The Unified Cloud Storage Array

Cloud Storage Gateways can provide a variety of services that allow data centers to connect to the cloud. There are multiple backup gateways, a few file services (NAS) gateways and fewer still primary storage (iSCSI) gateways. Incredibly rare are gateways that can do it all; a unified backup, NAS and iSCSI. Such a product transcends the “gateway” term delivering instead enterprise-class, cloud-integrated storage – moving cloud storage from an afterthought or experiment to a legitimate enterprise storage option. With the 4.0 release of their CloudArray product, TwinStrata sets the new bar in what to expect from a Unified Cloud Storage Array.

NAS To Cloud

Version 4.0 of TwinStrata’s CloudArray appliance provides CIFS and Active Directory Support. A NAS volume and associated cloud cache is configured similarly to an iSCSI volume and cache as Storage Switzerland demonstrated in its CloudArray Test Drive “Tuning The Cloud For Primary Storage“.

With 4.0, TwinStrata becomes an ideal solution for data centers looking to better protect and control the growth of shared volumes like user home directories. Like an iSCSI volume in previous releases there are two basic components to defining a CIFS share. First a cache is defined. This is the amount of data that will be stored locally on the on-premise storage of your choice. That cache is given a size and associated or connected with a cloud provider. The cloud provider can be one of your choosing or one provided by TwinStrata.

The next step is to define the share or in the iSCSI case, a volume. The share is given a size and then associated with a cache. As data is added to or changed on the volume, it is automatically replicated to the cloud storage provider. Essentially it’s an instant backup. The size of the cache dictates how much of that data also remains on-premise.

If the volume is the same size as the cache then that means that 100% of the data is on-premise and 100% of the data is in the cloud. Essentially you are using the gateway as a backup. This configuration is ideal for primary storage use cases such as production databases and when you are getting comfortable with leveraging cloud storage.

Over time though, most data centers, especially in the NAS use case, will want the cache to be smaller than the size of the cloud-based volume so that active data is stored both locally and in the cloud, while less frequently used data moves to cloud-only storage. For archive data, for example, you may only need 1% of your data in the cache on-site, with the remaining 99% stored only in the cloud. This controls the growth of on-site storage and can reduce costs, while retaining the ability to quickly and easily access the data as needed. TwinStrata is particularly unique in its ability to manage multiple caches (and varying cache policies) – allowing the customer to use a single TwinStrata appliance to manage multiple concurrent use cases. So an appliance with 20TB of on-premise cache may devote 15TB to a pure backup scenario (at 100% on-premise and 100% in-cloud), 4TB for a file server (at 10% cache) and 1TB for archive (at 1% cache).

A key benefit to a cloud-leveraged NAS is that the need to do backups is eliminated. It is not uncommon for a CIFS share to contain millions of files in the typical home directory. These millions of small files can choke backup applications as they try to protect that data. With TwinStrata, all data is replicated to the cloud as they are added or changed and their snapshot feature allows for point in time recovery of different versions of files.

More Cloud Options

As stated earlier, the CloudArray software can connect to the cloud provider of your choice or to the default provided by TwinStrata. For most businesses without a pre-determined cloud provider the default option will be the primary choice. But if there is an existing cloud relationship then the chance that CloudArray supports it is very good. In the previous release, TwinStrata supports Amazon, Nirvanix and a host of others. In the 4.0 release, TwinStrata added Google, Dell, IBM, SoftLayer and FXnetworks. In total, TwinStrata supports more than 20 different cloud storage providers.

Highly Available Appliance

One of the more common implementations of the TwinStrata CloudArray is as a standalone appliance that provides simple setup and predictable performance. With this release TwinStrata is also adding high availability features. The new 2U enclosure has two fully redundant controllers with active-passive access and up to 6TB’s of capacity. Hybrid SSD options for onboard capacity ensure CloudArray is able to meet the performance needs of nearly any application. This new appliance provides the enterprise class up time and performance critical for environments that begin to count on the CloudArray for primary storage.

In-Cloud Appliance

Another compelling feature of TwinStrata’s CloudArray 4.0 release is its ability to spin up a version of the software in a Cloud Compute environment. This allows CloudArray to provide these environments with iSCSI and NAS services for a total “in-cloud” operating environment or as a completely configured disaster recovery system.

The in-cloud capabilities of the TwinStrata CloudArray solution mean that with 4.0 the user is completely future-proofed, no matter how their environment evolves. The solution can run as a VM in a virtual environment, as a stand alone hardware appliance or as an in-cloud appliance.

Revised GUI

Finally the 4.0 release of the TwinStrata Cloud Array provides a new graphical user interface for visibility of cache and cloud data flow. The GUI seen below allows for the real time analysis of how data is moving through the cache and into the cloud.


Storage Swiss Take

With CloudArray 4.0, TwinStrata has continued to improve the solution to address a broader set of data center needs. The solution allows the cloud to first complement on-premise processes and then to expand its use to be the sole primary storage solution. For example a first step can be to leverage CloudArray with backup solutions that can backup to disk via block or network mount point. Now they can point to a CloudArray volume and have their data automatically and in near-real time replicated off-site. Users can also extend their current primary storage systems with cloud functionality and have an instant copy off-site and now even build an in-cloud DR solution.

Then as confidence in the CloudArray solution grows, they can move solely to the system and eliminate the need for backups permanently and the concerns over on-premise storage growth. This will require the proper examination of the cloud provider’s retention capabilities and potentially the use of a dual cloud. The entire storage infrastructure can now be consolidated into a 2U highly available storage appliance with limitless capacity.

This ability to complement instead of replace makes CloudArray an ideal solution for bringing the cloud into your data center. Instead of throwing out known good solutions and processes, they can be enhanced through the use of TwinStrata’s software until confidence in a cloud-only storage model is attained.

TwinStrata is a client of Storage Switzerland

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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2 comments on “The Unified Cloud Storage Array
  1. […] True to his word, EMC announced today that they have acquired TwinStrata. TwinStrata’s CloudArray software technology enables businesses to seamlessly attach their on-premise applications with […]

  2. […] True to his word, EMC announced today that they have acquired TwinStrata. TwinStrata’s CloudArray software technology enables businesses to seamlessly attach their on-premise applications with […]

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