The Cloud for Primary Storage – How to get it right

Briefing Note: ClearSky Comes Out of Stealth

For many organizations, the thought of letting someone else manage their storage infrastructure is appealing. The cost and time required to acquire, maintain, manage and migrate storage is overwhelming and these organizations are turning to the cloud for relief. While the cloud is alleviating backup and archive concerns, it has fallen short when it comes to primary storage. The issue facing a cloud based primary storage solution is latency. ClearSky has emerged from stealth with a unique approach to solving the latency problem.

Latency – The Straw That Breaks Cloud’s Back

The idea of using cloud storage to replace primary storage is not new; there are several vendors with solutions on the market, but they all have to deal with latency when dealing with public cloud storage providers. The typical solution is to put an appliance on-site to act as a cache to the cloud. Since the appliance is on-premises it does eliminate cloud latency, assuming that the data being requested is on the appliance, if not then the data has to be retrieved from the public cloud and latency is reintroduced. The latency can be significant enough that applications may crash or users will complain. To avoid an application crashing due to latency, administrators are forced to either buy appliances with enormous local capacity, lock a particular application’s data on the appliance, or most likely do both. The problem with these work arounds is that the organization is still managing a significant amount of on-site data.

Smarter Tiering of Cloud Resources

To overcome the latency challenge, ClearSky is creating a three-tier architecture. In between the typical on-site appliance and public cloud storage provider, they are leveraging metro points of presence by installing a portion of their solution at regional providers. ClearSky’s goal is to get within 120 miles of their customers and provide a high speed link to their data centers. The metro based low latency means that if a one of their customers experiences a cache miss from the on-premises appliance they will not experience a massive decrease in performance waiting for the public cloud to respond because the regional POP will respond in milliseconds.

ClearSky uses the local POP for the storing of what it calls warm data; data that is still active but not presently in use. At the same time, they are not planning on building a larger presence at these regional providers. As data becomes cold, it is stored in the public cloud, where ClearSky and its customers can take advantage of extremely competitive cloud storage pricing. The small implementation at the regional POP is a key differentiator for ClearSky versus companies that have tried similar solutions in the past. Those companies tried to become the cloud, ClearSky is using the cloud to make cloud hosted primary storage a reality.

At the core of the ClearSky solution is their software. It provides a robust set of storage data services as well as the multi-level cloud tiering. The solution presents iSCSI LUNS that their customers will use to host production applications.

StorageSwiss Take

By solving the cloud storage latency problem, ClearSky makes cloud hosting of production data a reality. Data is automatically written to both the metro POP and to the public cloud, eliminating the need for a separate data protection process. For organizations that just want to focus on business and not on storage, the ClearSky solution may be an ideal option. It should allow the data center’s storage hardware to be implemented once and the forever expanded in the cloud.

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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