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What Exactly Is Software-Defined Storage?


By Edward Gately

A digital enterprise needs a dynamic storage foundation – one that can cope with fast-changing workloads, Big Data, new applications and new ways of doing business.

While not simple to build, the long-term benefits of software-defined storage (SDS) include flexibility, speed and the freedom to unravel third-party vendor relationships.

During this Software Defined Enterprise Conference & Expo (SDxE) presentation titled “What Exactly is Software-Defined Storage,” Steve Watt, Chief Architect of Emerging Technologies at Red Hat, will discuss Ceph and Gluster, two SDS technologies.

In a Q&A with SDxE, Watt gives a sneak peek of the information he plans to share with attendees.

Steve Watts Q&A

SDxE: What do you think is the biggest barrier organizations face with digital transformation – technology or culture? And why?

Steve Watt: It's culture. You can have the best tools and technology in the world, but if you don’t have a systemic culture that appreciates and desires the need to transform in the first place, you won’t be successful. A great culture shapes process and fills in the gaps around the process with initiative and creativity. Ultimately, I think it’s that culture-driven ability to adapt in the right way that makes you successful.


SDxE: What challenges have you faced in your company with digital transformation? Where have you had success?

SW: Red Hat is an open source software technology company, so in a lot of ways things have been purely digital for awhile. However, I work in an engineering function and I think that one area related to digital transformation that we’ve been challenged in and have been focusing on, is the agility required for the transformation. We’ve moved a large number of teams over to agile processes to help us cope with the large number of open source technologies and features that we are constantly incorporating into our products. As I’m sure with many companies, it can be challenging to make sure that the rate of innovation does not impact quality, so we’ve had to get smart about it. We now have a chief agile architect, Jen Krieger, whose staff comes alongside teams that are new to the model and helps them figure it out in real-time.


SDxE: In your presentation, you’re going to discuss “What Exactly is Software-Defined Storage?” Without too many spoilers, can you give us an overview?

SW: My main job function is long-term technology strategy and the development and commercialization of emerging technologies. This means that my presentation is going to spend a fair portion of time getting the audience excited about the present but also the future. I will start by defining what software-defined storage is and what business value it brings, and then move into the innovation occurring in SDS that is happening today around container orchestration platforms and open source, and what that means for the SDS consumer.


SDxE: What technologies/developments are you most looking forward to using in 2017 and beyond?

SW: I would say that it is the block device support coming to the Kubernetes project later this year, driven by Michelle Au (Google) and Erin Boyd (Red Hat). This feature will allow distributed data management platforms (like NoSQL or storage platforms) to run natively in Kubernetes, on-premise or in the cloud. I think this is going to be a fairly revolutionary feature that is going to have a long-term effect on the storage industry. If you’re unfamiliar with Kubernetes and why this feature is important, I’ll explain it in detail in my talk.


SDxE: What do you hope attendees gain from your session and the overall conference?

SW: I hope attendees gain a sense of what software-defined storage is, where it is useful to them and where the industry is going. I think as a society we’re starting to experience the beginnings of a software-based innovation deluge, and so I hope my session and the conference as a whole can give them some foundational principles for navigating the ever-increasing list of choices to help them find the best fit for their needs.

Edward Gately

Edward Gately is a contributing editor for SDxE and Channel Partners Online. Follow him on Twitter at @EdwardGately