Cloud storage is clearly seeing tremendous growth and adoption across all segments of business and government customers – from mid-market companies to large enterprises and state/federal government organizations.
A key enabler to enterprise adoption of cloud-based storage services is the emergence of premise-based storage systems that integrate cloud storage with existing applications.
Across these cloud-enabling storage systems, there are some capabilities that are similar – such as the translation of cloud storage APIs like SOAP or REST to block-based storage protocols such as iSCSI, as well as de-duplication and compression for performance and capacity optimization.
But there *are* core differences between products that are merely “gateways” and true enterprise storage that is fully integrated with the cloud (an ESG report and Taneja Group report calls them “cloud-integrated storage”).
What are those key differences? I’d put them into 3 major categories, and why each matters to customers:
1) Primary enterprise storage vs. just cloud proxy for backup/archive data
Example: StorSimple solutions provide full primary storage capabilities – up to 100TB of on-premise storage capacity with auto-tiering to SSDs, SAS + cloud, etc. – to enable primary storage for enterprise applications
Why Matters: you can converge your on-premise primary storage + backup/archive infrastructure with the cloud, saving 60-80% overall TCO – not just port data to the cloud for backup/archive, and limited savings
2) Integrated data lifecycle management with the cloud vs. simple proxy of data to the cloud
Example: StorSimple uses application-consistent Cloud Snapshots to provide snapshots locally and in cloud for backup, archive and DR – all without requiring 3rd party backup software
Why Matters: you can eliminate your backup software and support costs; gateways still require you to purchase backup software + support + licenses
3) Disaster recovery and business continuity – cloud-integrated storage enables premise-based applications to directly mount cloud volumes and access needed blocks directly
Example: StorSimple solutions can mount their Cloud Snapshots in the cloud and enable premise applications to access only their needed objects in minutes or hours, vs. cloud gateways which require download of the full cloud volume, which can takes days/weeks to complete
Why Matters: pretty obvious – RTO is radically improved, as is business continuity…
In short, cloud storage is here to stay, and cloud-enabling storage systems will only help to accelerate that adoption. But storage teams need to dive deeper into products and architectures to understand the full spectrum of benefits – and savings – they can get from leveraging the full pie of cloud services + cloud-integrated enterprise storage vs. a single slice of a cloud gateway.
Our customer Dan Streufert from MedPlast flew into Dallas on a day when there were tornadoes touching down throughout the Metroplex to present at SNW Spring 2012 about cloud storage and their experience using cloud-integrated storage from StorSimple.
As an OEM manufacturer for the medical device industry, Medplast needed a comprehensive archive solution to store historical records. What they found was primary storage that included deduplication, compression, encryption, automated storage tiering (including tiering to the cloud) and integrated data protection that replaced their tape-based system with cloud snapshots. They also appreciate how disaster recover protection is integrated as well and that their cloud service provider fulfills the role of the DR site. It's a lot of stuff and MedPlast is taking advantage of all of it.
We appreciate our customers and are very glad to continue working with people like Dan who are so enthusiastic about the technology we are building.Here is the video:
Cisco Systems recently published the results of a survey of 1300 IT professionals on cloud priorities and challenges. The survey results can be found here
One of the things that really stands out is that customers see Cloud service providers like Amazon, Azure, Google; industry analysts and their peers as more credible information sources for cloud decisions than infrastructure vendors. We think that this is one of the indicators that the customers are seeing through cloud-washing.
A couple of other interesting results in this survey also are
1. Storage as the top application for migration to the cloud - ahead of SaaS (Salesforce.com etc.), email and collaboration.
2. Customers recognize that it is easier to move to public cloud then deploy private clouds..
A wide range for Fortune 1000 enterprises across verticals like retail, consumer goods, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, media and healthcare as well as government customers have done their first production cloud deployments with StorSimple. Most of our customers have gone with public cloud services. So it is nice to see another independent survey verify those trends.
