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NAB Starts with a Showstopper: Software Defined Storage Starting to Have Some Defining Moments

Arrived in Las Vegas last night to spend three (3) days and nights with a forecasted 90,000 other attendees at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. As one of NAB’s opening events – and my first stop at the show – was the ShowStoppers event at the Wynn Hotel and Casino near the Las Vegas convention center. There analysts and press got to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours talking with select providers about numerous emerging technologies, one of which was software defined storage.

Ever since the term “software defined storage” first started gaining momentum as the new buzz word in storage cycles, I have to admit I am and remain a bit jaded as to whether or not software defined storage will take off and gain adoption. I was around back in the 2001-2004 time-frame where storage virtualization was going to solve all corporate storage challenges. After riding a huge wave of hype (much larger than anything I have so far seen from the software defined storage crowd,) storage virtualization came crashing back down to earth and crashed – hard.

Yet here I was at the NAB Showstoppers event last night and I probably spent a good 45 minutes to an hour discussing this topic with Avere and Scality who were exhibiting at this event. In discussing this with Avere, it has observed a definite pick-up in interest in software defined storage among large enterprises in the last year – as in organizations are interested in actually acquiring it.

In talking to Rebecca Thompson, Avere’s VP of Marketing, those who display the greatest interest in software defined storage are already well down the path of adopting software defined networking.  As such, these organizations are much more open to the conversation of also implementing software defined storage as well.

Avere would tend to see more of these initiatives than others as its solutions typically show up in large organizations as edge filers that can function as gateways to back-end public clouds. It is on the public storage cloud connectivity where it is specifically starting to see interest in software defined storage as companies want the flexibility to access these public storage pools using S3 APIs. While Amazon is still the big player in this space, more public cloud storage providers are starting to offer support for these APIs and, based upon Rebecca’s comments, support for them is limited to just a handful (under five.)

Organizations then use Avere’s FXT appliances to store frequently accessed data locally (on premise) on flash or disk and then store data via the S3 protocols as it ages with these various cloud storage providers.  Since a number of tape storage providers are also using releasing tape libraries that are beginning to support these S3 protocols (Oracle and Spectra Logic specifically come to mind)  on these libraries. In the near term, she said probably not. Avere’s current and prospective clients are primarily looking to store data in active archives and it did not feel tape met that criteria.

After talking to Avere, the DCIG team wandered over to speak with Scality which had the term “Software Defined Storage” prominently featured on its booth that was just around the corner from Avere. In talking with Scality about this topic, it confirmed what Avere shared with DCIG – that it has also seen a definite uptick in user interest in software defined storage to the point where organizations were no longer are just talking about it but are also buying it. Also, like Avere, it said that organizations with multi-petabyte data storage requirements were the most interested in it.

This piqued my interest as one of my concerns with software defined anything (networking or storage) is how support calls are handled – particularly in the case of storage. Scality shared that it has agreements with all of the major server providers (Dell, HP, SuperMicro, etc) to resell its software and function as the first of support. If anything, Scality has found in its own research that its software is the root cause of an issue when one occurs only about 5 percent of the time. The rest of the time it is a hardware issue.

More notably, it is finding that by remaining hardware agnostic and staying focused on solely being a software provider, any underlying issues (hardware or software) are dealt with more thoroughly. Scality felt that providers who offer both the hardware and software in a single appliance tend to muddy the waters as to where the problem actually resides. They never fully troubleshoot the issue as they fail to identify its root cause so it never fully gets fixed. Instead, they may keep replacing or upgrading hardware until it goes away only to potentially resurface later.

Again, not sure about the accuracy of that viewpoint but I can certainly see how that occurs.

Regardless, these are my first insights gained from NAB. Will try to keep posting on a daily basis as to what information I glean while at the show.

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Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc.

Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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