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In a development that portends significant changes to the way storage is acquired and managed, Lenovo and Nexenta have agreed to bring to market open-source software-defined storage (SDS) offerings under the auspices of a broader industry initiative led by Intel.

Lenovo will bring Nexenta SDS software to market in the form of servers loaded with direct attached flash and magnetic drives as well as a more turnkey appliance, said David Lincoln, general manager for Lenovo’s Storage Business Unit.

That effort is one of the first examples of software-defined instances of storage systems that are being built as part of an Intel-funded Cloud Builders program. Intel, which is anxious to see x86 processors replace dedicated ASICs in storage environments, claims there are now more than 300 companies participating in its Cloud Builders program.

Lenovo plans to continue selling existing storage systems and appliances that it resells, Lincoln said. Those offerings span hardware and software from EMC, IBM, Nutanix and SimpliVity.

In a lot of instances, the economics surrounding open-source storage software will be too hard to ignore, he said. In much the same way that open-source software-defined offerings are starting to challenge proprietary networking architectures, Lenovo expects the same phenomenon to play out in storage.

“We don’t have a commitment to any particular legacy architecture to protect,” Lincoln said. “We see this as being an unbelievable opportunity.”

Nextenta Chairman and CEO Tarkan Maner said the simple fact is that most customers have taken note of the disparity that exists between the cost of per gigabyte of raw storage devices and what it costs them to acquire a proprietary storage system. At the same time, they’re looking to software-defined storage to also reduce their operational costs.

“IT organizations now want to be able to use off-the-shelf storage components,” Maner said. “They need to reduce their capital and operational expenses.”

For solution providers across the channel, the shift has major financial implications. As the cost of acquiring and deploying storage systems declines, many of them will have to find ways to make up for that lost revenue by providing higher-margin managed storage services.

Of course, a shift to open-source SDS platforms is not likely to occur overnight, which means solution providers still have some time to make any adjustments to their business models deemed necessary.