Don’t Count SDS Out Just Yet: DataCore Believes Hardware Agnostic Storage Is The Future

DataCore recently made a few announcements including their own foray into the hyperconverged space. Given the announcement, we wanted to dig deeper and question whether they can punch harder in the global storage market.

For us at DSA we find it ironic that no one in IT would argue that true software-defined hardware agnostic storage is the modern and sensible approach, but at the same time hardware-centric companies like Pure and Nutanix are the ones showing massive revenue growth and raising the big funds to fuel that growth.

We put forward what we felt were reasonably tough questions to DataCore, and in truth they swatted those questions with ease. If we’re really honest, we already drink their cool aid, but the reality is that the market hasn’t quite warmed to the idea. Yes, they have a solid business, but to date we haven’t seen quite the hyper growth such as those seen in the big storage hardware companies mentioned above. 

Take a look at what Gerardo Dada, CMO of DataCore Software, had to say, and maybe he can sway a few more storage admins to go the true software agnostic route.


We "get" your technology, but the market doesn't seem to be supportive of software only "software defined storage players" Can you give us any evidence that customers "buy in" to your approach and technology?

The first evidence is the 10,000 customers and 30,000 deployments worldwide that DataCore has today. There are also other successful software-only SDS players such as VMWare’s vSAN. 

Second, it is part of a larger multi-decade trend where IT is evolving from being hardware centric to becoming software centric. Some call it infrastructure as code, some call it software-defined infrastructure. The adoption of (compute) virtualization and the adoption of cloud technologies are milestones in this transition.

Third, many analyst firms are seeing an increased interest in SDS solutions. Gartner recently wrote that: “Gartner end users expressed increased interest in SDS solutions and vendors, especially in the areas of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), distributed file systems and object storage. IT leaders are now counting on SDS to resolve many upcoming challenges.” They added “By 2024, 50% of the global storage capacity will be deployed as SDS on-premises or on the public cloud.”

We understand that pure play SDS and Storage Virtualisation is a tough place to be, and HCI is grabbing more attention, but why would companies look to DataCore for HCI appliance rather than one of the leading players in that space?

HCI is definitely a hot topic in IT. The reason why there is an opportunity for DataCore is that the leading players today are hardware vendors, which makes sense as HCI was originally a hardware-centric model. As the technology has evolved, the market is realizing the value is really in the software. Many of these companies now want to become software companies. 

There is also a realization that compute virtualization is solved; what makes one HCI approach attractive relative to another is how they do storage. DataCore has the advantage of being a software company from day one, and we bring 20 years of experience and 20 years of technology in storage virtualization.

In practical terms, the benefits for end users are: 
• First, no hardware, vendor, or architecture lock-in. 
• Second, no silos or islands. Our approach is that HCI systems should integrate with existing infrastructure. 
• Third is the flexibility to present HCI storage to external hosts or to present external storage to HCI hosts. This means you can scale compute and storage independently and that you have more flexibility for growth.

Last but not least, we bring all the benefits of our SDS platform to HCI: from advanced caching and Parallel I/O performance improvements, to a consistent set of services such as auto-tiering and thin provisioning, to support for fibre channel network interfaces.

How would you counter the view that whilst DataCore offers great flexibility, a lot of companies still prefer the security of having storage abstraction provided by their storage hardware vendors even if it is less open and less agnostic?

I am not sure why would anyone think that a single vendor approach provides more security. In fact, it provides more risk in the form of a dependency and risk in the form of lack of flexibility.

If you accept the point of view that the future is software-defined, and that hardware should be commoditized, then it is logical to think that an intelligent software layer that gives you advanced storage services, which supports any storage system of your choice, is the way to go.

Few companies have a single vendor approach to storage. Those who do are subject to the vendor’s refresh cycles, licensing practices, and technology choices. The reality is that most companies have deployed storage systems from multiple vendors. 

For them, SDS provides an additional value in simplicity and consistency, as it becomes a single management pane, allows for simpler migration and capacity utilization, and the unified services mean the storage team has to learn how to do things once, and not have different models and runbooks for each vendor.

Last, we know technology comes in cycles. The original storage vendors were replaced by smarter arrays, which were being replaced by the new AFA vendors. We know there will be a new technology wave every few years, and based on history, likely we will want to buy new technology from a new hardware company. SDS gives users the flexibility to adopt these newer technologies with minimal disruption.

For example, let’s take NVMe. A DataCore customer could install a couple of NVMe cards as DAS in the storage controllers, and our intelligent dynamic auto-tiering technology would immediately use it to make all the storage faster, by moving the blocks of data that require more performance to NVMe, and leveraging our I/O technology to make best use of the latency and performance improvements that would give every application a performance boost.

The reality is that SDS is the future of storage. Hardware-centric models are obsolete. The sooner an IT department comes to this realization, the sooner they can enjoy the benefits of a software-defined world.

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