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Software-defined storage (SDS) is a computer platform that creates a virtualized network of storage resources by separating the management software from its underlying storage hardware. SDS resources may be spread across multiple servers and pooled or shared as if they reside on one physical device. Businesses using applications that generate large amounts of unstructured data (such as data analytics, genomics and multimedia websites) or DevOps environments that require flexible storage provisioning for new applications may adopt SDS technology to add storage capacity as needed. Software-defined storage is part of a larger industry trend that also includes software defined networking (SDN), software-defined infrastructure (SDI) and software-defined data center (SDDC).

Enterprise use of software-defined storage is increasing due to the rapid accumulation of unstructured data (such as email messages, documents, videos, graphics, audio files and web pages) and the need for scale-out object storage and file storage; the availability of high-performance server hardware with multicore processors; and the growth of virtualization in servers, desktops, applications and networking. Software-defined storage apps can run on industry-standard hardware and enable users to upgrade the software separately from the hardware. Thus, SDS makes storage more affordable and agile than traditional storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) systems running on proprietary hardware that is tightly coupled to its software.

Many SDS products are able to run on Linux and in a virtual machine, on premises or in the cloud. Open source software-defined storage is freely available through community development projects such as Ceph and others. SUSE Enterprise Storage is an SDS management solution powered by Ceph, an OpenStack distributed storage app, and provides limitless storage capacity for large data file applications such as video surveillance, CCTV, online presence, streaming media, medical (x-rays, mammography, CT, MRI), seismic processing, genomic mapping, CAD and backup data. It supports the iSCSI storage protocol, allowing other Linux, Unix and Windows servers access to the Enterprise Storage Cluster as a heterogeneous storage solution. SUSE Enterprise Storage with CephFS enables native file system access, reducing the capital and operational costs of storage infrastructures.

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