Why Every IT Organization Needs Software Defined Storage Automation and Management

Dan Norton
Director, ViPR SRM Product Management

Things are about to get a whole lot easier for IT professionals tackling the challenge presented by users growing impatient with internal storage provisioning.

Until now, it’s been tough to persuade people to wait weeks or months for IT to provision storage when cloud-based alternatives like AWS can deliver what they need in minutes.

How is the internal IT organization supposed to compete with that?

A lot more easily than you might think, now that Software Defined Storage automation and management is increasingly an option. The automated aspects of Software Defined Storage are empowering IT to deliver new storage instantly instead of in an eternity, to ensure consistent configurations that keep service levels up, and to enable the monitoring and management capabilities that keep storage reliable and trouble-free.

In short, Software Defined Storage enables all the things that allow IT-provisioned storage to compete with cloud-based alternatives. That means users won’t have to go outside the organization to get what they want. And that in turn means IT can maintain control over storage performance, security and compliance while still providing the rapid response that users today demand.

Automation: the path to on-demand storage with lower costs

By abstracting storage resources to allow for on-demand provisioning, Software Defined Storage provisioning makes it possible to automate the otherwise laborious and time-consuming process of delivering storage services. This is the key that allows IT to provision storage quickly and cost-effectively, and to compete with the cloud-based alternatives—but without the risks those alternatives may pose.

But there are a couple of other problems that Software Defined Storage automation addresses, beyond the ability to provision quickly. One is the reliance on individual storage platform experts in the IT organization and the other is the inconsistency that results when each expert provisions storage a little differently. The automated policy-based provisioning eliminates the chance of human error that could result in lower service quality.

Because automation can handle all the provisioning, data protection and reclamation tasks that used to require specialized, vendor-specific skills, organizations no longer need a cadre of experts in multiple storage platforms. And even non-tech business users, who know little about storage in general, can be set up to self-provision capacity on demand to meet their workload and data protection requirements, without direct IT involvement. Automation lowers the requirement for huge numbers of highly skilled storage administrators.

Automation also increases vendor independence since there’s no tie to one particular platform choice, and that makes it easier to react when business changes such as mergers introduce different platforms. And it codifies best practices so that IT can not only provision storage more rapidly and cost-effectively than before, but can easily enforce best practices that will help meet service-level commitments.

IT no longer has to resort to overbuying and can move instead from “just in case” to “just in time” storage acquisition.

From “just in case” to “just in time” storage delivery

Software Defined Storage automation enables IT to quickly and accurately undertake discovery activities in the current storage environment. What’s there? How’s it configured? How much capacity is available, and how much is actually being consumed? Automated reporting that shows consumption over time and identifies consumption trends is an important step in detecting where capacity is underused so that corrective action can be taken. Here, too, automation in Software Defined Storage solves the excess-capacity problem that tends to plague storage silos. When needs can be accurately forecasted, IT no longer has to resort to overbuying and can move instead from “just in case” to “just in time” storage acquisition.

Ensuring that the appropriate storage tiers are employed is part of the increased storage efficiency that comes with automation. With automated reporting, optimizing storage tiers becomes easier, through performance analysis that helps determine if the storage tier is aligned to the workload and cost objectives of the business. You can match storage to what’s needed so that you’re not slowing things down with storage that under-delivers or wasting money with systems that over-deliver. And you can count on automated monitoring and troubleshooting to keep performance up, keep problems to a minimum and simplify systems management.

But is it really as good as stand-alone storage arrays?

It’s better, actually. It allows traditional, purpose-built storage to be managed as a single platform and automates delivery of services based on built-in intelligence and best practices. The pre-configured, standardized storage components that are part and parcel of today’s Software Defined Storage solutions deliver many of the same task-specific capabilities as stand-alone systems. They just use a different way to get there—a faster, easier, more cost-effective way that relies on software-based specialization and automation to meet different requirements more quickly and economically. That leads to more consistent, predictable storage solutions that don’t require skilled experts to build or maintain them.

If you’re concerned about users acquiring storage resources from external sources, which can wreak havoc on the ability to manage and secure data within the organization, there’s an easy way to solve the problem: Software Defined Storage automation and management. Users won’t feel so compelled to look outside the organization to other sources if they don’t have a reason to. That’s where Software Defined Storage comes in—to keep the users happy and the data secure.

Learn more about EMC’s Software Defined Storage Solutions.