As the saying goes, "when you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp."
IT professionals are plenty familiar with compelling interruptions that need to be dealt with quickly, but keep them from getting high-priority work done. That's one of the reasons IT leaders are looking for SAAS solutions - to decrease the potential for technology alligators to delay the projects they are being measured on.
A big advantage of SAAS is offloading the infrastructure needed to run applications in-house. In a traditional data center, application workload changes may require infrastructure changes that have secondary impacts that disrupt productivity on other applications and systems. SAAS circumvents both primary and secondary infrastructure impacts by isolating the application and it's infrastructure on an external site. The SAAS provider keeps customers up to date on the newest capabilities but also manages the bug fixes, workloads and all the infrastructure elements needed. That leaves a lot more time for the IT team to focus on delivering the technology solutions that business leaders want. SAAS is a terrific solution, but there are many applications - especially line of business applications - that are not available or do not otherwise fit the SAAS model. The whole concept of Hybrid IT is based on this reality. SAAS works great for some things but not others.
Hybrid Cloud Storage is similar to SAAS in several ways. It is an infrastructure enabler that transfers time-consuming management tasks, processes and their secondary impacts to the cloud. Like SAAS, there are some applications Hybrid Cloud Storage is not a good solution for, such as low latency transaction processing, but there are many where it works extremely well.
Managing storage capacity growth is a great example of a time consuming storage management process that data center managers know well. As application workloads e storage capacity is consumed, threatening the ability to meet service levels. Storage administration is largely an exercise in planning and implementing the response to this endless cycle. Sometimes it involves upgrading the capacity in arrays and re-balancing workloads, sometimes it involves migrating workloads with virtualization technologies, sometimes it involves acquiring additional arrays and sometimes it involves all of these. My friends at 3PAR used to call this Storage Tetris. The process becomes increasing difficult over time until there are few options left but to acquire additional arrays, along with the associated costs of data center footprint/power and data protection they impose. When you couple this dynamic with the limited life-span of most storage products it's easy to see why storage consumes such a large part of the IT team's attention and budget.
Hybrid Cloud Storage circumvents this capacity-growth cycle by uploading dormant data to the cloud and freeing capacity on-premises for new, active data and workloads. This is a fundamentally different approach than traditional storage where data consumes primary storage capacity regardless of whether it is being used or not. Dormant, unstructured data is very difficult to manage with traditional storage, but is automatically and transparently managed by Hybrid Cloud Storage. At some point the cloud storage containers used with Hybrid Cloud Storage run out of capacity too but they have scaling limits that are many times larger than on-premises arrays. That means capacity management in the cloud is done far less frequently and because it happens in the cloud it does not have secondary impacts on other applications and systems on-premises. Tetris is much easier when there is a lot of space to work with and when you don't have to worry about upsetting other workloads in the mix.
Putting data on Hybrid Cloud Storage also transfers the associated costs of footprint and power to the cloud. For some corporate data centers, this isn't that big a deal, but for others it's critical to get more done with the facility limitations they have. Also, when you consider the additional data protection hardware that is typically needed to backup the data that is stored on new arrays, the ability to move backup data to the cloud is also an important secondary benefit of Hybrid Cloud Storage (as opposed to being a secondary problem).
I will have other blog posts soon that discuss the significant changes that Hybrid Cloud Storage brings to data protection in much greater detail.
This post first appeared on the Hybrid Storage Blog
StorSimple customers like the fact that our systems do things for them that with legacy storage would take either a lot of time or a lot of money. Sundance Institute, the people who run the Sundance Film Festival, are StorSimple customers who have simplified their operations by streamlining backup and avoided buying storage they don't really need.
Justin Simmons is a long-time IT professional and the associate director of Technology Services for the Sundance Institute. If you didn't click on the link above, here is a quote of his that sums it up pretty well.
“StorSimple has freed up a lot of resources on our existing storage, so we are able to delay or potentially entirely put off what would have been a very expensive new SAN purchase, and instead of spending potentially half her time managing backups, our system administrator is no longer buried under a backup storage shell game. With StorSimple backing up straight to the cloud, she can now use her time to work on new projects and new initiatives for the Sundance Institute.”
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.
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!
We would love to get your feedback on an article we just published on ITBusinessEdge.com, focusing on addressing performance, availability, data protection, and security concerns in cloud storage environments. Please take a read and provide feedback on other issues and concerns you see impacting and slowing broader adoption of cloud storage in your environment.
