Disaster recovery is commonly associated with complex configurations and high costs. Data replication for DR means there is a lot of duplicated equipment and facilities, including networking, administration, as well as power and cooling. More importantly, there are many things to manage such as storage capacity and performance, network bandwidth and traffic and data growth.
But, as Bob Dylan sang, "the times, they are changin'". Just as cloud technology brought a paradigm shift to application deployments, people are seeing similar game-changing developments with cloud disaster recovery too. One of the biggest cloud shifts is removing the requirement for a separate DR site that will save the day when everything goes belly up. Instead IT leaders are recognizing the power of the cloud to store their disaster recovery data more effectively and for far less cost. Using the cloud for disaster recovery provides the following key benefits:
- Cloud disaster recovery transfers infrastructure costs to cloud service providers
- Cloud disaster recovery facilitates DR testing and validation
- Cloud disaster recovery eliminates physical tapes and tape management
- Cloud disaster recovery provides flexibility for the recovery location
- Cloud disaster recovery centralizes DR storage from multiple sites, including ROBOs
- Cloud disaster recovery improves RTOs (recovery time objectives)
- Cloud disaster recovery enables recovery-in-the-cloud
Let's look at each of these benefits more closely.
Transfer infrastructure costs
Equipment and resources for DR have costs with a very small chance of generating a return on the investment. There is no point in owning resources such as storage, networking, servers, racks, power and cabling that you hope to never use. Clearly, the cloud mantra of paying only for what is used applies here. You don't overpay for insurance with cloud disaster recovery.
Of course everything has to work when you need it to. The interesting thing about cloud disaster recovery is that it is even easier to test and validate than traditional DR because it can be done without interrupting production systems. Many of our customers at StorSimple cite this as a very important benefit.
One of the worst parts of any recovery operation is anything and everything involving tapes. Naming tapes, loading tapes, unloading tapes, moving tapes, retensioning tapes, copying tapes, deleting tapes, disposing tapes, tapes, tapes and tapes. They aren't needed with cloud disaster recovery.
Recovery location flexibility
Recovering data from the cloud can happen at any site with a reasonably good Internet connection. Moreover, it can happen at multiple sites, which means it is easier to make contingency plans for multiple-site complications as well as being able to spread the recovery load over more resources.
Centralize DR storage
Another aspect of location flexibility with DR is the ability for companies to store DR data in the cloud from many sites or remote branch offices (ROBOs). While each site or branch office will have a unique URL to store their data, the access to this data is centralized in the cloud where it can all be easily accessed from a single Internet connection in their primary data center. In other words, the DR data from any ROBO can be instantly accessed at headquarters.
The data that is needed to resume operations after a disaster can be limited to only the data that is needed by applications - as opposed to downloading multiple tape images in-full and restoring data from them. This can save weeks during a large scale recovery. Data that is not needed immediately does not consume any bandwidth or other resources that would interfere with the restore process. This approach to data recovery uses a concept called "the working set", which is the collection of data that is being used by applications. Working-set based cloud disaster recovery is the most efficient way to recover data.
Related to recovery flexibility is the ability to resume operations in the cloud by using cloud compute services. In this case, the DR data stays in the cloud where it is accessed by cloud-resident applications. Application users connect to the application through a connection to their cloud service provider. The data that stays in the cloud needs to be presented to the application in its usual fashion - as a file share, for instance.
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:
What vendors like CommVault and Riverbed are not telling you.
Cloud Backup works provides a good way for consumers and small businesses to backup their data. However, at enterprise data volumes where primary data sets run in 10s and 100s of TB, traditional cloud backup does not work. The reasons are – recovery times are unacceptably long and that cloud backup does not reduce data protection costs.
For example, consider a customer with 100TB of primary production data and a dedicated 50 Mbps WAN link to the cloud storage service provider such as Amazon, Azure or Google. If this data was backed up to the cloud using CommVault or Riverbed + NetBackup, the data that is sitting in the cloud is in the backup applications proprietary format. In the event of a disaster all the data in the cloud has be to retrieved from the cloud before the applications comes online. Even if the backup application gave 2:1 compression of your primary data, it would take 100 days to read this 100TB from the cloud storage service across the 50 Mbps WAN link. That length time is unacceptable for most enterprises. Hence, most of them still use tape if the recovery time objective is around a week.
If the primary data was on a cloud integrated enterprise storage solution like StorSimple, then the application level recovery using cloud snapshots is much faster. For example, in the above scenario with a StorSimple system, the applications with 100TB of data can be recovered and brought online in 1 day.
