Many organizations are considering use of cloud storage to help simplify their data storage environments, improve data protection, and reduce overall costs. However, many challenges still exist with using cloud storage natively for traditional on-premises applications that drive businesses today, and security remains as a concern in terms of data privacy, confidentiality, and control.
A number of cloud storage on-ramp, or cloud storage gateway, devices have emerged, each promising to turn elastic, on-demand, low-cost cloud storage services into capacity that can be utilized by your on-premises servers while eliminating concern.
While the cloud storage on-ramp/gateway market is still nascent, customers should weigh out a number of factors before trusting their application environment and storage needs to such a system. Like other vendors, we have an opinion on what those factors are, and why they're important. When considering a cloud storage gateway, we encourage customers to consider:
- Performance - when using cloud storage, you are effectively injecting Internet latency, bandwidth, and packet loss in between your server and its storage. Gateway devices mitigate this, and an understanding of the architecture - and quantification of the system's performance - will help you understand whether or not the solution is applicable in your particular application environment
- Caching vs Tiering - many devices provide a "caching" architecture, where the cloud storage service is effectively your primary storage. StorSimple provides a "tiering" architecture, where the on-premises appliance is your primary storage. The differences are subtle, but substantial when viewed through the lens of data integrity, coherency, performance, and availability. We'll write more on this one later
- Security - devices should provide protection for both data in motion (over the network) and also data at rest (as stored in your cloud storage service provider network). Keys should never be shared with your cloud storage provider, as that can fundamentally put your control of your data at risk in the event of litigation/subpoena
- Data Protection - devices should simplify data protection and help you - when possible - eliminate multi-tiered backup and restore architectures. The fundamental unit of data protection in the enterprise today is the snapshot, and the longer you can extend the usefulness and liveliness of a snapshot-centric architecture goes a long way in minimizing operational complexity when you need to restore data
- Application Awareness - some devices claim to be "application aware", while also claiming to support everything including the kitchen sink. The vendor should take a pragmatic and focused approach to specific applications, with the necessary technology integrated to provide compelling value for specific applications rather than broad brush strokes that make their approach seem applicable to a broad array of applications. Our assertion - better to be the best at a small number of things than to fail at all of them
- High Availability - people deploy storage in a highly-available manner today, and when you move to a cloud storage-centric model, this should not change. Devices should provide you with the availability characteristics you expect from your current storage systems, and not require you to undergo configuration gymnastics or ridiculous server-side changes to meet your availability metrics
We'd love to get your feedback on criteria that should be considered; please feel free to leave a comment and let us know if these are valid considerations or if there are some that we missed!