Welcome to the first part of Cloud Storage 101, episode #1, "What the heck is cloud storage?". Unfortunately I don't have Lucasfilm's budget so I'm unable to provide a Star Wars entrance for this series, but even if I did, I'm not sure if you would consider it unique, corny, interesting, or what. In any case, in this series we're going to focus on providing a 5,000 foot view of various aspects of cloud storage. It won't be all encompassing, but nothing ever is when you're dealing with topics related to the cloud. I do encourage everyone to comment - good or bad - based on areas where you agree or disagree, see other values with cloud storage, and so on.
So, what the heck is 'cloud storage'?
Put simply, cloud storage is a product or service that allows you to store your information. Generally, cloud storage is provided by a third party and accessed over the Internet (Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, AT&T Synaptic, Iron Mountain Digital) - these are commonly referred to as "public cloud storage" (owned by a service provider) - but there are also examples of cloud storage systems that are deployed behind your firewall (EMC Atmos) commonly called "private cloud storage" (owned by you). Cloud storage is similar to traditional storage found in your data center today in that it serves the purpose of storing data, but there are a few key differences.
1) Cloud storage is generally accessed through APIs (RESTful APIs that use HTTP, SOAP APIs, WebDAV). Some cloud storage services on the Internet provide access via file protocols (such as CIFS or NFS) or even FTP. Traditional storage is usually accessed through block protocols (iSCSI, FC/FCoE, all of which carry SCSI as payload) or file protocols (CIFS, NFS)
2) Cloud storage is inherently elastic. Given that most cloud storage services have their roots in providing data storage for really, really massively-scalable Internet applications - or roots in global object namespaces - it's no wonder that cloud storage can grow by simply adding nodes, without requiring data migration due to running out of space on a volume, as an example. This is largely due to the mindset of some of the revolutionary Internet giants wanting to come up with a way to eliminate operational costs from their business model and improve flexibility
3) Cloud storage can provide pay-as-you-use economics. For public cloud services, storage consumers are charged generally based on the amount of data they store, and how much data they access. For private cloud systems - and also legacy storage systems - there are the associated capital and operational costs associated with hardware purchase, maintenance, support, and other items, which are not a direct factor in the case of public cloud storage services (the provider deals with this, which of course impacts your data storage and data transfer pricing)
So why do people have an interest in taking advantage of cloud storage?
1) It's pretty inexpensive. Most services charge around $0.15/GB for data stored, and similar prices per GB of data transferred, and the pricing model is generally tiered to provide incentives for people to store more data to get better prices. This makes it far less expensive than traditional storage in many but not all cases
2) The worries of managing storage are relegated to your cloud storage provider. You can pretty much forget about replacing failed hard drives, or migrating data across systems when you run out of space, and many other things that make you want to pull out your hair
3) You can use as much as you want, and are only billed for what you use. Rather than dealing with large purchases up front - which is common since most people over-provision to account for their three-to-five year capacity needs - you get billed based on what you use, when you use it
4) Availability is "built-in". Most cloud storage service providers automatically replicate your data across their data centers, which are spread across the country or the world. Many claim that availability provided in this manner is lower cost than traditional storage system replication techniques while providing better up-time. Of course, there are other points of failure that need to be considered
Next time, we'll look at what the issues with cloud storage are in light of all of the benefits provided as described above. If you have anything you'd like to add to the list, or areas where you feel something needs clarification or an alternate viewpoint, please do leave a comment.
We're humbled by Drew Robb's article on Enterprise Storage Forum today, naming StorSimple as one of ten top data storage startups. This helps to validate that customers do see storage-related issues that plague their applications from being able to be deployed at scale and at reasonable cost. StorSimple's unique approach solves these issues through an elegant blend of on-premises integrated storage, coupled with an on-ramp to cloud storage services (Amazon S3, EMC Atmos, AT&T Synaptic, Iron Mountain Digital, Microsoft Azure), automated data tiering (Weighted Storage Layout), primary storage deduplication, thin provisioning, and application-specific integration components.
Additionally, our team recognized from our past lives that storage products do not exist in isolation. Rather, they are part of a broader data management ecosystem and series of policies and procedures, and StorSimple integrates with these as well, with additional capabilities to further improve companies' posture towards lower-cost and efficient data protection while also minimizing time to restore (through our Cloud Clones capability). All of this packaged in an easy-to-use appliance that deploys within 10 minutes in your data center.
We encourage anyone that is interested in learning more about how to address storage issues related to Exchange 2010, SharePoint, Windows User Files, and virtualized environments to take a look at our website, and reach out so we can have a conversation! Our website is http://www.storsimple.com
Thanks Drew for choosing StorSimple, we are genuinely thankful!
Beth Pariseau wrote a nice article on StorSimple, which is currently featured on the front page as the top headline on TechTarget's SearchStorage. Check it out!