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Virtual storage appliances in the cloud from the big five

We survey the big five storage hardware makers’ cloud offerings. Virtual storage appliances available range from storage and backup/data protection to nothing at all

There are many ways to consume storage in the cloud. Using a virtual appliance version of a storage array maker’s product is one of them.

It’s not the most common way to do cloud storage. You can pay for native block, file and object storage in the clouds of all the main cloud providers, most notably Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

You can get cloud storage services from other providers too. Those that have their own infrastructure – such as IBM – or that use someone else’s cloud.

But sometimes, you may have a need to test or use a storage appliance that runs in the cloud. This is what this article focusses on, and here we look at the big five storage supplier offerings on the big three cloud providers’ clouds.

Their offers vary. Some – Hitachi Vantara and IBM – don’t offer virtual appliances in those clouds. Of the rest, the most common product area is in the data protection space, most notably backup targets and backup software.

It’s a sparse offering overall and hard to know currently if it’s that way because it’s early days or other ways to do storage in the cloud are more likely to become dominant.

One pointer might be the progress of Avere on Microsoft Azure. Here, the cloud provider bought a maker of physical and virtual storage, and it looks like Microsoft plans to integrate Avere into its offer as a dedicated virtual storage appliance.

Storage supplier appliances in the big three clouds

Dell EMC’s offer centres on its data protection products and cloud versions of those.

It offers a software version of its Data Domain data protection target on AWS and Azure. It is aimed at smaller deployments with a 0.5TB trial version available and paid versions in instances of up to 96TB. Data Domain Virtual Edition functionality includes data deduplication, replication, data integrity features and encryption.

The company also offers its Avamar and Networker backup software product Virtual Editions via the AWS and Azure clouds and these integrate with Data Domain Virtual Edition as the target for protected data.

In AWS, NetApp also has SaaS Backup for Microsoft Office 365 that protects data hosted on Office 365.

Customers can backup datacentre data to Avamar or Networker Virtual Edition in the cloud and run from there if the need arises. Dedupe is at source and Changed Block Tracking ensures only new data is protected.

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NetApp’s key storage offer in the cloud is Cloud Volumes Ontap, which offers file access and iSCSI block access to AWS and Azure. It aims at “test/dev, disaster recovery and production applications” and offers functionality including data deduplication and compression, snapshots and mirroring to datacentre data via SnapMirror.

In AWS it uses EBS storage capacity with the ability to tier to S3 object storage and comes in instances of 2TB, 10TB and 368TB.

On the backup front, NetApp offers cloud-based backup via its NetApp Cloud Backup appliances (formerly AltaVault) which allow recovery of datacentre workloads in the cloud or protection of cloud data. It deduplicates – with ratios up to a claimed 30:1 – encrypts and migrates data to Amazon S3 or Glacier with ingest rates of up to 300GB per hour and can support up to 20TB of cloud capacity.

Meanwhile, NetApp Private Storage for Amazon Web Services allows customers to build hybrid cloud infrastructures that couples on-premise enterprise storage with EC2. It can bi-directionally replicate data from NetApp private clouds to NetApp storage in an AWS Direct Connect datacentre.

HPE’s sole cloud virtual appliance is its StoreOnce offering on Azure. This provides up to 32TB of secondary storage with steps of 4TB, 10TB and 20TB up to that with deduplication and compression. It is compatible with HPE StoreOnce hardware systems, for which it can act as a replication target.

Hitachi Vantara doesn’t offer any of its storage products as virtual appliances on the three big cloud providers’ cloud. It does offer cloud as a service offerings and managed services from its or partners’ clouds.

IBM doesn’t offer any storage products as appliances on the big three cloud providers’ marketplaces. IBM is itself a cloud provider and offers block, file and object storage that way.

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