10+ Lessons from my Software-Defined (SDx) Life

After an exciting week in Amsterdam, Paris and London, where we had Nexenta’s quarterly sales meeting, the first of our global OpenSDx Summits, our French launch in Paris, and my first TV interview for Nexenta in London (@cloudchantv) a number of key themes are bubbling up.  Multiple industries, organizations, people and technologies are energized by the promise of Open, SoftwareDefined “everything” – from storage, servers, and networks, to data centers, infrastructure and ultimately enterprises.  Few vendors are delivering on this promise, and few organizations understand that Software Defined Storage (#softwaredefinedstorage) (SDS) is the first critical step on this journey.  Here’s what’s top of mind from a week with the movers, shakers and influencers of OpenSDx:

  1. Hip or Hype? the Future of OpenSDx
  2. Software-Based and Software-Defined are different
  3. “Open” is also for Organizations
  4. CIOs have new imperatives – and new opportunities 
  5. Evolution is the name of the game
  6. Scale changes everything
  7. Agility + Simplicity = Happy
  8. Macroeconomics affect storage economics
  9. CIOs need a better technology cost basis
  10. Think twice about the cost of Cloud
  11. Civil rights mean data rights
  12. UK, France & Spain lead SDS pack

1. Hip or Hype? the Future of OpenSDx

There’s a lot of buzz in the industry right now around Software Defined “everything”– even traditional hardware vendors suddenly have “software-defined”, yet inexplicably hardware-based, solutions.   The resulting market fog means end users can’t get a clear view of OpenSDx.  What to do?  Get the facts straight.  Look to industry leaders like VMware who invite you to master the new reality of the Software Defined Enterprise.  Look to analysts like IDC pointing to the starring role that software increasingly plays in IT infrastructures, and survey data that show over 50% of companies in leading countries considering software defined solutions.  There’s a lot of hype, but at the end of the day, your enterprise will be software defined, and SDS is the first platform on which to achieve competitive advantage.

2. Software-Based and Software-Defined are different

To improve the view of SDx, we need standards and definitions that we can all agree on.  Analysts differentiate between Software Based and Software Defined solutions.  Why shouldn’t you?  If you want to tell the difference, ask, “How many hardware platforms does your Software Defined Solution run on?”  One is not the right answer … Software Based means you should expect hardware dependency, Software Defined means hardware, application, and protocol agnostic, enabling a Software Defined Infrastructure, for your Software Defined Enterprise.

3.  “Open” is also for Organizations

Open Source started a fundamental shift in how people think about technology – collaborative, flexible, cross-functional, team oriented.  OpenSDx is the next generation of Open Source for enterprise technology, be it compute, storage, or networking  –  like Nexenta – 100% Software.  Total Freedom.  All love. :)  Development of such solutions means breaking down barriers to create integration opportunities, increasing communication between both people and technologies.  As the gravitational pull of OpenSDx gets stronger, organizational movements are beginning to reflect this desire for open, collaborative environments, from the creation and empowerment of cross-functional Dev Ops teams, to industry collaborations like the Open Compute framework.

4. CIOs have new imperatives – and new opportunities 

The best CIOs have never been just about technology – they have a holistic view of the business and IT, and now they’ll be rewarded as they use this special insight to qualify OpenSDx solutions and understand where and why it best fits in their organization.  OpenSDx holds incredible power for CIOs – it helps transform them from IT service providers to strategic partners, capable of improving the speed of business and delivering not just technology but innovation.   OpenSDx = Efficiency = Innovation = Competitive Advantage.

5.  Evolution is the name of the game

Revolution is a scary thought for most IT leaders – few organizations want to be on the bleeding edge of technology innovation for their mission critical systems – but rapid, low risk evolution is oh so attractive, especially when your initial steps build a foundation giving a competitive advantage.  Organizations taking steps now to implement Software Defined solutions will find not only near term business benefits, but also longer term competitive ones.  This is why so many analysts and industry leaders are highlighting SDS as one of today’s big trends.  Storage is the bedrock of the data center; if you can evolve this expensive, growing component of your data center, all the change layered on top will be easier.

6.  Scale changes everything

The scale of IT has exponentially increased – environments are built with hundreds and thousands of devices and systems, proof of concepts on 100 units no longer suffices.  The complexity associated with such environments is immense, and resources and knowledge must scale more efficiently.  Architectures, people and processes will all need to evolve, and simple, manageable tools are needed to do so effectively.  At Nexenta, our typical installation used to be on the order of tens of terabytes; now, our largest customer will grow to half an Exabyte in the next eighteen months.  We expect to see more customers and organizations moving that direction.