We all like a little recognition from time to time and we are excited to receive the 2011 Product of the Year in the Storage Systems Category from Storage Magazine.
Here is what the judges had to say about our products:
An award like this is an important marker, demonstrating our recent success in 2011. The thing that is ultimately gratifying, however, is the engagement we have with our growing customer base, who are trusting StorSimple to do things that they never even imagined a few months ago. We look forward to making cloud storage as useful and transparent as possible throughout 2012.
It's a bird, it's a plane, no.... it's cloud storage!
This week marks the beginning of my journey into cloud storage - and I expect this journey to be incredibly interesting, with many things to learn about cloud services and unlearn about legacy storage. In one respect, the leap to the cloud is not very far because the company I joined, StorSimple, makes storage solutions that integrate enterprise storage with cloud storage services. The enterprise storage side of these systems is something I understand fairly well, but legacy storage applications in the cloud can have fascinating surprises and power - as well as limitations. The trick, as always is to ameliorate the weaknesses and enhance the strengths.
For instance, one of the obvious issues with cloud storage is that it's base-level functions are not nearly as reliable or fast as enterprise storage arrays. The StorSimple design addresses these weaknesses with rich metadata that guarantees data integrity and data reduction technologies (dedupe and compression) that reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred and stored by the storage service. This blog will explore these technologies in depth as I get up to speed on them. I am going to have a lot of fun figuring out how to explain how it all works in whiteboard animations, graphics and words.
Rest assured, as it is with any form of enterprise storage, there is a lot of heavy lifting to do - and all the various corner cases that need flattening. The engineering team here is made up of very experienced enterprise storage people who bring the intensity that hard core storage development demands.
I am overjoyed to be here with them.
Rockford Construction Operates in 43 States with nearly half of its employees remote. Rockford Construction knew that IT would be a core way that it could differentiate itself from its competitors. They selected SharePoint as the way to give their many field representatives access to all information about projects in real time while on site and to provide a repository for archiving based on a ten-year retention policy.
Shawn is widely quoted in the press on his experience in the construction industry, experience of storage, use of SharePoint and the cloud - See Network Computing, Network World, SNSEurope, searchcio-midmarket, SearchStorage, StorageSolutions, ecmconection
In this interview style video see Shawn discuss the following questions:
Shawn, Can you tell me a bit about your background and Rockford Construction?
Can you tell me about the situation and the business challenges that drove the project?
The construction industry is one of the most sophisticated users of content management. Can you tell me about what is specific about managing content in the construction industry?
Can you tell me the areas you are using StorSimple in and in particular about SharePoint scalability, archive data and video?
What interesting technical challenges did you experience? Did this change the way you think about storing content?
Can you discuss the scale of the storage for these projects, the approaches you had to use before and what you can do now? How has this affected your approach to archiving and disaster recovery?
Can you discuss the platforms you are using. What were you using before StorSimple and what problems were your having?
Hear more next week from Shawn in this blog about:
- How Rockford evaluated private cloud, public cloud, Iaas, PaaS and SaaS
- Why they chose Storsimple
- Lessons learnt for others in IT and the Construction Industry
It has been a busy time for the cloud, cloud storage and the applications that generate the content for the cloud. Interesting articles on the cloud, Amazon, Windows Azure, 3PAR, Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010.
New Windows Azure Videos Now Available on Channel 9
Watch the experts discuss the Windows Azure platform and hear their tips to help you get started?
Amazon S3 raises the bar on storage security
"Amazon has already achieved SAS70 Type II certification for its Elastic Compute Cloud and other cloud services, and is hoping to comply with the ISO 27001 information security standard before the end of the year". Amazon offers the Virtual Private Cloud service, which lets customers cordon off a piece of the cloud network for its own use, eliminating some of the risks inherent in multi-tenant services.
