Top Software Defined Storage Vendors

Monday Mar 5th 2018 by Cynthia Harvey

These are the leading software defined storage leaders that are helping organizations virtualize their storage infrastructure.

With enterprises rushing to deploy software defined storage solutions, the list of vendors offering SDS solutions has grown very long. In fact, nearly every storage vendor offers at least one solution that it labels "software defined."

However, according to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), true software defined storage solutions include the following characteristics:

  • Automation – Simplified management that reduces the cost of maintaining the storage infrastructure
  • Standard Interfaces – APIs for the management, provisioning and maintenance of storage devices and services
  • Virtualized Data Path – Block, File and/or Object interfaces that support applications written to these interfaces
  • Scalability – Seamless ability to scale the storage infrastructure without disruption to the specified availability or performance
  • Transparency – The ability for storage consumers to monitor and manage their own storage consumption against available resources and costs

Few of the SDS products on the market today completely meet all of these characteristics. Some analysts have even argued that no SDS companies offer a product with all the capabilities that a SDS solution should have.

With that caveat in mind, EnterpriseStorageForum compiled a list of 17 SDS leaders. It includes enterprise IT behemoths, small startups and plenty of companies in between. Some offer software only; some offer converged (or hyperconverged) appliances. One offers only hardware but has so many partnerships with SDS software vendors that it was worth including in the list.

Each of the vendors listed has become fairly popular and has been widely reviewed by journalists and analysts. Also, please note that this is a list, not a ranking, and the software defined storage vendors are listed in alphabetical order:

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SDS Vendor Comparison Chart

1. Atlantis Computing

Atlantis Computing focuses primarily on virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), but it also has a software defined storage product called Atlantis USX. It's a software-only solution that the company touts primarily as a way to extend the life of existing storage resources. It also claims that USX delivers "all-flash performance at a fraction of the cost." It has won multiple awards, including Best of VMworld and Best of Citrix Synergy 2016.

The latest version, Atlantis USX 3, was released in October 2015. The company boasts that it makes data migration, cloning/snapshots and storage 10 to 36 times faster, and that it reduces costs 65 to 96 percent. Key features include data reduction, data protection, performance acceleration, data mobility and unified management of storage resources. It can virtualize storage, networked SAN or NAS appliances, and cloud storage, unifying management for all, and it supports iSCSI, NFS, SMB and S3 protocols. It can run as a virtual machine on VMware vSphere or Citrix XenServer, and the company has extensive partnerships with both VMware and Citrix.

Pricing information is available on request, and premium 24/7 support is available.

2. Cisco

Cisco is encouraging its customers to adopt software defined storage, but it doesn't actually offer any SDS software of its own. Instead, it has partnerships with multiple SDS vendors, including IBM, Red Hat, Scality, Cohesity, DataCore, Hedvig, Nexenta, StorMagic and VMware. It positions its Unified Computing System (UCS) S-Series line of storage servers as the ideal hardware to pair with SDS software from various vendors.

Key features of the UCS S-Series servers include modular architecture, up to 600 TB of data storage, dual server nodes with Intel Xeon processors, I/O expansion capabilities, support for NVMe and flash, policy-based storage management and support for Ethernet or FibreChannel. Prices start at $26,666.67. Sales are handled primarily through resellers, and service and support are also available.

3. DataCore

Founded in 1998, DataCore Software was one of the earliest proponents of storage virtualization and software defined storage. Its flagship product is SANsymphony, its software defined storage solution, which recently set a new world record for performance and price-performance on the Storage Performance Council's SPC-1 benchmark.

The company promotes SANsymphony as a way to improve availability, optimize performance, reduce costs and centralize management of storage, and it targets customers in the healthcare, government and education sectors. DataCore claims that customers report a 75 percent reduction in storage costs, 10 times faster performance, a 100 percent reduction in storage-related downtime and 90 percent greater productivity on routine storage tasks. Key features include Parallel I/O Technology for fast performance, high availability, efficient asynchronous replication, continuous data protection, low total cost of ownership (TCO) and single-pane management. It supports up to 64 server nodes and can run natively in Windows or the Hyper-V kernel or as a VM with a Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer or KVM hypervisor.

SANSymphony is available through resellers, and pricing is based on storage capacity, nodes, and optional features. Support and service are also available.

