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Opinion Piece: Software-defined storage unlocks opportunity for manage service providers

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The Managed Service Provider (MSP) market is extremely competitive and fraught with challenges. MSPs need to offer competitive pricing to make their offerings attractive to customers, but at the same time require the agility to develop and deliver solutions that support the customer journey into the cloud. MSPs also need to meet and exceed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to maintain their customer base. They also need to avoid vendor lock in which may isolate potential customers, simplify their solution stack to streamline management and operations, and ensure their technology is always up to date. Achieving all of this can be impossible without the right foundation in place, which is where Software-defined Storage (SDS) comes in.

Standardising hardware is the key

SDS is the ideal supporting platform to help MSPs build and deliver solutions and easily manage and operate them. By decoupling hardware and software, SDS allows MSPs to take advantage of their choice of server technology and server architecture. This ensures a vendor agnostic approach while at the same time enabling MSPs to standardise on their hardware, using commodity servers, cloud architecture or a combination of the two.

By unifying block, object and file for hypervisors, containers, backup and cloud workloads, the result is a scale out, resilient and distributed architecture that maximises availability and protects against hardware failure. Essentially, SDS brings significant simplicity into the framework for enhanced predictability in an elastic solution that can scale to thousands of nodes as demand increases, without disrupting service.

The ultimate goal is to establish a fabric that can support a variety of workloads, including virtualisation, containers and backup, and meet today’s data infrastructure challenges through a single domain.

Ideal for MSPs

The backbone of SDS is highly supportive of a multi-tenancy environment and simplifies management of the technology stack that goes with it, regardless of the storage or workloads that are being run. SDS also supports all providers, ensuring there is no vendor lock in, giving ultimate flexibility in the choice of hardware, development and deployment options.

A single management and presentation layer not only simplifies complexity, it also collapses storage siloes into a single management interface to eliminate mass data fragmentation. By deploying a software-defined layer on top of commoditised hardware, across various clusters including virtualised, bare metal, containers and the cloud, a truly agile infrastructure can be created. This also mitigates the risk of technology refreshes, which can be absorbed without creating disruption or downtime.

Virtual disks deliver a utility storage framework on the back end, for granular provisioning of volumes with enterprise storage functionality. This elastic infrastructure eliminates downtime across the spectrum. It also further delivers on agility by automating management of the underlying hardware and infrastructure, removing this from day to day administrative tasks.

Focus on customers, not tin

Using SDS, MSPs can solve new infrastructure challenges in a distributed way, enabling seamless cloud integration and adoption, supporting the hybrid cloud journey and allowing for enterprise data protection through data distribution.

SDS provides storage for virtual environments, seamlessly integrates with various container orchestrators, and serves as a single backup storage target, regardless of which backup software solution is in use. This improves efficiency, allowing MSPs to extend their service offerings easily, scale without performance degradation and support their clients’ multi-cloud strategy with persistent, high-availability storage.

MSPs are able to maximise their total cost of ownership, simplicity and scale, which lends itself to multiple use cases. From agile container footprints to microservices and virtualisation, MSPs are able to drive a single data centre model across regions that provides absolute uptime and high availability. SDS essentially transforms commodity hardware into an elastic, resilient, modern storage solution that allows MSPs to focus on customers and application sets, rather than on the underlying hardware needed to deliver services.

By Johan Scheepers, Country Head at Commvault South Africa – 20 October 2020


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