The ROI cost conversation, is also equally insightful because the use of traditional cloud backup solutions does not remove the need for the enterprise to have all the hardware infrastructure for primary storage, disk based backup storage, media servers and backup software. Also – if the customer needs any reasonable time for recovery in a disaster, then a second system is need for replicating data. In contrast with cloud integrated enterprise storage like StorSimple that combine the functions of primary, backup, archive and disaster recovery with seamless cloud integration, the TCO for storage and data management goes down by 60-80%. See the table below for some ballpark numbers for a customer with 50TB of production data.
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
Cloud computing and cloud storage continue to be hot topics. The Oracle,sSalesforce soap opera that we discussed last week has continued. Larry Ellison contends virtualization is an essential component of the cloud and, by that measure, Salesforce.com fails, while Oracle's Exalogic Elastic Cloud wins.
Salesforce Challenges Oracle CEO's Cloud Account
On a more important note the specifics about what hot cloud innovations there are was discussed in Information Week and CTOEdge
What's Hot in the Cloud - Cloud Innovations
7 Hot Cloud Computing Innovations
Despite a dismal economy, analysts continue to be bullish on cloud computing. A few recent studies project continued momentum for cloud computing, which according to IDC, should soon “reach 12% of the size of traditional IT product spending, [while representing] over 25% of the net-new growth in traditional IT products.” IDC predicts that worldwide revenue from public IT cloud services, which exceeded $16 billion in 2009, will grow to nearly $56 billion in 2014.
Many of those on-premise applications benefit from features such as collaboration and remote access, which has led to hybrid clouds. “Hybrid clouds have, in many instances, become the information gateway to the public cloud, while allowing users to preserve the legacy core,” said Chris Weitz, Director of Deloitte Consulting.
- Displacing the laptop with smartphones and tablets
- Mobilizing surveillance
- Moving gaming - all video gaming - online
- Making MMO gaming truly trivial
- Smoothing the transition with cloud gateways
- Pushing the cloud envelope with “Sky Computing
- Scaling in response to viral marketing success
The Coming of Application-Aware Cloud Storage
One of the challenges with cloud computing storage is that most of the services out there are not particularly aware of any given application. For example, to use the Amazon cloud storage service, your organization needs to first integrate its applications with a custom application programming interface from Amazon. For that reason, we’re seeing the emergence of application-aware storage services in the cloud.
The CIO View and Cloud Economics
Cloud computing 'taken up by half of CIOs'
CIO.com's eighth annual Global Information Security Survey took responses from almost 13,000 business and technology executives across the world to come up with its findings.
It discovered that 49 per cent of those questioned have some form of cloud computing offering in use at their company.
How cloud computing can improve your operations and bottom line
IT experts at The Gartner Group have predicted that cloud computing usage will triple over the next three years.
The discussed to the top reasons to move to the cloud:
- Ease and Convenience
- Ability to roam
- Cash Utilization
The Cloud in Government
Government continues to power ahead with its use of cloud computing
US State migrating to Microsoft’s Cloud offering
The use of Cloud Computing in the United States public sector has continued to gain traction, with confirmation the Midwest State of Minnesota is to take its communication and collaboration activities into the Cloud through a deal signed with Microsoft.
Government Bodies Embrace Cloud Computing
Ed Bugnion, CTO for the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco, certainly got it right when he predicted that the adoption of cloud computing within the enterprise could well be led by the government and not the corporate sector. Today, many government entities are leading the way in cloud adoption.
A Look Into How The Microsoft Cloud Is Taking Shape
Another clue as to Microsoft's future in the cloud lies in the Codename "Dallas" product which according to the official site is "a new service allowing developers and information workers to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform".
Featured Blog Posts
The Wisdom of Clouds
The series basically breaks down the effect of virtualization and cloud computing on IT operations, and looks at how those changes affect data center operators, developers and end users, respectively.
How is tiering different than caching?
One such difference is whether the device performs "caching" or "tiering". On the surface, many people think "aren't these the same thing?". While they seem to perform a similar function, they are in fact quite different technologies.
Caching is the function of retaining a copy of information in a smaller yet faster repository than its terminal storage. Caching is everywhere - from your processor to the controller of your traditional storage system - and it's not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the context of cloud storage, it may not be the appropriate architecture.
Caches operate fundamentally in one of two modes of operation: write-through, or write-back.
The cloud has taken off.
Download a whitepaper on hybrid cloud storage
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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!
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.
Today is an exciting today for a group of people that have been tucked away for almost a year building what we consider to be technology that has the potential to positively impact certain application environments and dramatically simplify storage management, improve performance consistency, and enable realization of the benefits of cloud storage. After nearly a year of operating in stealth mode, StorSimple is launching our first non-stealth company website. While we’re not disclosing product specifics until our product launch which is soon to come, we are disclosing who we are, what we do, what problems we’re targeting, and what benefits we can provide. We are however disclosing details about our solution and our technology, which has caused a number of our early adopters to reach out to the analyst, reseller, and technology partner community with great interest, which was likely the catalyst for StorSimple being named as a cool vendor by a prestigious analyst firm.
