Cloud storage 101: Cloud gateways for hybrid cloud connectivity

Two of the big three public cloud providers – Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure – offer gateway on-ramps that can speed the deployment of hybrid cloud operations for SME and remote office locations

There are plenty of ways to access storage in the public cloud.

Each of the big three providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) – allow access to their cloud storage via application programming interfaces (APIs), command line interfaces (CLIs), web browsers, and so on, as we saw in a recent feature about object storage in the big three public clouds.

And the key storage array suppliers all have some way of accessing the Amazon, Microsoft and Google clouds from their array products to provide storage tiers in the cloud.

The storage array makers also provide virtual appliance versions of their hardware products in the cloud, while the cloud providers also provide native access to their block, file and object storage in their clouds.

Almost anything is possible in hybrid and pure cloud access to storage, as long as you have the right skills to hand.

But what about easy-to-deploy hybrid cloud storage?

Well, two out of the three key public cloud providers offer cloud gateway hardware that allows for local cache and storage of working data with longer-term retention.

They are AWS with its Storage Gateway and Microsoft Azure with StorSimple. Google seems to be lagging behind, or has taken a conscious choice not to offer an easy on-ramp appliance for hybrid cloud customers.

AWS Storage Gateway

AWS Storage Gateway allows hybrid cloud storage integration between on-premise IT environments and S3 storage in the Amazon cloud.

Connectivity from on-premise environments can be Network File System (NFS), Server Message Block (SMB), iSCSI and iSCSI-VTL, which means AWS Storage Gateway allows for file, volume and tape-based storage.

AWS Storage Gateway comes in software or hardware appliance format, based on Dell EMC PowerEdge. It can be a virtual appliance in VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V on local hardware, as an EC2 virtual appliance in the cloud, or as a hardware appliance.

File gateway is best suited to storing file and object data.

Files can be stored and accessed via S3, SMB and NFS, and accessed from AWS cloud applications. Lifecycle policies, versioning and replication can be applied to file data access this way.

Identity and access management (IAM), auditing/reporting and monitoring, encryption, and billing and cost management are also part of the feature set of the AWS Gateway.

Local caching can help with access times.

Volume-based storage is accessed via iSCSI from local devices. Cached volumes allow most-frequently used portions of a dataset to be kept locally, with the bulk of data in the Amazon cloud. Or, an entire dataset can be run locally, with regular mirroring to the AWS cloud.

In tape gateway mode, long-term data can be retained in Amazon Glacier via the virtual tape library functionality of AWS Storage Gateway.

Microsoft Azure: StorSimple

Azure’s gateway product is StorSimple, which comes as a physical array product for deployment in datacentres with cloud appliance access to data for test or recovery. There is also a standalone virtual appliance for smaller locations.

The StorSimple 8000 series are SAN (iSCSI) arrays that can contain flash and spinning disk media with redundant controllers and failover. StorSimple can provide access to hot data via local caching with less frequently used data tiered off to the cloud. The 8010 has up to 30TB local capacity and the 8020 up to 64TB.

The StorSimple Cloud Appliance replicates most of the features and functions of the physical appliance and runs on an Azure virtual machine (VM) in the cloud.

StorSimple Device Manager allows users to manage physical devices and cloud appliances from a web browser. There is a PowerShell CLI also.

Meanwhile, the StorSimple Virtual Array offers a virtual appliance version that runs in VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. Capacity can be up to 64TB per virtual array, with local capacity up to 6.4TB configurable from local storage. Access is via iSCSI or SMB.

Heat mapping is used to decide what data should be tiered off to the cloud.

Google Cloud Platform

Unlike the other two providers, Google doesn’t offer a branded cloud gateway, so there is no physical hybrid cloud device or virtual appliance equivalents.

Presumably, GCP customers will set up connections to Google cloud storage via APIs and the like.

Google has inked some deals with Cisco, however, of which one result is the Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google, and there seems to be a hardware component.

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