Although SANSymphony is a software-only product, the company also offers an appliance that integrates Lenovo hardware with DataCore's SDS software. In addition, it has a virtual SAN product and a database acceleration tool called MaxParallel for SQL Server.

4. Dell EMC

Dell EMC offers three different products as a part of its complete lineup of software defined storage solutions. ScaleIO is its "data center grade" SDS solution. It's available as a hyperconverged rack system (VxRack System FLEX), as software and server hardware combined (ScaleIO Ready Node) or as a software-only solution. The company promotes it as a way to consolidate existing arrays, provide cloud-based infrastructure or to support DevOps and cloud-native development. Key features include high performance, support for up to 1,000 nodes, high I/O parallelism with low latency, snapshots, inline compression, thin provisioning, QoS, and enterprise data protection. Pricing for the ScaleIO software and VxRack System FLEX is available on request. Scale IO Ready Nodes start at $12,699.01.

Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) is Dell EMC's SDS solution for object and file storage. It's available as an appliance, software-only or as a managed cloud service. According to the company, it offers 48 percent lower TCO than public cloud services, and it is ideal for service providers, healthcare, life sciences, surveillance and media and entertainment companies. Key features include flexible deployment, 7.8 PB capacity per rack, enterprise-grade durability and availability, global access and native metadata search. Pricing is available on request, and a trial download is available for free.

IsilonSD Edge is Dell EMC's SDS solution for SMBs and remote offices. It's a software-only solution that runs on industry-standard hardware (including Dell servers and storage systems). It supports up to 36 TB of capacity per node. Other key features include multiprotocol support, high utilization of storage resources, integration with VMware ESX, Isilon OneFS operating system, data management, data protection and enhanced software support. Pricing starts at $24,450.00.

And of course, Dell also offers industry standard hardware suitable for use in SDS systems.

5. FalconStor

FalconStor has been at the center of some controversy in recent years, and last fall, it was delisted from the NASDAQ exchange. Currently, its only product is FreeStor, its software-only SDS offering that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. According to the company, 23 percent of the Fortune Global 500 use Falconstor.

FreeStor's key features include data migration capabilities, continuous availability, data protection and recovery, storage optimization features, heterogeneous analytics, secure multi-tenancy and support for flash. Pricing is available on request.

6. Hedvig

Hedvig is a pure-play software defined storage vendor. It offers the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform, which is a software-only product that it describes as "a unified data fabric for private and multi-cloud." It claims its platform reduces storage costs by up to 60 percent, and it says that it offers the "most complete" SDS solution with block, file and object storage that works with any OS, hypervisor or private or public cloud platform.

Key features include thin provisioning, encryption, client and server-side flash/SSD caching, zero-impact volume snapshots and clones, inline deduplication and compression, hybrid multisite replication, support for up to 1,000 nodes and container support. Pricing is available on request.

7. HPE

HPE's software defined storage solutions are primarily sold under the StoreVirtual VSA brand name. The line includes the StoreVirtual VSA Software, which can be purchased on its own, or the StoreVirtual VSA Ready Nodes, which are reference configurations that include the software and HPE ProLiant servers.

The company claims that StoreVirtual can reduce costs by 80 percent when compared with traditional storage arrays. Its key features include simple deployment and management, scalable architecture, high availability, thin provisioning, optimization and flexible data protection.

The VSA software is available for free with any HPE ProLiant server, and it is also incorporated into the company's 3PAR StoreServe and StoreOnce systems. It can also be downloaded for free to run on systems with up to 1TB of storage for up to three years. (Full license pricing is available on request.)

8. IBM

IBM offers a bundle of software defined storage products that it calls the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, and the individual components of the suite are also available for purchase. The suite includes IBM Spectrum Control for analytics-driven automation of storage provisioning, capacity management, availability monitoring and reporting; Spectrum Archive for low-cost archive storage; Spectrum Virtualize for storage virtualization, Spectrum Scale storage management for big data analytics, Spectrum Accelerate for software defined block storage that runs on industry standard hardware; and IBM Cloud Object Storage, the company's cloud-based object storage service.

The Accelerate piece of the suite is the most critical for deploying SDS, and its key features include ease of management, flexible consumption, fast access to data and seamless data flow. It's also available as a service through IBM Cloud.