For those of you that might not be familiar with who we are, StorSimple is a company based on Santa Clara, CA, founded by Ursheet Parikh and Guru Pangal. Our investors are Index and Redpoint, and the goal of our company is to help customers simplify their data storage environments, reduce complexity, minimize cost, and improve performance consistency for high-growth applications. The DNA of our core team is in storage, data center networking, virtualization, and application delivery. What we’ve built and are currently in beta testing with is what we like to call an application-optimized hybrid storage solution - an on-premises storage system deployed in our data center, built for a certain class of applications, that can securely take advantage of cloud storage. One of our analyst friends described it best as “a hybrid storage provider that blends the best of on-premises storage with security, WAN optimization, and an on-demand cloud storage model.” Our solution works with both public and private clouds, and we have a number of technology and cloud storage partnerships that we will be announcing soon.
We’re taking a pragmatic approach and focusing our core technology (at this stage) on three key applications, which are all experiencing tremendous growth and are a very good match with our solution: Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Windows File Servers. Our solution – in a nutshell – provides the experience of primary storage with the economic and operational benefits of cloud storage. That is, you get the performance and features of primary storage (volume management, block volume access, snapshots) and the economic (cost) and operational benefits (on-demand, pay-as-you-grow) of cloud storage.
We’ve built compelling technology directly and organically into our product. Our solution includes integrated on-premises storage consisting of SSD and SATA with automated data tiering (through a patented algorithm we’ve named Weighted Storage Layout, or WSL) and also primary storage deduplication. We’ve found that for a certain class of applications – those with a high degree of locality (that is, hotspots) and a high degree of compressibility (typically unstructured data), our solution is extremely effective. We’re not out to try to tell the world that we can address any application with our solution, but we are definitely out to build the best storage system in the world for these applications.
Why are WSL and primary storage deduplication compelling? Traditional storage provides minimal discrimination between blocks of data. Sure, most of them have read and write caches – and some of the higher-end systems are introducing (or have introduced) intelligent caching using a large pool of SSD, but the majority (not all) require you to purchase a massive pool of capacity up front, and in many cases this pool is comprised of fast, expensive storage that remains unused for long periods of time until your growth requirements cause your applications to actually take advantage of it – but the whole time, they’re consuming power, space, cooling, and yes you still have to manage it.
WSL and primary storage deduplication make a stunning combination. With these two, you get the benefits of transparent, efficient capacity utilization through deduplication, and WSL transparently adjust the physical location of sub-blocks of data into the appropriate tier to make sure that the most frequently accessed, most frequently referenced, and most relevant data is stored on the fastest tiers. The ability to track data’s relevance over time helps us to manage where data lives – all without changing the way your servers see storage. This means that you can achieve the performance of SSD without requiring a massive pool of it – as long as the tiering algorithm is effective in identifying what data needs to be there. The balance of the data can reside on lower-cost SATA.
We learned two lessons early on that helped shape our company direction. The first was that customers genuinely had concerns over the security of data stored in the cloud, and the second was that customers were generally reluctant to take advantage of cloud storage for primary storage purposes. We’ve designed the system to allow you to manage the encryption of your data, without sharing your keys with your cloud storage provider, and we also allow you to decide whether you want to take advantage of public or private cloud storage – and how you want to take advantage of it. Customers can use us like a traditional on-premises storage array (no cloud) and enjoy the benefits of WSL and primary storage deduplication, or they can take advantage of the cloud either for data protection purposes or for primary storage. In cases where you want to take advantage of the cloud, we have another patented feature we call ‘Cloud Clones’, which allows you to take a point-in-time, consistent snapshot of volumes related to an application, and store it (encrypted) in the cloud as an always-online point-in-time truly independent copy. To ensure performance when accessing the cloud, we’ve built in asymmetric WAN optimization into our solution (no device or instance needed in the cloud provider network), and WSL is optimized to address performance issues associated with having a tier that is connected over a WAN.
The net result for the applications that we’re focusing on is primary storage experience with lower cost and manageability. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a bit more about the specific applications we focus on, what their issues are, and how our technology solves those issues and makes life “simple” for our customers. Since we have “simple” in our name, so our product better be simple to deploy, simple to manage, and make life simpler for our customers. None of us are interested in changing our name from “StorSimple” to “StorDifficult” or “StorComplicated”.
While there are likely a number of questions that I didn’t answer directly (I didn’t want to write another book!) I do invite you to take a look at our website – http://www.storsimple.com – and if you’re interested in learning more or potentially participating in our beta, drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you.
Very good article from Jeff Boles @ Taneja discussing at a high level how cloud storage services are helping to address the total cost of ownership of data protection. When you factor in the many various elements of cost, complexity, and failure surface of traditional data protection, it's no surprise that the cloud can be so compelling.