You may have already come across the term Cloud Integrated or Hybrid Cloud storage infrastructure - it’s a term that’s becoming more and more prevalent within the industry with a raft of new entrants into the Cloud storage space. We’ve been delivering for its customers for the past 18 months as they seek to reduce the management cost and overhead associated to traditional storage platforms.
In a nutshell, Cloud Integrated storage systems provides a potential replacement to tier 1 or 2 storage systems from the likes of NetApp and EMC, whilst consolidating backup products like Avamar and Commvault and removing the need for D2D or D2T data archives.
The Integrated storage Approach
If you consider traditional storage approaches they’re made up of multiple layers, each one adding more complexity and cost, and more risk to the protection of your data - something that increases in a distributed enterprise.
For most organisations this approach means for every Terabyte of storage you actually need, you’ll probably buy 5TB - 15TB of capacity. When you add to this the fact that probably only 20-30% of your total data is actively accessed by users, it makes for an extremely inefficient approach.
Cloud Integrated storage flips the traditional approach on it’s head, the goal is to simplify the traditional approach by rightsizing locally stored data and removing the layers. Cloud Integrated storage is made up of two component parts:
- A local Cloud storage Gateway (or CSG)
- Cloud or Object storage
Data is migrated into the Cloud (whether that’s public Cloud services like Microsoft Azure, or private Object storage infrastructure from the likes of Cleversafe) where it is sliced and dispersed across storage pools in order to reduce the need for data replication and D2D or D2T archives (if you want more of the detail take a look at my previous piece on object storage and erasure coding.
That 20-30% that I mentioned before is then distributed from the Cloud to the CSG which is deployed locally on the network - this could be in the datacenter, or distributed across multiple locations depending on what you need. The CSG then acts as local file storage (CIFs, NFS or iSCSI) so that your users maintain the same level of performance as a local SAN infrastructure but with a rightsized data set.
As well as providing local data access, the CSG also controls snapshotting of your data into the Cloud for backup and archive and encryption to make sure that it’s secure. This whole process is transparent to the user.
The Big Question - What Does That Mean for IT?
Ultimately storage, backup and archive is fast becoming one of IT’s biggest line items in the budget. Data storage requirements are not reducing, and the need to share data internally and with outside organisations or individuals is growing too.
Cloud Integrated storage can bring a number of benefits to the business:
- Storage is no longer physically bound by the size of the SAN as Cloud brings almost infinite scale at low cost
- Users maintain the level of performance that they expect with locally served content
- The need to keep replicas of your data in multiple locations is removed
- The need to use disk and tape archiving approaches is removed
- It provides you a mechanism to keep your archived data “always-on”
- File data can be distributed across the WAN without the need to use DFS
- Backup software for unstructured data can be removed
When you add the reduced total cost of ownership and the fact that you gain consistency over branch level data protection to this you can see why organisations are moving to the model in their droves. For IT it really does simplify the challenges that have been faced for some time as well as freeing up budget.