The full suite offers flat pricing on a per-terabyte basis, but you have to contact the company to find out what that price per terabyte is. Accelerate licensing costs are also available on request.

9. NetApp

Netapp offers a wide range of enterprise storage solutions, including a software defined offering called ONTAP Select. It promises "cloudlike agility" for on-premises storage based on "the industry's leading data management software." NetApp promotes ONTAP for remote offices, ruggedized deployments (such as emergency response situations) and hybrid cloud, as well as for general data center use.

Key features of ONTAP Select include support for commodity hardware, support for any OS and hypervisor, SSD or HDD support, simplified operations, fast deployment and scaling of storage resources, data reduction, data protection and dynamic workload scaling and balancing.

Pricing is based on the number of nodes or virtual machines, and it is available on request. The company also offers a free 90-day trial of the software.

10. Nexenta

Nexenta's logo proclaims that it’s the "global leader in software defined storage." It offers three different SDS-related software products: NexentaStor unified block and file storage, Nexenta Edge high-performance, scale-out block and object storage and Nexenta Fusion for monitoring, analytics and orchestration when using its other two products. Through partnerships with a variety of hardware manufacturers, it also offers fully configured appliances that incorporate its NexentaStor software.

NexentaStor is an award-winning unified SDS platform that offers enterprise-grade data integrity, performance scaling into the petabytes, unlimited file system sizes, inline data reduction, unlimited space-optimized snapshots and clones, periodic or continuous asynchronous long-distance replication, VMware integration and support for Docker and OpenStack. The company touts it as a good option for generic NAS file services and Home Directory storage, archive and backup, and cloud backend storage for VMware, OpenStack or CloudStack. There's a free 45-day trial, and pricing is available on request.

For object storage, Nexenta offers Nexenta Edge. This is a more advanced SDS product with inline deduplication, compression, Quick Erasure Coding (Quick EC), Docker Datacenter integration, a Web-based GUI, superior data protection and support for high-performance, all-flash arrays. As with NexentaStor, a free 45-day trial is available, but customers will need to contact the company for pricing.

11. Nutanix

Nutanix offers software defined infrastructure, which includes SDS, as well as hyperconverged appliances. Available as software-only or as an appliance, its Enterprise Cloud platform includes Prism infrastructure management, Acropolis hyperconverged infrastructure, Calm application automation and lifecycle management, and Xi cloud services.

The company offers solutions for VDI, cloud computing, big data, remote and branch offices, and data protection and disaster recovery, and it targets the education, energy and utilities, financial services, healthcare, retail, service provide and government sectors. Key features of the Enterprise Cloud platform include the ability to run any application at any scale, fast time-to-value, simplified storage, built-in resiliency, application and data protection, and non-disruptive upgrades.

In addition to the standard editions of the software, with pricing available upon request, the company offers a free community version and an Xpress version for smaller organizations, with prices starting at $25,000.

12. Red Hat

Red Hat offers two software defined storage products, both based on open source technology. Ceph Storage offers unified block, object and file storage. It's well-suited for cloud infrastructure, data analytics, media repositories and backup and recovery systems, and it is especially popular with OpenStack users. Key features include flexible storage policies, data durability via erasure coding or replication, advanced monitoring and diagnostics, multisite and disaster recovery options, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SLA-backed technical support and compatibility with Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and NFS. Pricing available upon request.

Formerly known as Red Hat Storage Server, Gluster Storage is a file-storage solution that is best for backup, archiving, analytics and similar applications. Customers can run it on bare metal, virtual machines, containers or in the cloud. Key features include fast deployment, automatic storage tiering, open source licensing, agile storage capacity, easy management and no vendor lock-in. Pricing is available upon request.

13. Scality

With 500 million users, Scality claims to be the "world leader in object and cloud storage." Its customers include Time Warner Cable, Bloomberg Media, Comcast, Rackspace, Renault, Staples and many others.

According to the company, its software defined storage product, RING, reduces costs by up to 90 percent compared to traditional storage arrays and offers a 229 percent return on investment (ROI). It's a scale-out file and object storage solution with features like distributed architecture, peer-to-peer routing and object storage, policy-based data protection, self-healing, native multi-site support, 100 percent reliability and Amazon S3 compatibility. Pricing is available on request.

