Systems and Storage Practice Lead, Northdoor
In this article, Tom explains how software-defined storage solutions can improve the performance and flexibility of data storage while reducing TCO. By adopting a software-defined storage solution, organisations can reduce IT management overheads and become more responsive to new demands from the business.
The theoretical peak performance of IBM Power System servers continues to rise rapidly with each new generation of hardware, but any system is only as good as its weakest element. In many organisations, end-to-end performance is throttled by bottlenecks in data storage and retrieval. If you can’t get data into and out of your processors rapidly enough, much of your investment in server horsepower could be left idle.
Where Power environments are dependent on ageing direct-connected storage or sprawling SANs containing multiple disparate technologies, performance is not the only challenge. Organisations may also struggle to manage day-to-day maintenance, not to mention planning and delivering capacity upgrades.
By adopting a software-defined storage strategy, organisations using IBM Power servers can unlock the full value of their investments, boost the performance and availability of key business systems, rationalise and simplify storage management, and deliver significant long-term cost savings on storage capacity. What’s more, software-defined storage makes it much faster and easier to connect to cloud-based storage, enabling organisations to create hybrid landscapes in which applications can be moved seamlessly on and off premises as business needs change.
Making the most of your IT investments?
In the digital age, new competitors can transform industries overnight, and the list of global disruptors becomes longer every day. The competitive advantage held by companies such as Uber and Airbnb comes in large part from their ability to store, manage and analyse large amounts of data almost in real time. Of course, for every unicorn in the market, there are dozens of more traditional businesses continuing to operate profitably – but even among these organisations there is a near-universal drive to make data-driven decisions and to serve customers faster.
IBM Power is a great asset for businesses seeking to work faster and smarter in the digital age, and the evolution from POWER7 to POWER9 has brought significant increases in performance and throughput, as well as unlocking new analytical capabilities. But for many organisations, the new capabilities may serve to highlight shortcomings in other areas of the infrastructure. Put bluntly, you can have all the processing power in the world, but it’s only valuable if you can get data into and out of the processors fast enough to meet business needs.
Whether you’re dependent on internal disk, older direct-attached storage or newer SAN-based technologies to support your Power servers, you may well be feeling the pinch as the volume of business data continues to grow faster each year. If you have upgraded to POWER8 or POWER9, have you seen the expected boost in performance, or are you being held back by storage bottlenecks?
The need to store ever more data – while respecting regulations such as the GDPR – also tends to drive up cost and complexity in the storage infrastructure, all while IT budgets continue to decrease. Nevertheless, many organisations remain stuck on a technology treadmill that sees them re-investing in full refreshes of multiple different technology platforms every three to five years. This perpetuates the silos in the infrastructure, making it harder to act rapidly and flexibly to new business requirements – raising the risk of “shadow IT” as business executives become frustrated and start by-passing the IT department altogether. Having multiple different storage technologies also raises training and support costs, and often means that some servers are crying out for additional capacity while others have terabytes to spare.
A power-up for your storage landscape
By adopting a software-defined storage strategy, organisations can unite existing and future capacity into a single virtual environment that can be shared seamlessly across Power servers and other on-premises or cloud-based systems. Software-defined storage solutions create a layer of abstraction on top of multiple types of storage, and include features such as high availability, snap shots, data reduction and live data migration for both block and scale-out file systems via a single management interface for all available capacity.
With its ability to redeploy existing storage capacity – potentially as a lower tier of storage for less performance-sensitive workloads – software-defined storage enables organisations to get off the technology treadmill without sacrificing the sunk value in the current storage landscape. New capacity of practically any type can be added on the fly and shared seamlessly between any servers, enabling standardisation and speed in new investments. A common management interface makes it fast and easy to create new storage volumes to meet different SLAs for both Power and other server platforms. And as businesses open up to the possibilities of hybrid on-premises/cloud infrastructure, choosing the right software-defined storage solution will allow you to use on-premises storage today, and steadily move to the cloud without changing your licensing conditions – for full investment protection and total flexibility in how you manage data storage.
Flexible hybrid options
With IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, organisations using Power Systems servers can benefit from best-in-class software-defined storage from their existing vendor. IBM Spectrum provides a comprehensive suite of products for virtualised block storage, scale-out file storage, backup and recovery, Copy Data Management and control – deployed on-premises, in software or in the cloud.
While the Spectrum technology works with a vast range of different storage and server technologies, IBM naturally focuses on ensuring exceptional compatibility with, and support for, IBM Power. What’s more, IBM Spectrum Storage Suite offers great flexibility in licensing and deployment. Organisations can buy and deploy the technology as a hardware/software appliance for rapid on-premises deployment, as a software-only solution for deployment on any compatible hardware, and on the cloud – currently supported are IBM Cloud™ and offerings from two other major cloud vendors.
Organisations that choose a perpetual licence for IBM Spectrum Storage Suite can deploy on-premises today and flexibly move any or all parts of their storage landscape to the cloud in future, without reinvesting in a new licence. The IBM technology supports hybrid combinations of on-premises and cloud storage, providing a single point of control across both.
Of course, IBM is not the only primary vendor that offers software-defined storage, and there are many different ways of designing and implementing such an architecture. Equally, there are many consultancies with skills in designing, deploying and supporting software-defined landscapes. By choosing a partner with decades of experience both in IBM Power and in helping blue-chip companies manage, protect and extract business value from data, you can ensure a smooth transition that maximises the benefit of your investments in both technologies.
Northdoor plc helps organisations transition to software-defined storage, for lower costs, greater flexibility and the performance to tackle big data and analytics challenges.
One of just a handful of IBM Business Partners in the UK to achieve the prestigious “Expert Storage Solutions” status, Northdoor also holds the “Specialist: Server Systems” status for Power, and is an IBM Platinum partner. As winner of the 2018 Data Management Solution of the Year at the European IT & Software Excellence Awards, Northdoor also has a very strong background in architecting both Power and storage solutions.