Amazon Kicks Up Cloud Price Competition With Micro Instances
Amazon (NSDQ:AMZN) Web Services (AWS) on Thursday launched a new instance type dubbed Micro Instances which whittle down the price to run low throughput applications to pennies
3PAR Acquisition: The Future For The Storage Industry
The ongoing battle for 3Par by HP & Dell tells us much more about the state of the IT Industry than just the desires of two companies to acquire some interesting storage tech. It signals an acceptance that storage is a key feature in the future direction of the IT industry – more important than networking and almost as important as the virtualisation platform itself.
Exchange 2010 SP1 - Understanding Personal Archives
In Exchange 2010 SP1, you can provision a user's personal archive on the same mailbox database as the user's primary mailbox, another mailbox database on the same Mailbox server, or a mailbox database on another Mailbox server in the same Active Directory site. This allows you the flexibility to use tiered storage architectures and locate archive mailboxes on a different storage subsystem such as near-line storage. In cross-premises Exchange 2010 deployments, you can also provision a cloud-based archive for mailboxes located on your on-premises Mailbox servers.
Ferris Research - Key Features of Exchange 2010
The most important elements are improvements to Exchange 2010 archiving:
Archive emails for a user can be in a different mailbox than the primary mailbox. This improves performance and allows for multi-tiered storage
Overview of Remote BLOB Storage (SharePoint Foundation 2010)
RBS is a library API set that is incorporated as an add-on feature pack for Microsoft SQL Server.
Before RBS was supported in SQL Server, expensive storage such as RAID 10 was required for the whole SQL database including BLOB data. By using RBS, you can move 80 to 90 percent of the data (that is, BLOBs) onto less expensive storage such as RAID 5 or external storage solutions.
RBS uses a provider to connect to any dedicated BLOB store that uses the RBS APIs. Storage solution vendors can implement providers that work with RBS APIs. SharePoint Foundation 2010 supports a BLOB storage implementation that accesses BLOB data by using the RBS APIs through such a provider. You can implement RBS for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products by using a supported provider that you obtain from a third-party vendor.
Download a Whitepaper on Hybrid Cloud Storage
Many of us didn't feel comfortable doing our online banking until encryption using SSL became commonplace. While no one can 'guarantee' the privacy that is provided by encryption, it does provide us with the comfort of knowing that a large number of brilliant minds spent a massive amount of time coming up with a mechanism by which we could establish trust in a world of insecure communication, allowing us to authenticate the website we were communicating with, and establish a reasonable level of confidentiality as we peruse our checking, savings, brokerage, and other statements over a public network.
Cloud storage gateways, or 'on-ramp' devices, provide a similar function for enterprise data centers using public resources (cloud storage services). Some of the same concerns existed with online banking that exist today with using public cloud storage services, such as:
- How do I know that the web server that I am interacting with is really from <insert your favorite financial institution here>?
- How do I know that when I'm viewing my financial transactions using my web browser that no one else can read that same data by sniffing the network?
In the case of cloud storage services, similar questions are asked. Encryption, certificates, and certificate authorities give us a reasonable sense that a network endpoint we are communicating with is who they say they are (authentication) and that the data we exchange is kept private (encryption).
Cloud storage gateway devices help improve security when using public cloud storage services in a number of ways, but some of the more prominent ways are:
- They use SSL for encryption, which implies that at least one party in the conversation is authenticated by a trusted third party, making it very difficult for man-in-the-middle attacks (some cloud storage services authenticate BOTH parties)
- They encrypt the data that is written to the cloud storage service using keys that your cloud storage service provider does not have, meaning you are storing data that they are far less likely to be able directly discern. The same goes for anyone else that gains access to it, maliciously or not
- They obfuscate the data that is sent to the cloud prior to encryption using techniques such as data deduplication and compression. Deduplication effectively puts your data "through a paper shredder" - which in and of itself can be stitched back together, but the effort required becomes increasingly difficult - and compression further assists in this matter
Based on the above, what the industry is starting to see thanks to cloud storage gateway devices like StorSimple is the emergence of 'Virtual Private Storage', or 'VPS'. This approach goes a step further than the security innovations that occurred in online banking in that not only are endpoints able to authenticate one another and exchange data with a reasonable degree of security, the owner of the information is able to control the disposition of that data - and the control of the data itself - through encryption.