14. StarWind

Founded in 2003, StarWind offers Virtual SAN (VSAN) and virtual tape library (VTL) software as well as hyperconverged appliances. The company targets its VSAN product at organizations that want to incorporate legacy hardware into their SDS solution, as well as those that want to reduce costs.

According to StarWind, its VSAN offers "more features than any alternative software defined storage platform." Those features include a simple base configuration, asynchronous replication, in-line and offline deduplication, log-structuring, multi-tiered RAM and flash cache, perpetual licensing, easy management, a minimalistic I/O path, automated storage tiering, grid architecture and Web-based management.

StarWind VSAN comes in standard, enterprise, and datacenter editions, and a free product is also available. Pricing for the other editions is available on request.

15. StorPool

StorPool boasts that its distributed block storage is "arguably the fastest and most efficient software defined storage solution on the market today." Designed for public and private cloud environments, it integrates with OpenStack, OpenNebula, CloudStack, OnAPP, VMware and other cloud computing software.

StorPool's key features include high-performance scale-out block storage, advanced data-integrity capabilities, high availability, thin provisioning, snapshots and clones, trim and zeroes detection, data tiering, write back cache, self-healing and QoS. Pricing is available on request.

16. StorMagic

While most of the SDS vendors target a variety of use cases, StorMagic focuses on just one: software defined storage for edge computing. Its SvSAN was designed for remote and branch offices, industrial IoT and other environments where organizations need storage at the edge of their networks but find it cost-prohibitive to install a traditional SAN or NAS appliance.

SvSAN supports VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. Key features include synchronous mirroring, stretched/metro cluster support, volume migration, VSA restore, VMware vSphere integration, atomic test and set, write same, centralized monitoring and management, remote witness, predictive storage caching and more.

The product comes in two editions — standard or advanced — and pricing for both is available on request. A free trial is also available. In addition, the company offers pre-configured hyperconverged appliances in partnership with Cisco and Lenovo.

17. VMware

Used by more than 10,000 customers, VMware's vSAN is a software defined storage solution that integrates with the company's popular vSphere software. It has won numerous accolades, including being named as a leader in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure.

Ideal for organizations that run vSphere, vSAN is tightly integrated with the VMware hypervisor and boasts very fast performance. Other key features include integration with other VMware management tools, native HCI encryption, low TCO, flash-optimized, granular non-disruptive scale-up or scale-out, deduplication, compression, erasure coding, QoS, Cloud Analytics, policy-based management and more.

VMware vSAN comes in standard, advanced or enterprise editions, as well as special versions for VDI and remote office/branch office applications. The company also offers a hands-on lab where potential customers can try the software. VMware has a licensing guide that explains in-depth how it calculates fees, but actual pricing is available only on request.

SDS Vendor Comparison Chart


SDS Product(s)


Key Features


Atlantis Computing

Atlantis USX

Software only

·      data reduction

·      data protection

·      performance acceleration

·      data mobility

·      unified management of storage resources

Available on request. Premium support is available.


Cisco UCS

Hardware-only (software available through partners)

·         modular architecture

·         up to 600TB of data storage

·         dual server nodes with Intel Xeon processors

·         I/O expansion capabilities

·         support for NVMe and flash

·         policy-based storage management

·         support for Ethernet or FibreChannel

$26,666.67 and up



Software-only (integrated appliances available through Lenovo)

·      Parallel I/O Technology for fast performance

·      high availability

·      efficient asynchronous replication

·      continuous data protection

·      low total cost of ownership (TCO)

·      single-pane management

Product available through resellers. Licensing fees depend on storage capacity and selected features.

Dell EMC


Software-only, hyperconverged, or hardware and software

·     high performance

·     support for up to 1,000 nodes

·     high I/O parallelism with low latency

·     snapshots

·     inline compression

·     thin provisioning

·     QoS

·     enterprise data protection

Pricing for the ScaleIO software and VxRack System FLEX is available on request. Scale IO Ready Nodes start at $12,699.01.

Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS)

Software-only, appliance or managed cloud service

·      flexible deployment

·      7.8 PB capacity per rack

·      enterprise-grade durability and availability

·      global access

·      native metadata search

Available on request.

