represented.

DataCore

Neuralytix recognizes DataCore as one of the first SDS vendors (alongside Veritas – pre-Symantec purchase, and subsequent spin off). Given the continuity, Neuralytix further recognizes DataCore as having the more mature and established product and customer base in the industry.

However, Neuralytix continues to be surprised by the comparatively low mind- and market-share DataCore has in North America, as opposed to Western Europe, especially Germany, given its two decades of history.

Our analysis shows that the German (and broadly, the European) market has a much higher proportion of medium enterprises compared to North America.

Back when DataCore first made its impact in the late 1990s, at the upward surge, and subsequent “dot com boom” (and bust), what Europeans companies was a way to drive cost effectiveness, while simplifying datacenter management. Along with the ability to leverage the then predominant storage systems – just a bunch of disks (JBODs), DataCore’s value proposition aligned very well, as it does today.

So, the confluence of a cost conscious midmarket, aided by a reseller/indirect channel that were hungry for differentiated solutions to deliver to their customers, allowed DataCore to establish what should be considered a commanding share of the market.

DataCore’s biggest challenge, perhaps is not recognizing the SDS term early, and riding the buzzword wave. Instead, vendors like Nutanix and SimpliVity have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, and taken the SDS show “on the road.”

Neuralytix believes that the only way venture backed SDS vendors will succeed is through an acquisition by, or significant partnership with, an OEM.

Nutanix

Lenovo’s recent announcement of a partnership with Nutanix represents the first significant independent server to independent SDS provider OEM partnership that’s been announced. Neuralytix believes that this is a synergistic partnership[1].

SimpliVity

Naturally, this raises the stakes for SimpliVity, which recently released its own hyperconverged infrastructure-powered OmniStack 3.0 virtualization platform, claiming superior performance with a cloud-based 3x TCO reduction.

SimpliVity is often considered a leadership rival with Nutanix, and could now be driven to announce a major OEM of their own.

While both Nutanix and SimpliVity deliver its software solutions using COTS hardware, Neuralytix interprets this as a way to ensure quality as both vendors mature.

The partnership between Lenovo and Nutanix clearly demonstrates that the underlying hardware platform is secondary, and so long as the partner (whether an OEM or a reseller partner) adheres to the recommendations of either of the SDS providers, a reliable, performant solution can be delivered.

SDS and the Cloud

SDS forms the basis around which data and applications can be delivered in a holistic manner.

In the purist implementation of SDS, all data managed by an SDS solution can conceivably become part of a Data Lake. This allows any application (or authorized user) to access the aggregated data – in a way similar to the Cloud.

By creating a link between the datasets in the datacenter/on-premise and those in the Cloud, SDS is essentially the stepping stone to a hybrid data environment, allowing the collection, protection and distribution of data.

Vendors such as Zadara Storage have already recognized this, albeit that they started from the Cloud. Zadara’s Enterprise-Storage-as-a-Service (ESaaS) began as a Cloud storage solution, delivering the reliability and performance of on-premise storage solutions to Cloud instances/VMs.

Given that its implementation is software over a virtual infrastructure, Zadara was able to quickly extend its capabilities to its On-Premise-as-a-Service (OPaaS) that provides the same capabilities and management in an on-premise appliance.

This makes Zadara one of the first vendors to provide a truly seamless hybrid data storage vendor.

Guidance

Like Michelangelo’s famous painting, The Creation of Adam, located in the Sistine Chapel, illustrating the touching of the earthly (i.e. the datacenter), with the heavenly (i.e. the Cloud), software-defined storage provides the touch point between the two.

The significance of this touch point is not only of the synergies created by the integration of on-premise and Cloud, but also acts as a “freeway” through which data travels.

This “freeway” allows enterprises to accelerate go-to-market strategies; leverage analytics for improved customer relations; provide better efficiency in both internal, external and along the supply chain; at the speed of data travel.

It also allows data to now be aggregated (and virtualized) into new “pools” to provide improved relevance in the processing of the data.

All this ultimately leads to business growth, improved competitive advantage, and the creation of enterprise value.

[1] Full Disclosure: Neuralytix was an advisor to Lenovo with respects to its partnership with Nutanix.