There’s a lot of talk about software-defined storage lately. It even has its own Twitter hashtag: #softwaredefinedstorage to keep us up to date on the topic. The emergence of iSCSI-based SAN & NAS means that an IT department with budgetary constraints can have a scalable, highly available and affordable storage network using off-the-shelf hardware. Furthermore, building your own iSCSI SAN is a fairly easy task.
But why bother with an iSCSI SAN at all?
With an iSCSI SAN you can do many common tasks far easier and faster than with conventional file servers and direct attached disks. A SAN gives you “shared storage” on your network, meaning that you can centrally manage all of your storage from one device as opposed to managing storage on each individual application server. Some of the advantages of shared storage includes enabling simplified backups when using snapshots and allowing replication between storage devices — for off-siting data — to be done at a far lower cost than with host-based replication.
Who can benefit most from an iSCSI SAN? Any company that places a high value on their data can benefit from an iSCSI SAN, including
- Any IT shop with limited resources and limited budgets. iSCSI is a proven technology that costs significantly less than Fiber Channel and provides superior data protection and cost reductions over traditional direct attached disks (also referred to as DAS). iSCSI is fully supported by VMware and many other virtual machine vendors: in most cases an iSCSI SAN is the best choice for server virtualization projects.
- Designers and testing and development teams that require immediate and fast access to data and backup sets, without waiting for delays with traditional tape-based backups.
- When data is required in real time across geographically distributed organizations, iSCSI makes the most sense due to the low cost and ease-of-use of IP Networking.
- Organizations that host other people’s data such as Application Service Providers (ASPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Storage Service Providers (SSPs) can all benefit from a reduced TCO footprint when using iSCSI storage.
- Anywhere remote data replication or disaster recovery is a requirement: Typically as organizations start to expand (i.e., a new office is opened or a new company is acquired in another state), the costs associated with traditional data protection such as tape off-siting and data center hosting costs can be significantly reduced by leveraging remote sites and iSCSI.
- Even the smallest companies can seek a positive ROI when using iSCSI storage to back up straight to disk before going to tape, essentially retaining weeks or even months of backups for protection against data loss and for legal/compliancy requirements, thus reducing the dependency on backup tape.
But software-defined storage is only touching the surface of the impact of this technology. Software-defined networks may in fact eliminate siloed functions of servers in the near-future data center…all while cutting the expenses associated with traditional data centers.