The pioneers in the cloud movement have blazed a new trail when it comes to physical infrastructure. I briefly discussed their Pets vs Cattle approach in my post Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective. These guys thought about the scale, performance, and cost requirements that would be driven by workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data, and they decided that traditional infrastructures had to change. We needed a new way of doing things that utilized much lower cost common building blocks with almost unlimited increments in scalability. Something built for efficiency and optimized for speed. A software defined storage layer that crafts these common storage building blocks into massively scalable and deeply capable storage systems is IBM Spectrum Scale.
To do the job, this layer of storage software must have a couple of important attributes.
- Software defined storage has to cobble together common building blocks into a reliable storage system that quickly delivers data to workloads over a variety of protocols. The technology behind IBM Spectrum Scale began in IBM research over 20 years ago and earned its stripes with some of the most demanding scientific, digital media, and Big Data workloads on the planet. Today, it’s the software defined storage layer behind many of the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world. With the rise of cloud, analytic, mobile, and social workloads, we have been adapting additional file and object protocols to this extreme scale and performance. IBM Spectrum Scale can now deliver data over POSIX, NFS, a Hadoop connector and the OpenStack Swift object interface with more protocols being added regularly. I’ll talk about block protocols in future posts on IBM Spectrum Virtualize and IBM Spectrum Accelerate.
- Software defined storage has to deliver the kind of data management and security capabilities required to keep common building block infrastructures running efficiently. Snapshots, replication and encryption have become table stakes. IT managers now look for distinguishing characteristics like sophisticated tiering policies that can take disk-based data and move it ‘up’ to Flash storage or Flash cache on the computer where the workload is running, and ‘down’ to tape and the cloud. You can find all these capabilities in IBM Spectrum Scale and that’s good, but they are capabilities that have a somewhat single-site feel to them. “My data is here on-premises – make a snapshot, encrypt it, move it to another tier”. The cloud adds a more global dimension to storage. IBM Spectrum Scale capitalizes on this idea buy enabling IT managers to connect Spectrum Scale instances across an enterprise or around the world to create a single inventory of data with policies that define the location and flow of files – moving the right data to the right place at the right time [Learn more here]. Importantly, because this global namespace can house something like 9 quintillion files (did I mention high scale?) for varying workloads with different data management needs, IBM Spectrum Scale enables IT managers to apply data management and security policies to individual sets of files.
As the public cloud pioneers observed, a key is the ability to utilize common building block storage hardware. I’ll give you a practical example. IBM Spectrum Scale is software defined storage available as software, appliance or cloud service. An example appliance is the IBM Elastic Storage Server which combines Spectrum Scale software with dense, low cost, common building block disk drawers. The Elastic Storage Server also includes IBM Spectrum Scale RAID, a software implementation of declustered RAID where RAID is done at a block level as opposed to a disk level. As disks continue to get larger, traditional RAID begins to struggle and rebuild times can be measured in hours or days. IBM Spectrum Scale RAID measures rebuild times in minutes. Think about the implications for IT managers – a massively scalable and deeply capable storage system without a SAN or RAID controller, just software defined storage and a pile of dense JBOD drawers. There is indeed a big shift taking place in the storage market.