Additionally, these appliances provide a consolidated storage architecture for companies looking for a simple way to provision remote locations or deal with the IT challenges of mergers and acquisitions. The hybrid cloud architecture can provide a standard storage infrastructure or an easy way to implement cloud storage for the first time.



Why cloud storage?


Hybrid cloud storage for primary storage may make sense for the data center to consider for a number of reasons. It can provide near unlimited scalability and is simpler, easier and less expensive to implement. It enables storage to be bought and paid for when it’s used and moves storage infrastructure costs to a lower cost OpEx category. Putting snapshots of data into the cloud also gets data offsite for data protection and DR requirements. Cloud storage as a solution for primary and secondary data, as opposed to functioning as a virtual tape backup target, has generated some questions with users around application compatibility, bandwidth required to provide adequate performance and potential control and security concerns.



Hybrid cloud solutions addresses these issues by offering:


  1. 1.A standards-based iSCSI interface to transparently integrate existing on-premises applications

  2. 2.Tiered storage comprised of Solid State Disks (SSDs), SAS drives and elastic cloud storage ensuring the least latency for frequently accessed data

  3. 3.Deduplication, compression and TCP optimization minimize WAN traffic

  4. 4.Military-grade encryption for all block data stored in the cloud with keys that the customer enters directly into the appliance; neither the hybrid cloud appliance vendor nor the cloud provider have access to the keys


Hybrid cloud solutions also dramatically simplify storage infrastructure overall and bring additional significant value in several use cases.



Consolidated storage stack


Most storage infrastructures are comprised of several hardware and software components, including a primary storage array and a secondary or archive storage capacity to reduce the amount of primary storage consumed. There’s also a data protection scheme that typically includes a software application with disk and tape components. Finally, most environments will have a mechanism to take data offsite for disaster recovery, either by transporting tapes or replicating data to a remote storage system. Each of the components in this infrastructure ‘stack’ must be bought, integrated and operated, and then maintained and upgraded as needed. A hybrid cloud system can offer a way to combine these systems and functions into a single appliance that provides intelligence in a data center appliance and leverages cloud storage. In the process it can save CapEx, OpEx and often results in better performance and more comprehensive data protection.


Hybrid cloud storage solutions, like the StorSimple 5000 and 7000 Series, use an iSCSI storage appliance to provide enterprise class performance to local users and applications. These appliances rank data at the block level according to access history, age and data relationship to keep the ‘working set’ on the fastest storage tier if it’s used frequently, automatically and transparently migrating less important data to slower tiers of storage. On the back end, they provide an ‘onramp’ to the cloud storage provider, handling all protocol translation and leveraging deduplication, compression and WAN optimization to minimize latency and bandwidth. “Active archiving”, enables large volumes to be tiered to the cloud with thin provisioning with always-on access. As a block storage device, these hybrid appliances can also support applications that don’t run on a NAS, providing enterprise performance.


In addition to enabling cloud connectivity, these appliances can also simplify data protection through the use of snapshots and clones (independent copies created from snapshots). This process can provide fast, online restores replacing backup and dedupe appliances altogether, which must replicate data to a second system at a remote site.


The result of this consolidation is a reduction in acquisition and operational costs as the number of ‘moving parts’ in the storage stack is simplified and integrated. It also means fewer systems that IT must learn to manage as procedures and best practices are standardized. This has the effect of improving IT performance and uptime while it lowers storage costs enterprise wide. Several use cases are especially strong for leveraging the simplicity of hybrid cloud solutions.



Remote offices


Companies that have many remote offices are tasked with deploying a set of virtual machines and storage infrastructure in each location as new offices are opened. By leveraging the consolidation provided by a hybrid cloud architecture, corporate IT can roll out a complete infrastructure, including primary storage, backup, disaster recovery and reference data archives with a single storage appliance. This consolidation not only saves acquisition and operating costs, but provides a simple, compliant infrastructure that remote office personnel can simply manage.



Acquisitions


Mergers and acquisitions can be a complex process for corporate IT organizations that must roll out a standard infrastructure to new locations. For many, combining corporate IT departments means weeks or months of struggling to make different systems integrate and forcing users to endure substandard performance or poor IT responsiveness. A hybrid cloud solution, like StorSimple, provides a cost effective, single box solution that can be easily deployed in new data centers or offices. By using a standard set of virtual machines and replacing multiple existing systems with a single hybrid cloud storage appliance, the integration time is cut dramatically.


Even for companies not faced with combining IT systems or opening new offices, a hybrid cloud architecture still offers a number of benefits. It can reduce infrastructure costs and simplify management of storage and data protection processes, something that should appeal to every IT organization. It can also provide a way to reduce the complexity of cloud storage and bring the benefits of data sharing, offsite retention, pay-as-you-go scalability to companies sooner.

StorSimple is a client of Storage Switzerland

Eric Slack, Senior Analyst