What Is Software-Defined Storage?

Software-defined storage (SDS) is a technology that manages and allocates data storage using software, making it independent of the specific hardware it resides on. SDS provides flexibility because it can run on almost any standard computer hardware, unlike traditional SAN or NAS systems requiring special equipment. This makes it easier to scale, upgrade, and adapt as technology changes.

How Does Software-Defined Storage Work?

Since it's a software-centric approach, software-defined storage, being software, decouples the underlying storage potential from directly attached storage. SDS pulls available hardware storage capacity into a unified, abstracted storage layer. This way, you can use all of your storage power as you need fit, when you need it, how you need it, and, most importantly – automate the process of storage use.

SDS is all about squeezing the maximum out of the minimum. It's shocking how much more you can do with your available storage once it's been logically abstracted and organized rather than when it's in separate siloes. SDS also enables incredible flexibility: scale up, scale out, scale down, and maintenance without downtime. Just add one storage medium element and it'll be added to the layer.

Software-defined storage solutions combine resource flexibility, programmability, and automation. IT infrastructure, with properly configured SDS in place, shows improved SLAs and QoS; increases performance, data availability, and efficiency; as well as enhances security and compliance. SDS is all about versatile and automated data management, resolving routine heaviness and ineffective hardware use.

Why Move to Software-Defined Storage?

Over the years, traditional storage has been a mainstay for many organizations, yet the evolving tech landscape now asks for a shift. The move towards Software-Defined Storage isn't just a tech trend; it's a response to the drawbacks and limitations inherent in traditional storage systems.

  • Flexibility

    Unlike traditional storage, which is heavily hardware-dependent, SDS operates primarily through software. This software-centricity provides unparalleled flexibility in terms of deployment and supported configurations, breaking free from the constraints of dedicated proprietary hardware.

  • Extended Lifecycle

    Traditional storage solutions come with a fixed support lifecycle. In contrast, SDS enables “indefinite” operability, continually updating and refining to stay in tune with the latest technology.

  • Cost-efficiency

    While traditional systems require expensive certified hardware, SDS comfortably works with almost any x86 hardware, ensuring wide compatibility and cost-efficiency.

  • Scalability

    Where traditional systems allow for scale-up by merely adding disk capacity, SDS goes a step further. It provides options to both scale up and scale out, offering more ways for expansion and growth.

  • Ease of use

    Traditional storage often requires specialized administrators. On the other hand, most modern SDS solutions provide intuitive UI, making storage management less of a specialized task and more user-friendly.

    In sum, while traditional storage has its merits, the multitude of benefits offered by Software-Defined Storage — from cost-effectiveness to enhanced functionality — makes it a compelling choice for many organizations.

Benefits of Software-Defined Storage

IT Infrastructure Cost-Efficiency

SDS can work with both legacy storage media and storage protocols as well as modern ones. Operating on readily available commercial hardware, SDS squeezes every bit of performance potential for every cent you paid for your hardware storage and more.

Infrastructure Disaster Resistance

What is frequently overlooked in software defined storage is its innate redundancy features. Software-defined storage vendors approach this differently but the better SDS solutions out there have solid fault tolerance potential for proper data availability.

Datacanter Performance Boost

SDS allocates much more power to all of your applications and workloads than they would get otherwise, with just storage disks attached. With software-defined storage, your systems will enjoy constant high uptime, resiliency, and flexible scalability.

Enhanced Business Continuity

With SDS, your organization will deliver consistent, qualitative services to your customers, which will favorably impact your business reputation. Also, since the consumer terrain changes rapidly, SDS will allow you to adapt to business and technological growth in a snap.

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Software-Defined Storage Solutions

VMware VSAN vs Nutanix AOS. StarWind VSAN vs VMware VSAN. Nutanix AOS vs PowerFlex Dell EMC. So many questions. So many answers. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

VMware VSAN Nutanix AOS StarWind VSAN PowerFlex Dell EMC
Deployment Scenarios
Supports only HCI, where all cluster nodes must be licensed with hypervisor and VSAN storage, being 100% symmetric all the time. Supports only HCI, where all cluster nodes must be licensed with hypervisor, AOS storage functionality and Prism management UI, being 100% symmetric all the time. Supports all possible deployment architectures such as HCI, mixed HCI and CI. All features are immediately accessible and fully operable starting with 2 nodes. Comes as HCI datacenter only, whereby the consumer invests in a hardware solution that has all traditional hardware components baked-in and operating as a single product.
Hypervisor Support
Supports VMware vSphere only, resulting in obvious limitations and vendor lock-in. Natively supports its own Acropolis (AHV) hypervisor as 1st class citizen. Intent to use Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere ESXi. No support for KVM or Xen. Supports vSphere ESXi, Hyper-V, various KVM- and Xen-based deployments, meaning outstanding flexibility for customers. Supports VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Oracle Enterprise Linux KVM hypervisor.
Licensing Options
  • Perpetual license only.
  • Per-core licensing.
  • VMware provides bulk licensing for their customers/partners.
  • Perpetual license only.
  • Per-node licensing bound to hardware platform it is used on.
  • Per-TB plus Per-Core licensing.
  • Nutanix provides bulk licensing for their customers/partners.
  • Licenses can be either perpetual or subscription-based.
  • Licenses can have per-Node and per-TB basis.
  • If the customer has a number of StarWind deployments to be performed in a certain period, StarWind can provide bulk licensing.
StarWind licensing is extremely flexible and guarantees great ROI.
  • Perpetual license only.
  • The solution comes as a hyperconverged infrastructure hardware virtualization platform.
Scalability Nuance
Strict hardware compatibility lists (HCLs). Strict hardware compatibility lists (HCLs). Infinite unrestricted scalability. There is no hardware lock-in. License can be reused on any other hardware. Scalability happens only by means of purchasing a new PowerFlex node.
High Availability
Additionally purchased feature. Additionally purchased feature. Included with each license.
Additionally purchased feature.