So what does this mean?
This means that cloud storage gateway devices open up a new world of opportunities to take advantage of public cloud storage services in a secure manner. In many ways this approach can rival the level of security that is found in many data centers today, where many are still behind on implementing things such as DH-CHAP within their storage fabrics. Having an increased level of security decreases the level of perceived risk which makes public cloud storage more digestible for a broader range of applications and data, even those that have a high degree of scrutiny placed upon them through compliance and regulation.
Does the analogy resonate? Are there others that you can think of that would be equally or more appropriate? We welcome your feedback, and of course if you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to comment or reach me via Twitter or email!
In the past two episodes of cloud storage 101 (ep1, ep2), we discussed what cloud storage is, what value it provides, and an overview of some of the challenges typically associated with cloud storage. In this episode, we're going to look at how cloud gateway devices, also known as cloud on-ramp devices, can help make cloud storage a reality. In the spirit of intellectual honesty, we can't make the bold generalization that cloud storage is applicable to any and every application. Quite the opposite, actually. Cloud storage is a wonderful fit for some applications, and for others, it simply isn't. I tend to be an optimist, so I'm going to focus on how these devices can make cloud storage very useful, rather than on where it can't.
So, what is a 'cloud gateway device', or a 'cloud on-ramp device'?
Put simply, a cloud gateway device is a device deployed behind your firewall that acts as a useful intermediary between you (your application servers) and a cloud service. Typically, cloud gateway devices perform some function that improves performance, security, usability, or other aspects of the service. Several classes of cloud gateway products exist, and we're going to focus on those that sit between your application servers and cloud storage services, i.e. cloud storage gateway devices.
Over the last year there are a handful of companies that have emerged with cloud storage gateway devices, StorSimple included. So what do these devices do? How do they make the cloud storage services useful? The following are general characteristics and functions of these devices, and why the functions matter.
1) They give your application servers familiar protocols to use for accessing storage, and natively speak the language of your cloud storage service so your applications don't have to. This simplifies integration, because many in-house applications (for instance, Exchange, SharePoint), do not natively speak using RESTful APIs when accessing storage. They expect SCSI in its many forms (iSCSI, FC, FCoE).
2) They optimize transmission of data to and from the cloud to improve performance. Typically, this is accomplished through data deduplication, TCP optimization, compression, and other techniques, which A) minimize the amount of data traversing the wire and B) allow the WAN pipe to be utilized in the most efficient manner. Moving redundancy-eliminated blocks of data moves a tremendous amount of actual data.
3) They secure data being transferred over the network (data in motion), and the data while it is being stored on the cloud storage service (data at rest), generally using keys you supply, which are not shared with your cloud storage service provider. This means that your data is rendered practically useless to third parties that sniff your WAN, compromise your cloud storage service provider's network or systems, steal your service provider's hardware, or anyone that becomes the recipient of your data from your service provider through litigation.
4) They provide storage management functions, including volume management, provisioning, access control (i.e. LUN masking), snapshots, replication, and other functions. This allows you to manage the system as though you were managing an existing storage array, meaning simplified integration into existing processes, procedures, and data protection infrastructure.
Cloud storage gateway devices provide a lot of useful functions which help make cloud storage consumable by your traditional on-premises applications. Good candidates for such models include those that are centered around unstructured data - stored as such, or in any of its permutations (files, email, content repositories, collaboration systems, archives), as they tend to have a high degree of commonality within the data, and only a small portion of the data is really used by the applications and their users at any given point in time (let's face it, the email never ceases to arrive, but I can only process so much of it in a given day).
Cloud storage gateway devices certainly do a lot more than this, and we feel that we have a very compelling solution for the applications that we're focusing on. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to drop me an email at joel at storsimple dot com.