CenturyLink serves up software-defined storage from the data center to network edge

CenturyLink serves up software-defined storage from the data center to network edge

In order to speed up processing times and reduce complexities across data centers, clouds and edge locations, CenturyLink is offering a software-defined network storage service.CenturyLink’s Network Storage allows businesses to store and manage their data anywhere that the telco’s network can reach. It’s available via CenturyLink’s 106 edge locations, third-party partners or on customer premises. The network storage solution is one example of CenturyLink’s network edge initiative, which it defined this past summer.

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CenturyLink Network Storage currently supports Amazon Web Services as a replication target, with other cloud providers coming on board at a later date, according to CenturyLink’s Dave Shacochis, vice president of product management for IT solutions.

“It’s a multiprotocol storage service, but we can put it within our network in strategic locations that could reduce the latency or tie it into the existing network bandwidth in important and vital locations for you to be able to work with that storage volume, and then manage the data lifecycle of that storage anywhere that you need it to be,” Shacochis said, in an interview with FierceTelecom. “It really puts storage inside of our network and makes storage volume a new type of VNF (virtual network function) within our network.

“You can really think of this as turning a storage device, or storage service, into a new type of VNF that we can now run throughout our network. In many sites we’ll be hosting the storage ourselves, and then in other sites we can run the storage inside of a number of the other public cloud platforms.”

Shacochis said that CenturyLink Network Storage, which is now available, has been in the works for nine months, and that CenturyLink worked with NetApp to develop it.

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“You can think of it as a subset of the software-defined data center,” Shacochis said. “We have a software-defined data center product based on the VMware Cloud Foundation technology that we cross-synced with a private cloud. What makes network storage software-defined is really software emulation of the storage protocols.”

Using a scalable pool of general-purpose compute, CenturyLink is able to emulate the functions that many storage protocols are doing inside of a traditional storage area or in network-attached storage technologies. Shacochis said those storage protocols are “typically rolling around in big large frames” in data centers.

“We can now emulate the protocols with those devices to connect to the network,” he said. “That software emulation of all the IO protocol is what makes it software-defined storage. Once you create that emulation layer as an abstraction, you can really put a lot of general purpose behind it and that abstraction layer is still software-defined at the proper time.”

Shacochis said large enterprises that are asset intensive, or interactions intensive, are talking to CenturyLink about how they can deploy their workloads with CenturyLink. Those enterprise assets could run from the customer premise to the central office and into core network points-of-presence. For edge use cases, the workloads are closer to where the enterprise needs to run them.

“We’re also starting to see customers that are just looking to get out of the data center, and are looking at building and running storage volumes just as an extension of their network access,” Shacochis said. “Complimenting the edge computing with a software-defined storage offering is the largest component of demand, but we’re starting to see a little bit of interest in the small-to medium-size enterprise. They just look at storage as-a-service, or as something interesting for them to get as a compliment to their network connectivity.

“IT departments no longer want to become device provisioners. They no longer want to have to be in control of physical assets. They would much rather get all of the important technology elements as-a-service. That way their internal developers and their application owners can actually focus on what matters in their business. The infrastructure, the devices, the hardware or software that enables it all, a lot of that becomes more contextual. We’re offering up the service to enable them to do things that they couldn’t do by just moving everything into a centralized location.”

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