If you are involved with managing your company’s storage infrastructure, you might be tired of hearing about how your company can use IaaS to improve software development. It might sound promising, but as a storage person they won’t help you solve your worst storage problems such as backup and data growth.
It’s probably not clear how enterprise cloud storage, like Windows Azure Storage, with its longer-than-local latencies and less-than-local bandwidth can be used to manage storage. After all, storage management typically involves transferring a lot of data in as short a period of time as possible. It’s clear that if enterprise cloud storage is going to help solve your data center storage problems, a number of things in the equation need to change. But what would those things be?
For starters, there has to be a way to lighten the workload of daily data protection so you are uploading less data. Another necessity is to make cloud storage available to systems and applications in a way that aligns better with its performance characteristics. This means finding ways to integrate enterprise cloud storage as something other than a long-distance storage container on the other side of a “cloud chasm” the way cloud gateway products do. A couple ideas for reducing the volume of daily data uploads are to work only with changed data (also called deltas) and the other is to use data reduction technologies like deduplication and compression. Limiting uploads to deltas can work with backup, but is problematic on the restore side if you have to download hundreds or even thousands of virtual backup tapes to achieve a full restore. Restores are always much more difficult than backups due to the many-to-one relationship of media involved where many tapes are used and far more data is processed than necessary to create a final restored image. Data reduction can certainly help, but these techniques are only effective up to the point where the time needed to upload the reduced data exceeds the backup window. So lightening the workload can generate incremental benefits but it is only effective up to a point.
Sometimes it helps to look at things from the other end of the telescope. So instead of thinking about longer latencies, think about how SSDs are being used in the hybrid storage model (not to be confused with hybrid cloud) where the most active data is stored on SSDs and the rest of the data is stored on rotating disks. Now add enterprise cloud storage to the mix and consider using it for the opposite end of the activity spectrum – storing dormant, unstructured data. Most companies have a large amount of this stuff, filling
up their storage arrays, getting backed up unnecessarily and lengthening recovery times during restores. What would happen if this dormant data were no longer on-premises and didn’t need to be backed up any longer? Offloading dormant data to enterprise cloud storage lightens the backup load and helps you deal with data growth. It’s not enough by itself, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
Another assumption that needs to be challenged is that backup is the only technology that can protect data from a disaster. It’s the best choice we’ve had, but that doesn’t mean something new could be better. For instance, an alternative to backup is snapshot technology, which is widely used to periodically capture deltas and is much faster and easier to use for restoring data. The fatal shortcoming of snapshots has always been that they reside on the array alongside live data - and if the array fails or is destroyed the snapshots will be lost too. For that reason, on-premises snapshots are inadequate for disaster protection.
But what if on-premises storage could take daily snapshots and upload them to enterprise cloud storage and what if those cloud snapshots could be mounted the same as on-array snapshots for restoring data? This certainly satisfies the off-site requirements for disaster recovery protection and is a scenario where uploading deltas every day can be very successful. All that’s needed is a way to know which files would need to be downloaded for a full restore.
This is what Hybrid Cloud Storage from Microsoft is all about. It combines the Cloud-integrated Storage technology that was acquired with StorSimple and combines it with Windows Azure Storage. It puts enterprise cloud storage technology in your data center where it filters dormant data and uploads it to the cloud as well as creating daily snapshots that are also uploaded to the cloud. That’s a whole different approach to managing backup and data growth. The cloud is not a disk drive “over there” somewhere, it is right next to you helping to solve your most vexing storage problems.
You might be thinking “how do I locate data after it has been uploaded to the cloud and how do I mount and restore it?” The answer is metadata, a topic that will be discussed in my next blog post.
(This blog was originally posted on my TechNet blog, Hybrid Cloud Storage. Click here to read it there)
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.
BMC, a $2 billion software company, maintains over 13,000 VMware images and templates and that number continues to grow. The majority of these VMs don’t need to be on expensive storage but they all need to be online. The sheer volume of VMs makes backups challenging. In addition, their existing data center was reaching its limits in terms of power and cooling capacity.
Gus Chavira, Enterprise Architect at BMC, considered options such as purchasing additional SAN storage, storage tiering, or other archiving solutions, but each would have required more data center power and cooling capacity. Gus selected the Cloud Integrated Enterprise Storage solution from StorSimple, which is certified by both data center platforms he uses today - VMware and Microsoft. StorSimple allows BMC to maintain on-premise storage while automatically tiering large volumes of inactive data (and inactive VMs) to cloud storage - freeing up valuable datacenter resources and mitigating the need to build a new datacenter.
