Storage has been confined to hardware appliance form factors for far too long. Over the past two decades, innovation in the storage space has transitioned from proprietry hardware controllers and processors to proprietary software running on commodity X86 hardware. The hardware driving backup appliances, NAS systems, iSCSI arrays, and object storage systems, are often quite similar in terms of processors and components, yet despite this fact I&O professionals are still used to purchasing single purpose systems which lock customers into a technology stack.
Over the past few years, companies such as HP (StoreVirtual VSA), Nexenta, Sanbolic and Maxta have released software-only storage offerings to complete head to head with proprietrary hardware appliances, and have found some success with cost conscious enterprises and service providers. The software-only storage revolution is now ready for primetime with startup offerings now reaching maturity and established players such as IBM, EMC and NetApp jumping into the market.
I&O professionals should consider software only storage since:
The storage technology acquisition process is broken. Any storage purchase you complete today will be bound to your datacenter for the next 3 to 5 years. When business stakeholders and clients need storage resources for emerging use cases such as object storage and flash storage, these parties often do not have the luxury of time to wait for storage teams to complete RFPs and product evaluations. With software-only storage access to new technology can be accelerated to meet the provisioning velocity needs of customers.