Is my organization ready for Software Defined Storage? (continued)

Yesterday I already wrote how flexible Software Defined Storage is and that hardware is an important factor in the success of a Software Defined Storage solution design. Now we continue with what to do after you have looked at which part of all your storage is most interesting to try Software Defined Storage with…

The best way to start is have a look at the software options for your use-case, make a list of them and see which types of hardware you might need for them. Software Defined Storage options that you could have a look at that I consider Enterprise Ready are: Open-E JovianDSS, OSNexus QuantaStor (includes ZFS, Gluster and Ceph), Compuverde vNAS, NexentaStor, Hedvig, VMWare VSAN, or Linbit DRBD. Of course new options emerge every day and some of them are really promising, but after looking at new Software Defined Storage solutions for over a decade my advice is to not try any new options unless you have a lot of time and enterprise equipment on your hands to build the experience you are going to need to see what works and what doesn’t. If you do decide to go that road, let me know and I might be able to give you a few hints in the right direction.

Users might be tempted to use your Proof of Concept for production purposes if it works for them…

When you have reviewed the software options and decided which ones might be fit for your organization it’s time to build a Proof of Concept or PoC. Build a smaller version or a starter version of your envisioned storage solution and test it hard and long. This is best done in an environment that is as separated from your production environment as possible. The real danger with storage PoC’s is that when it works functionally and the performance is good or better than what your users are used to they might be tempted to use it for production purposes right then and there. Then when you try to stress the limits of your PoC and it breaks and worst case data is lost at best your user will have lost a lot of confidence in software defined storage. If you are building something that is not backup storage, make sure to include the backup and recovery options in your PoC. Take your time in running a PoC, let it run for a longer period of time while you focus on other things. That way you can see how stable your storage really is. A good duration for a storage system is at least a few weeks. When you are using an combination of hardware and software you have not used before, a month or more is usually a good idea. During that whole period, measure, monitor and administer your complete PoC environment as if it was production, this will also give you a feel of how good it is to maintain. And please don’t overdo it, if you are currently only looking at your storage system only once a week that should be enough for your software defined solution too. You can declare your PoC as successful when it performs as predicted, it is as stable as predicted and as maintainable as predicted. Of course measured by the goals and objectives you set before implementing your PoC.

After a successful PoC it is time to introduce your new setup to your business users. How this can be done is dependent on theĀ  business IT requirements of course. My personal preference is to set a ‘beta period’ during which you give extra attention to all the aspects of the new setup, but especially to the storage. Have a close look at how it performs under real load. Keep a close eye on logging options and if you see anything you do not understand, look them up or ask your software vendor or integrator in that moment. It will not be the first time that something fundamentally wrong in your setup could have been detected in this early stage. Things as simple as a weak connector, a typo in the configuration or software bug that stands out on your platform, can break any storage system and cause severe problem when not dealt with soon. At the end of the ‘beta period’, when you are confident with your setup and everything is running smoothly you could do an official launch to your organization and possibly to the public too. As stated earlier in this blog: building and running a high quality Software Defined Storage Solution is an accomplishment and it is most definitely also a compliment of the team that integrated it in to the organization.

Read my posts on LinkedIn about Software Defined Storage too:

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