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As today’s business and IT leaders navigate the turbulent waters of digital transformation, the focus for many is on enabling hybrid cloud capabilities while managing exponential data growth.

The promises of full hybrid cloud functionality beckons — seamlessly move enterprise workloads on- or off-premises as needs dictate, providing cost savings and flexibility.

Enjoy the economics, scalability and innovation of cloud services without sacrificing the security and customization of private resources.

We're all grappling with hybrid cloud deployment 

Recent industry surveys show that 80-percent of enterprise IT organizations have committed to hybrid cloud infrastructures, making this one of the top IT trends of the year.

But the reality is that enabling hybrid functionality within today’s enterprise IT environments has its challenges, with data storage issues at the top of the list.

As enterprises work to create and support modern next-generation digital applications that can transform customer experiences and conquer new markets, they are finding that the data storage systems of their hybrid cloud environments — often legacy SAN systems — create a stumbling block.

Traditional data storage simply cannot overcome today’s hybrid cloud challenges of scale, integration and flexibility to deliver true data mobility.

A final step in the journey to a software-defined environment  

The challenge is to virtualize all infrastructure systems to fully enable a software-defined environment.

We all virtualized our servers more than a decade ago, and many enterprises have virtualized networking as well.

But virtualizing enterprise storage resources — or deploying software-defined storage (SDS) — has been the laggard. But that’s quickly changing.

The move toward software-defined storage is a significant industry trend, and most of today’s enterprises already know it. According to IDC, 60-percent of enterprises have committed to moving to SDS, with another 24-percent interested.  

SDS powers next-generation applications and digital transformation 

SDS promises to decouple software from hardware, reduce TCO and enable greater data mobility and security. In other words, SDS powers next-generation applications, like cognitive solutions, that are the manifestation of digital transformation.

While most enterprise leaders are committed to moving to SDS, many are unsure of the best path forward as they wrestle with numerous priorities. According to Douglas Schofield, Spectrum Storage Software Partner Technical Advocate at IBM, “The most common pain points that lead customers to SDS today are issues related to resiliency, DevOps and modernization.”

Managing the success of DevOps

DevOps has proven itself as a key piece of digital transformation by accelerating the deployment of new applications without new infrastructure expense.

DevOps requires fast access to production data copies, which results in copy sprawl. The problem is not insignificant, with copies accounting for more than 60-percent of the data in today’s IT infrastructure.

To see the problem from another angle, traditional storage approaches result in up to 30 copies of data created and stored in IT environments.

For many enterprises, the success of their DevOps initiatives is leading to unsustainable storage capacity growth, and something must be done.

What can we do to make this more efficient and less of a burden?

The answer is copy data management solutions that become possible as part of an overall software-defined storage strategy.

Evolving to an "always-on" strategic perspective 

Resiliency is also top-of-mind for every business and IT leader as their digital transformation strategies unfold.

A massive shift happens when an organization evolves beyond recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) that are measured in hours or minutes to an “always-on” strategic perspective, effectively reducing RPO and RTO both to zero.

Once again, traditional storage solutions aren’t cost-effectively providing the capabilities required for today’s hybrid infrastructures, while next-generation software-defined solutions are.

Modernizing without waste 

As organizations grapple with these issues, the jargon du jour often revolves around “modernization.”

A common misconception is that all paths toward modernization involve “rip-and-replace” tactics, something fraught with internal funding hurdles.

The reality is that some vendors offer a much more evolutionary approach, starting with making sure that existing resources are properly placed and instrumented within the operation, and only then adding new software-defined elements as needed.

So, you don’t have to fill a dumpster with functional hardware on your path to SDS, if you have the right approach.

Evaluating the SDS marketplace 

Start by evaluating the clear market leader.

IBM was recently ranked as the number one vendor in software-defined storage for the third consecutive year, according to results from IDC*.  

In addition, IBM has committed to spending $1 billion to develop its software storage portfolio over the next five years, part of a $5 billion investment in storage systems overall.

The most common challenges for SDS implementations arise from the jumble of multi-vendor applications often deployed to support virtualized, software-defined environments, as well as management and licensing issues.

IBM overcomes these issues with the most comprehensive, proven family of SDS offerings integrated with a common interface, combined with simple and attractive per-TB pricing.

Look for a vendor with a broad, comprehensive family of SDS offerings 

The IBM Spectrum Storage family offers scale-out block and file storage, storage virtualization, data protection, archiving and storage management and automation.

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Offerings are available in a variety of deployment models to meet specific environment requirements — as a cloud service, as a pre-packaged appliance or as a pure software offering.

The range of applications and deployment options provide customers unmatched flexibility to build and grow a fully integrated SDS solution.

Partner with a vendor that embraces existing storage infrastructures 

IBM Spectrum Storage provides full storage functionality regardless of platform, whether SAN-based arrays or software-defined servers.

Users can deploy storage software on dedicated storage devices, commodity servers or in the cloud, and are able to capture the efficiency of running virtualized compute and storage functions on the same server.

Lean toward SDS offerings powered by proven technologies 

Unlike many SDS solutions, IBM Spectrum Storage is based on proven technologies.

IBM Spectrum Accelerate, one application in the Spectrum SDS family, is already being used on 100,000 servers around the world.

With IBM Spectrum Accelerate, IBM says you can deploy an enterprise storage platform in 30 minutes or less, on- or off-premises, using your choice of x86 servers. The solution is being tested by Netflix, China State Grid and City of Hope National Medical Center, among other customers. In Netflix’s case, they report that data center floor space utilization was reduced by 80-percent.

Pay close attention to licensing, pricing and terms 

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite gives customers unlimited access to the IBM Spectrum Storage family and IBM Cloud Object Storage software with licensing on a flat, cost-per-TB basis, which makes pricing easy to understand and predictable as capacity grows. 

So, no surprises for your colleagues in finance. Customers can save up to 40-percent compared with licensing all capabilities separately.

IBM’s SDS value proposition is simple: A tightly integrated set of tools with one interface — purchased and managed together under a simplified licensing and pricing structure — streamlines management, reduces costs and helps enterprises maximize the value they extract from their data.

According to IDC Research Vice President, Laura DuBois, IBM Spectrum Storage “makes procurement and deployment easier and more cost-effective than ever before.

Get ahead of the curve with software-defined storage  

The storage industry is facing a transformative shift away from traditional SAN- and NAS-based systems to a software-defined approach.

As a leading IT supplier, IBM has recognized the industry trends and responded with a comprehensive strategy — including a broad product line and simple, attractive licensing terms — for software-defined infrastructure.

Customers evaluating SDS offerings should place IBM Spectrum Storage on their short list for evaluation.

Written by Jeff Inkrott