IsilonSD Edge


·      ideal for SMBs and remote offices

·      up to 36 TB of capacity per node

·      multiprotocol support

·      high utilization of storage resources

·      integration with VMware ESX

·      Isilon OneFS operating system

·      data management

·      data protection

·      enhanced support

$24,450.00 and up




·     data migration capabilities

·     continuous availability

·     data protection and recovery

·     storage optimization

·     heterogeneous analytics

·     secure multi-tenancy

·     support for flash

Available on request.


Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform


·     unified block, file and object storage

·     thin provisioning

·     encryption

·     client and server-side flash/SSD caching

·     zero-impact volume snapshots and clones

·     inline deduplication and compression

·     hybrid multisite replication

·     support for up to 1,000 nodes

·     container support

Available on request.


StoreVirtual VSA

Software-only (hardware also available)

·      simple deployment and management

·      scalable architecture

·      high availability

·      thin provisioning

·      optimization

·      flexible data protection

Free for most users.


IBM Spectrum Storage Suite

Software-only or software with cloud services

·      support for industry standard hardware and cloud services

·      ease of management

·      flexible consumption

·      fast access to data

·      seamless data flow

Pricing per terabyte; available on request.


ONTAP Select

Software-only (hardware also available from vendor)

·      support for commodity hardware

·      support for any OS and hypervisor

·      SSD and/or HDD support

·      simplified operations

·      fast deployment and scaling of storage resources

·      data reduction

·      data protection

·      dynamic workload scaling and balancing

Available on request; based on the number of nodes or VMs.



Software-only (also available in an appliance through partnerships with hardware manufacturers.)

·     block and file storage

·     enterprise-grade data integrity

·     performance scaling into the petabytes

·     unlimited file system sizes

·     inline data reduction

·     unlimited space-optimized snapshots and clones

·     periodic or continuous asynchronous long-distance replication

·     VMware integration

·     support for Docker and OpenStack

Available on request.


Nexenta Edge


·      object storage

·      inline deduplication

·      compression

·      Quick Erasure Coding (Quick EC)

·      Docker Datacenter integration

·      web-based GUI

·      superior data protection

·      support for high-performance, all-flash arrays

Available on request.


Enterprise Cloud Platform

Software-only or hyperconverged appliances

·      software defined infrastructure (not just storage)

·      the ability to run any application at any scale

·      fast time to value

·      simplified storage

·      built-in resiliency

·      application and data protection

·      non-disruptive upgrades.

Community edition is free. Xpress edition starts at $25,000. Other pricing on request.

Red Hat

Ceph Storage


·      unified block, object and file storage

·      open source licensing

·      flexible storage policies

·      data durability via erasure coding or replication

·      advanced monitoring and diagnostics

·      multisite and disaster recovery options

·      Red Hat Enterprise Linux included

·      SLA-backed technical support

·      compatibility with Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and NFS

Available on request.

Gluster Storage


·      file storage

·      fast deployment

·      automatic storage tiering

·      open source licensing

·      agile storage capacity

·      easy management

·      no vendor lock-in

Available on request.




·      scale-out file and object storage solution

·      distributed architecture

·      peer-to-peer routing

·      policy-based data protection

·      self-healing

·      native multi-site support

·      100 percent reliability

·      Amazon S3 compatibility

Available on request.


Virtual SAN (VSAN)

Software-only or software with a hyperconverged appliance

·      simple base configuration

·      asynchronous replication

·      in-line and offline deduplication

·      log-structuring

·      multi-tiered RAM and flash cache

·      perpetual licensing

·      easy management

·      a minimalistic I/O path

·      automated storage tiering

·      grid architecture

·      Web-based management

Free version available; pricing for other editions available on request.




·      high-performance scale-out block storage

·      advanced data-integrity capabilities

·      high availability

·      thin provisioning

·      snapshots and clones

·      trim and zeroes detection

·      data tiering

·      write back cache

·      self-healing

·      QoS

Available on request.



Software-only; hyperconverged appliances available through partners

·      support for edge computing environments

·      synchronous mirroring

·      stretched/metro cluster support

·      volume migration

·      VSA restore

·      VMware vSphere integration

·      atomic test and set, write same

·      centralized monitoring and management

·      remote witness

predictive storage caching

Available on request.




·      vSphere integration

·      native HCI encryption

·      low TCO

·      optimization for flash

·      granular non-disruptive scale-up or scale-out capabilities

·      deduplication

·      compression

·      erasure coding

·      QoS

·      Cloud Analytics

·      policy-based management

Available on request.

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