Last year we looked at the concept of hybrid cloud storage and the benefits it can deliver. In this article, we will look at some of the hybrid cloud storage products in the marketplace today.
To recap, hybrid cloud storage solutions provide a method of using both local and cloud-based storage via the same product. Hybrid cloud storage delivers huge scalability (with access to the potentially infinite resources of the cloud) whilst addressing some of the technical limitations, such as latency, security and reliability, that arise from accessing storage resources across the WAN. Hybrid cloud storage can be used to provide primary or backup storage; within this article we have limited the profiles to those products that can be used for primary data or both primary and backup use cases.
Today’s hybrid cloud storage solutions can be divided into two categories: hardware products and software products. The hardware offerings are typically delivered as physical appliances, providing local caching and performance. The software-only solutions are delivered either as virtual appliances running on VMware and Hyper-V or as software that runs on a standard server. Physical deployments will be more suited to enterprise environments, where performance and reliability are key requirements. The virtual solutions are more SMB-orientated but could be used by enterprise users with branch office needs.
The Nasuni name comes from a combination of “NAS” (network-attached storage) and “unified,” highlighting that the product serves both primary and backup storage requirements. Nasuni’s storage filer is offered as a hardware device, for deployment in the customer’s data centre or as a virtual machine on VMware and Hyper-V platforms and so can be used as an enterprise or SMB product. As you would expect, the filer offers encryption at rest and over the wire but also has one unique benefit. Filer configuration data is stored centrally within the cloud, enabling a filer to be restored to operation within minutes, whether physical or virtual (or between both). Data is stored using Amazon’s S3 service. Nasuni recently announced a multisite feature called Anywhere Access. This provides a single namespace and consistent access to data from multiple geographically diverse locations.
Nirvanix operates its own enterprise-class cloud storage service, with sites located globally. Its CloudNAS software platform, available for Windows or Linux, enables any server (physical or virtual) to act as a local file server, with data backed up to the Nirvanix cloud storage service. The software supports all the main encryption standards and has a feature called Auto Re-Route that enables data to be accessed from other storage nodes within the Nirvanix network if the primary node is not available. The Nirvanix cloud service is also used by a number of other hybrid vendors and is now resold through IBM.
StorSimple offers a range of hardware appliances that target SMB and enterprise customers. The appliances use local solid-state drives (and in some models, SAS drives) to provide a local cache, with data written back to the cloud. The StorSimple appliances range from 10 TB to 200 TB in capacity and provide the ability to deliver SAN storage through iSCSI in addition to the standard file-based protocols generally seen in many hybrid products.
Panzura’s offerings provide the ability to leverage private and public cloud infrastructures to create a single unified multisite file system. Its solutions can be deployed as virtual machines or physical appliances, with a maximum local capacity of 216 TB and unlimited capacity of storage in the cloud. Panzura products can be used as a primary data and archive solution, using multiple vendors, including Amazon S3 and Nirvanix.
TwinStrata offers a storage appliance that is available as a virtual or physical device. Physical appliances scale to 24 TB of local storage with unlimited cloud storage through support of cloud vendors, including Amazon S3, AT&T and Nirvanix. The TwinStrata appliances support iSCSI as a front-end protocol, making them ideal for use on a range of storage devices, including file, application and backup. This includes backup software from major vendors including Symantec (Backup Exec), CA (ARCserve) and Veeam (Veeam Backup & Replication).
CTERA offers a range of products in the cloud storage space, catering to the enterprise and SMB markets. CTERA hybrid storage appliances scale to 24 TB of local storage in a 2U rackmount device and can provide connectivity through all the major file-based protocols, including CIFS, NFS and Apple File Protocol (AFP). CTERA devices also support iSCSI storage for block-based servers. For the SMB market, CTERA offers the CloudPlug, a device that can be used to turn an external USB drive into a local NAS device, a feature that could be useful for very small remote offices that don’t need or want IT infrastructure to maintain.
Egnyte offers solutions that work across SMB and enterprise customers through its HybridCloud solutions. For large customers, this is delivered through a virtual machine that runs on-site at the customer premises, acting as the local file server. Storage is synchronised with the Egnyte Cloud File Server back end. Egnyte doesn’t offer a physical appliance, so its solutions may not be suitable for larger organisations.
Hybrid cloud storage solutions in the marketplace today provide a range of offerings to meet all sizes of customer by utilising physical and virtual implementations. The more advanced offerings (such as those from Nasuni) can operate either way whilst maintaining access to the same data and configuration. As the market matures, features such as multisite access and multiple cloud provider support will become essential components of a distributed storage infrastructure.
As organisations become more comfortable with placing their data in the cloud, the use of hybrid solutions will increase and become more mainstream. Acceptance of cloud-based storage will continue to gain traction in the unstructured storage market, where growth continues to be high. As the majority of unstructured data is never accessed again once written, using cloud solutions to remove the headache of storing this data remains an attractive proposition.
Chris Evans is a UK-based storage consultant. He maintains The Storage Architect blog.
This was first published in January 2012