Storage can be a complex IT asset for companies. This is partly due to a fragmented infrastructure landscape with different architectures and formats. Management becomes cumbersome, preventing the potential of storage from coming to fruition. With Software-Defined Storage (SDS), there’s a discipline that’s proving to be an increasingly popular answer. We spoke with Ekrem Koç, Sales Director of DataCore Netherlands, an organization rapidly innovating in the SDS market.
In our conversation, Koç emphasizes that DataCore aims to create a unified storage architecture. This means that the company’s platform primarily focuses on storage virtualization. On the server-side, virtualization became widely accepted thanks to the benefits of splitting capacity into multiple pieces. On the storage side, virtualization allows for more agility and responsiveness, increasing popularity as well.
DataCore is now reaping the benefits of the storage virtualization market. The company, founded in 1998, enjoys positive financial results, with double-digit growth rates in recent quarters. Every three months, more than 100 new customers are gained on average. Its position is recognized by Gartner, who listed DataCore as a niche player in the Magic Quadrant. It performs particularly well in specific sectors, such as government and healthcare.
Although the market position is prominent, Koç refers to DataCore as IT’s best-kept secret. According to Koç, this has to do with the way DataCore came up. When storage virtualization had yet to be widely accepted, the company specifically opted for organic growth. Koç draws a comparison with the situation of VMware, which negotiated good server contracts when it was founded. For VMware, it meant that server virtualization quickly became widely accepted. In contrast, DataCore opted for organic growth, which meant that acceptance of storage virtualization took longer.
Koç also points to changes in the Benelux. Initially, DataCore hadn’t really set up a channel in our region. Now, there’s been a local team for several years. Things are changing. According to Koç, DataCore’s strengths and opportunities are in the channel. “Our channel isn’t full. When new partners join us, they aren’t just a number. They get the attention and cooperation needed to enter the market with us. If you look at the market, you see lots of simple things still going wrong. I hear many resellers complain that an A-brand passes them by and goes straight to the customer. You won’t experience that with us. We believe in the channel, we only work with the channel, and we see the channel as necessary for market success”, says Koç.
Product at the base
Of course, DataCore’s technology is at the base of its market position. With SDS, you extract the technology and functionality of storage hardware and servers through software. By transferring all functionality to software, hardware becomes a background process. It no longer matters what equipment a company uses. This is useful for many companies, because they use different storage solutions. DataCore wants to stimulate freedom of choice because each hardware device has its own unique application and advantages, and therefore deserves software support.
When approaching storage from this angle, the technology faces the task of unifying complex issues. “We see companies using many different storage brands in the Netherlands. They can’t communicate with each other. Each system has its own software. As a storage controller, we unify systems and say: ‘we’re going to talk to each other’. We manage and control it’, Koç explains.
For DataCore, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Block, File or Object storage. The first format is addressed with SANsymphony, the second with vFilO and the last with Swarm. As each format has its own characteristics, there’s support for each common storage option. Object storage particularly stands out because of its increasing popularity in recent years. Due to its storage method, the format is suitable for data from modern applications such as artificial intelligence and video calls (also known as unstructured data). In order to support Object storage properly, DataCore acquired Caringo. DataCore itself originates from the field of Block storage. Later, File storage was added.
Benefits of Software-Defined Storage
Fundamentally, DataCore offers three different products for Software-Defined Storage. According to Koç, its solutions make enterprise features available to any company, regardless of size. Yet, there are different types of licenses for companies to choose from. One option offers more extensive functionality than the other. However, the goal is to instate storage virtualization as large companies would, regardless of customer size.
Ultimately, that’s also the single option when considering the benefits of SDS. Infrastructure silos are eliminated, companies no longer depend on hardware and vendors. This also simplifies updating infrastructure, which is achieved in several ways. For example, existing storage devices last longer because DataCore can apply software updates. Think of adding container features. Furthermore, SDS ensures that data is more easily migrated when replacing storage equipment. In this case, DataCore offers specialized mode- or pooling options.
Another characteristic is that SDS reduces the complexity of storage management. This is especially welcome in today’s market. Administrators often spend time on requests that distract from their core activities. SDS management changes that by automating certain things. As a software layer on top of storage devices, SDS offers one interface to manage all hardware. This allows the administrator to manage everything from a central location. It’s also easy to add storage solutions from the interface.
In addition to management advantages, Koç characterizes DataCore’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery capabilities as strengths. The SDS specialist is aware that steps must be taken at the infrastructure level to both store and secure data. With downtime and data loss a common occurrence (in part due to ransomware), it’s important to carefully consider how to recover infrastructure and data quickly. Therefore, DataCore has built-in functionality to prevent downtime and allows automatic steps to be taken following unexpected events.
What does it mean in practice?
We asked Koç what the SDS approach signifies in practice. Koç cites Lannoo, a Belgian book publisher. At a certain point in time, the company had two server rooms. At one location, it used two HPE ProLiant G7 servers, one ProLiant G8 server and a SAN solution from Dell EMC. Due to growth, Lannoo was looking to integrate redundancy. Should its Dell EMC Block storage solution fail, the risk of business processes grinding to a halt was too great.
The book publisher opted for DataCore SANsymphony, which allows data synchronization between HPE servers. This eliminated dependence on a server with a single storage solution at a single location.
All in all, DataCore’s future seems bright. The product has proven itself, resulting in a strong market position for the company. Meanwhile, there are plenty of exciting times ahead for DataCore. Lots of research and development is invested in Kubernetes and containers, for example. We expect more of that in the future. More than enough reasons to keep an eye on DataCore as a company and Software-Defined Storage solution.