Hybrid Cloud Now – Practical Strategies For Integrating Primary Storage with Cloud Storage

In the traditional data center, leveraging the cloud for anything more than backup seems like a futuristic pipe dream. While some data centers may be using a cloud service for backups and potentially disaster recovery, the thought of using the cloud for primary storage seems like a risky proposition. The reality is that the technology exists today to allow the cloud to be safely utilized so that costs can be driven down and performance actually improved.

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Before developing a strategy to integrate on-premises primary storage with cloud storage, it makes sense to cover what the value would be for doing so in the first place. Essentially, there are two basic challenges facing data centers today: how to manage performance and how to manage capacity.

Performance and Capacity: The Data Center Challenges

Addressing performance typically requires an investment in flash storage of some type, which sells at a premium compared to traditional hard disk storage. While addressing capacity may seem inexpensive, thanks to the attractive price per GB of hard disk storage, the total cost of ownership can be a major challenge for the modern data center. Even if disk capacity was free (which it is not), the cost to power and cool that storage, as well as the cost of the data center floor space it consumes, can be significant.

A relationship with a cloud storage provider like Amazon or Google addresses the latter problem head on, as it removes the fuzzy math required when calculating the total cost of ownership of storage capacity. The burden to allocate floor space and power and cool the disk systems that provide that capacity is exclusively on the provider. As a result, for the data center, storage capacity costs becomes a very simple, cost per GB which is paid quarterly.

Addressing Data Center Challenges With Hybrid Cloud Storage

How does a hybrid cloud storage solution address the first issue… performance? If inactive or near-active data can be offloaded to the cloud, then the data center can afford to implement a hybrid, flash enhanced storage solution in the primary data center. Hybrid appliances handle the communication conversions between typical data center protocols like NFS and cloud storage protocols like object or S3.

The key is that the hybrid component of this solution has to seamlessly fit into the existing environment and then be capable of automatically moving data back and forth between on-premise and cloud storage. A continuous analysis of the active data set will allow the on-premise storage to grow at a significantly slower rate, which, considering its more premium price, is exactly what we want to have happen.

For the “math” on this model to work out, the hybrid cloud solution must be able to meet some key requirements so that the enterprise can count on it for day to day operations:

The Requirements For Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage

  • Advanced Cloud Gateway Functionality
  • High Speed On-Premises Storage
  • Inexpensive, Reliable, Long-Term Storage
  • Intelligent Movement Between On-premises and Cloud Storage
  • Granular Control Over Specific Data Sets

Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage vs Other Cloud Gateways

The first requirement is that the solution is an enterprise class solution that does more than simply provide an interconnect between the data center and the public cloud (often referred to as a cloud gateway). Gateways are typically add-ons to existing storage that don’t integrate well into the data center. They need to be independently targeted for data copy and storage. They also don’t tend to provide enterprise class reliability and scalability. Finally, they tend to be used as a part of the backup or archive process, not as part of primary storage.

An Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage solution like Avere Cloud NAS, on the other hand, is typically a complete storage system in itself that provides more than just a backend connection to the cloud. It can replace most, if not all of primary storage performance requirements, while leveraging the cloud for data protection and long-term retention. Since it can function as the primary storage repository, Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage needs to be highly available and scalable, like those offered with the Avere Cloud NAS solution.

High Speed, On-Premises Storage

The features that storage administrators rely on to accomplish day-to-day storage management and data protection tasks are widely available in legacy storage systems and in the public cloud. What most of those systems lack, however, is a highly-tuned performance engine. Instead of reinventing the storage feature wheel, Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage has the ability to focus almost exclusively on performance, access and reliability. This leads to a leaner storage operating system that can get more performance out of less hardware.

Inexpensive, Reliable, Long-Term Storage

An Enterprise Class Hybrid Storage solution like Avere’s Cloud NAS can leverage both legacy on-premises NAS storage and public cloud storage for reliable long-term storage. For organizations interested in leveraging cloud storage quickly, this is ideal. On-premises storage can be used to store compliant or organizational sensitive data and a public cloud provider like Amazon can be used to store the rest of an organization’s historical data. Amazon’s Glacier storage service can even be leveraged for extremely cost effective storage of archival data.

Intelligent Movement Between Public Cloud and On-premises Storage

Public cloud storage is not just for the storage of historical data. The right Enterprise Cloud Storage solution can intelligently move and place data so that a service like Amazon’s can be used for near-active data. The eventual outcome could be the elimination of all on-site storage other than the performance storage within the Enterprise Cloud Storage Solution. The key is using Enterprise Cloud Storage to develop the intelligence so that the right data is in the right location at the right time. Depending on the cloud storage connection and the on-site performance demand, Enterprise Cloud Storage solutions may be able to provide a more economical caching area beyond just flash, high performance SAS hard disk drives for example.

Granular Control

Automation and intelligence may not be enough for all data sets though. Some applications will require the predictable performance of always being on-premises and “on-flash”. As mentioned earlier, other data may be particularly sensitive or specifically regulated. For example Avere Cloud NAS, like any other NAS, has a file-level understanding of data. It should leverage this information to create custom policies for specific files or workloads.

These policies can be used to create predictable performance as well as to meet special data protection or data retention needs. For example a mission critical virtual machine may need its data locked in flash in the high performance Cloud NAS and only use the connection to the cloud for disaster recovery. On the other hand, a file sharing application may be able to store data only in the cloud as soon as it becomes inactive.


The Cloud NAS solution offered by Avere Systems provides high performance local NAS services while seamlessly integrating a public cloud storage provider, like Amazon, for a turnkey solution that reduces or even eliminates the growth of on-premises storage. These solutions can meet both of the demands facing the enterprise today, capacity and performance, in a single solution without requiring a storage infrastructure overhaul.

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Avere 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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