“We initially looked at StorSimple for archiving, but realized that we got backup and disaster recovery built into the single appliance”, stated Gus. The solution eliminated his concerns about fitting in available backup windows and provides almost instant access to archived VM images (near-zero RTO)
To learn more about BMC Software’s deployment of StorSimple and their experiences, please see the case study at: http://www.storsimple.com/testimonials/bmc/
CPP Selects StorSimple for SharePoint and File Share Cloud Integrated Enterprise Storage
CPP, best known for the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessments, needed to reduce costs and simplify their storage lifecycle across primary storage, archival, backup and Disaster Recovery, as well as reduce or eliminate their use of tapes for backup. Phillip DeMello, Director of Network Operations and Technical Support, saw a demonstration of StorSimple at the Microsoft Technology Center while researching the use of cloud storage to reduce costs and simplify storage administration. Microsoft and VMware certifications, plus a short evaluation, convinced Phil that this was an ideal solution for CPP.
“You have one box that allows you to replace your backup software, tape support infrastructure, offsite service and many wasted man-hours”, said Phil. “StorSimple just works. It’s a no brainer.”
StorSimple provides “One Box” for cloud integrated enterprise storage encompassing primary, archiving, backup and Disaster Recovery. CPP was able to move all file share and SharePoint data to the StorSimple appliance providing both primary, local storage and cloud-as-a-tier for low-cost, long-term storage as well as backup and disaster recovery. StorSimple allowed CPP to defer the purchase of an additional SAN storage system and eliminate CPP’s use of a DLT tape system and offsite storage services.
To learn more about CPP's deployment of StorSimple and their experiences, please see the case study at: http://www.storsimple.com/testimonials/cpp/
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
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.
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!
Cloud Storage and Security
I/T organizations today are examining the use of cloud storage services to take advantage of the economic efficiencies, pricing flexibility, and management simplicity that they provide. However, any discussion around cloud security inevitably ends with a serious examination of data security. Several questions are raised, seemingly without answers, including:
- Is my data secure? If so, how secure is my data?
- Who can access my data, and where can they access it from?
- What happens if our cloud storage provider is forced to release my data?
- What happens if my cloud storage provider loses a disk or tape?
- Am I in compliance, or out of compliance? How do I know?
- Can a malicious or former employee sabotage our data?
Today's storage environments require strict adherence to a well-defined set of technologies and processes. Data centers are typically locked and entry is restricted to ensure physical security. Management infrastructure access is controlled through roles based access control. Device interconnection is controlled through the use of CHAP, and authorization is managed through access control entries, zones, and virtual fabrics. Data at rest is protected through encryption to render it unusable without the appropriate key material. Data in motion is protected through SSL encryption, integrated authentication, and other mechanisms between tiers of a multi-tier application. Perimeter security is ensured through use of firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems. High availability is ensured through clustering, redundant network fabrics, and load-balancing. To summarize, many of the obvious points of the 'attack surface' are covered to minimize the possibility that security could be compromised. Using the traditional definition of the word security, this includes:
- Confidentiality - can an unauthorized user access my data, whether it is in flight from a user to an application server, between application server tiers, or at rest on a spindle
- Integrity - can an unauthorized user or node access and change or delete my data, whether malicious or unintentional, at any point in the overall architecture
- Availability - do single points of failure exist, or, vulnerabilities in my application architecture that - if compromised could impact availability of service
- Control - can my data be sent to a third party unknowingly or due to subpoena
Coming from an enterprise storage mindset it is easy to see why so many concerns exist over cloud storage security. Fundamentally an organization's data - the second most precious resource next to their employees - is being stored on a cloud storage service provider's infrastructure and maybe even accessed over the Internet. Many of the best practices for security in an environment with cloud storage can be enforced, but given the fact that a third party is involved in the equation, some of those best practices cannot.
With a background rooted strongly in storage, application delivery, and data center infrastructure, we at StorSimple feel we have a solid grasp on these concerns and understand how to overcome them (we'll be disclosing details on how we address these issues in the near future - stay tuned). We'd like to get your input on this very hot topic. What other issues do you see related to cloud storage and security?
Tons of discussion on the blogosphere regarding public vs private clouds. Most people that I talk to are coming to the opinion that each has valid use cases and that most customers will use a hybrid approach based on their application and user requirements. Good but brief blog on the topic here: http://bit.ly/zZB47