  7.  Agility + Simplicity = Happy

Much like taking part in a revolution, end users cheer for flexibility and choice – but with boundaries.  While Software Defined (SDx) solutions mean you can make more choices, the potential permutations can be overwhelming – analysis stops, paralysis ensues, innovation stalls.  It’s incumbent upon OpenSDx solution providers to develop simple, manageable solutions, so that agility is delivered with simplicity.  Choice is wonderful, but introduces complexity, and at the end of the day, IT managers need to be sure they can still run their own house. (#agilesimplehappy).  When we engaged customers in release planning for NexentaStor 4, the loudest chants were for simplicity and improved manageability, and delivery of those characteristics is critical to customer satisfaction.

8.  Macroeconomics affect storage economics

According to the IDC surveys shared by Donna Taylor (@Donna_IDC), macroeconomic trends have a trickle down effect on storage buying behaviors.  Storage is the fastest growing, and often largest, line item in an organization’s IT budget.  How do you stave off additional CAPEX and OPEX costs?   Keep your storage longer, keep it off warranty, do more with less.  Customers are also willing to pay a little extra for flexibility and choice, so that longer-term options exist that extend the life of their storage assets.   You can also just buy NexentaConnect to get simple, better performance and density for your VDI environment. (Yes, shameless plug!)

9.  CIOs need a better cost baseline

Organizations have two related problems when trying to address their return on investment.  First, many IT organizations spend over 70% of their budget to keep the lights on – this inhibits innovation, because resources focus on maintenance instead of value add.  Second, most IT organizations lack true IT cost transparency.  Budgets are based on past behaviors and high-level estimates vs. on fact-based usage of IT services.  The highest benefit of the Software Defined Enterprise is that it balances Business and Technology, empowering Technology to deliver, price and project IT services against a business strategy – and make recommendations on the right course of action.  How to solve for these challenges and achieve SDE benefits?  Deliver simple, flexible, manageable solutions that free up time, and enable a better IT operating model with intelligence from cost data.  CIOs looking to improve their infrastructure economics via SDDC / SDI will quickly need to examine their costs.

10.  Think twice about the cost of Cloud

Like the Hotel California, when it comes to your data and the cloud, “you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”  (#ThomasCornely).  Many organizations choose public cloud services as an easy way to quickly add capacity, or ramp up new products; however cost needs to be examined carefully and holistically.  Remember that you’re not only paying for storage, but also for use and access.  It’s not a one-time cost, but a year over year, growing, expenditure.   Nexenta’s CIO-validated cost analysis, based on list prices, reveals that our solutions are 70% cheaper than legacy system solutions over a 3 year time horizon, and 15% less than cloud providers.  Do you know the true cost of your storage?

And a few bonus items for our friends in Europe!

11.  Civil rights mean data rights

With Edward Snowden on the television screen, frequent discussion of the US Patriot Act and concerns about European data being on American soil, it was clear that data security and privacy are top of mind for our EMEA friends.  European organizations must enable end user preferences on how their is data used, understand what constitutes consent, how long it lasts, and also permit the “right to be forgotten”.  While data security itself is generally handled in the application layer, storage solutions like Nexenta’s with self-healing properties like those of ZFS help reduce data corruption and ensure data integrity, thus making sure the right data is available to the right people at the right time.

12.  UK, France & Spain lead SDS pack

The localization of SDS solution adoption is evident in Europe not only by industry but also by geography; as I am finding, it’s incredibly important to understand not only the culture and expectations of the countries where we work, but also where they are in their SDS journey, and what’s needed to help them take the next step.  According to survey data presented by Donna Taylor, IDC’s EMEA storage analyst, there is a continuum of adoption in Europe, with the UK, France and Spain leading the pack in terms of interest and adoption around SDS solutions, and the Nordics at the other end, exhibiting some interest.

So, what’s the upshot?  OpenSDx is real.  It’s here.  Everyone’s talking about it.  In my interview with CloudTV (@CloudTV), I was asked what makes me passionate about Nexenta and Software Defined Storage.  My answer?  We are at the forefront of a fundamental shift in how business and technology operate today – one that’s going to make all industries more efficient, more innovative, more competitive, and better.  What better place to be than leading that revolution?

Join the conversation. Let us know what you think via @Nexenta and stay tuned for videos of Nexenta’s OpenSDx Summit EMEA sessions on our YouTube channel.


Jill Orhun
Marketing & Chief of Staff
Nexenta Systems


Nexenta is the global leader is Software-defined Storage.

Posted in Software-defined data center, Software-defined storage, Uncategorized

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