Types of Software-Defined Storage

Software defined storage solutions are an approach to storage management rather than a specific type of product. Consequently, there are several solutions that may fit under this definition.
  • Hyperconverged Infrastructure
    SDS becomes a part of an HCI appliance, based on commodity hardware, which tightly unites and abstracts storage, compute, and networking in a compact, ultra-powerful form.
  • Storage Virtualization
    Here, the system combines direct-attached storage of any storage medium, across any physical location, and creates a single storage pool for further management and monitoring.
  • Container-Attached Storage
    The new take on persisting data for critical workloads in Kubernetes clusters, where storage controllers operate in containers, making them portable for guests, on-prem data centers, or cloud instances.
  • Scale-Out Storage Approach
    This is more of a legacy configuration for unstructured data that allows to pull certain types of storage into a single device, and such an approach comes as scale-out object, scale-out block, or scale-out file storage.

Where Is Software-Defined Storage Used?

Remote Office / Branch Office (ROBO)

SDS enables businesses to forgo building costly datacenters at ROBO locations while also avoiding downtime. Minimalistic off-the-shelf hardware can be deployed with SDS on top for high performance, easy data management, and flawless connection with HQ.

Various Edge Deployments

Software defined storage solutions are perfect for edge scenarios thanks to their minimum operation requirements and maximum output in operation. Whether it's tactical units, first-responders, mobile devices, extreme conditions, or smart cities – SDS can boost them all.

Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud storage has exploded in popularity, offering a reliable and cost-efficient way for storing your data. In addition to traditional scaling, SDS can expand your storage infrastructure to the cloud, delivering even higher cost-efficiency and disaster resistance (DR) capabilities.

General Business Infrastructure

Software-defined storage sounds fancy and misconceptions commonly plague even experienced IT professionals. However, modern SDS has accessible pricing, practical features, and can be leveraged to excellent degrees even by the smallest of businesses today.

Why StarWind?

StarWind was among the pioneers of storage virtualization as a concept and, later, among the first ones to develop and make hyperconvergence available to a wider audience. StarWind products are built around accessibility, simplicity, and maximum performance out of minimal resources. We believe SDS and hyperconvergence aren't for the private club – they are the new IT infrastructure standard for all.

StarWind VSAN exists to take any infrastructure, be it SMB, Enterprise ROBO, or Edge, to the highest possible performance scores. It eliminates the need for physical shared storage, integrates into any infrastructure configuration, works with any hypervisor, and is simple to manage.
Achieve constant high application uptime and fault
tolerance without breaking the bank with
VSAN from StarWind.
StarWind HCI Appliance is a turnkey hybrid and private cloud building block that converges cutting-edge data center elements in a compact form, with associated software, perpetual monitoring, machine learning failure prediction, and 24/7 proactive support on top.
Reduce the costs and complexity of your legacy
combination of servers and storage by superseding
them with HCI Appliance from StarWind.


What is Software-defined infrastructure (SDI)?

Software-defined infrastructure is a broad concept, which includes software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined storage (SDS), and software-defined compute (SDC) that operates as a software-defined datacenter (SDDC). Put shortly, SDI can operate all elements without the human factor, automatically, being hardware-agnostic and effectively operating heterogeneous IT environments as one.

What is SDS in data center?

Software-defined storage in data center constitutes an element of IT infrastructure operation. SDS is a software product deployed on top of your hypervisor of choice. It then virtualized direct-attached storage and storage controllers into a unified abstracted layer for the rest of the data center and applications to use. It seems complicated but SDS usually runs in the background and needs no babysitting.

What is software-defined storage market?

Software defined storage market is typically categorized by several identifiers: Type (block, file, object, HCI); Enterprise Size (SME, Large Enterprise); Geographic Location; and End-User Industry (Government, BFSI, Telecommunications and IT). Software defined storage market has exploded in recent years and is predicted to grow several times more in the next few years.

What is free software-defined storage?

Free software-defined storage refers to two things: Free SDS Version and Trial SDS Version. Usually, most software have a trial period where the user can test out all its potential for a period of time to see if they like it and want to buy it. Few SDS vendors offer free products. Free SDS is a version with restricted features, usually, available for the tiniest of business, lab, or proof of concept (PoC) scenarios.

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