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Software-Defined Storage Survey: Small Role for Flash Devices

A new survey of software-defined storage users that shows a surprisingly slow uptake of flash-based devices such as solid-state drives.

Storage virtualization company DataCore Software Corp. released a new survey of software-defined storage (SDS) users that shows a surprisingly slow uptake of flash-based devices such as solid-state drives (SSDs).

DataCore conducted its fourth consecutive survey on storage virtualization and use of SDS, "The State of Software-Defined Storage." The company last month garnered responses from 388 IT professionals to gauge trends in the industry such as storage challenges and the driving forces behind SDS.

Because the survey fielded different questions from last year's survey, few direct comparisons are available. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company concluded that SDS was the answer to perplexing problems such as managing a diversity of devices and migrating between devices of different kinds from different vendors. More surprising was that there seemed to be little increase in the percentage of total capacity devoted to flash-based storage devices such as SSDs.

Last year, almost 60 percent of respondents say they didn't use flash/SSDs at all in their environments, while another 21 percent said they used the technology for less than 5 percent of their total storage capacity.

This year, 63 percent of respondents said less than 10 percent of their capacity was devoted to flash/SSDs.

"With all of the hype around the 'all-flash datacenter,' it is clear that new fast hardware technology alone is not the answer," the company quoted Evaluator Group analyst Randy Kerns as saying. "There are multiple critical factors preventing organizations from making this move -- lack of smart software that integrates and optimizes their use, the relative high cost and the realizations that not all applications benefit from flash devices."

Other surveys indicate most companies are using flash/SSD devices in some capacity. For example, according to a survey from EMC Corp. on storage trends, challenges and options for 2013-2104, about 56 percent of respondents reported using flash drives, though there was no breakdown of what percentage of total capacity was devoted to flash drives. Most surveys of this type indicate that while flash/SSD devices are used by a majority of organizations, this use is overwhelmingly in hybrid systems pairing them with traditional disk drives. This way, companies can take advantage of the superior performance of the more expensive flash/SSDs in critical areas where performance is more important than price.

Other results of this year's DataCore survey included the following:

  • Almost 40 percent of this year's respondents said they didn't plan to use flash/SSDs for server virtualization projects because of cost concerns.
  • The top business driver for using SDS was to simplify the management of devices in different storage classes, listed by about 26 percent of respondents, followed by future-proofing infrastructure (about 21 percent) and to avoid storage hardware vendor lock-in (about 15 percent).
  • About 30 percent of the respondents asked about the importance of being able to expand capacity without disruption when using SDS named it as being "most important." About 32 percent of respondents asked about the importance of improving disaster recovery and business continuity cited it as being "most important."
  • RAID on servers was the most commonly reported step taken to reduce storage-related downtime of systems, listed by about 56 percent of respondents, followed by using clustered storage between two datacenters (about 49 percent) and redundant SANs in the same datacenter (about 33 percent).

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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