Can The Storage Channel Solve The Cloud Storage Latency Problem

While cloud storage has plenty of benefits, its biggest weakness, latency, keeps it from receiving full adoption. The solution may be found in a group of businesses that many think cloud storage replaces, storage resellers. If they can solve the latency problem they should also be able to re-establish themselves as a trusted storage provider to the organizations they work with.

Latency Leads to Fragmented Cloud Use Cases

If accessing data from a public cloud storage provider were as fast as accessing it in the organization’s data center there would only be a single cloud storage use case, primary storage. An organization would choose to put all its data in the cloud and access it there. The cloud provider would take care of replicating, protecting as well as providing services like disaster recovery and copy data management.

But, of course, public cloud storage does have a latency problem. The time it takes for the cloud to respond to an IO request and deliver data over an internet connection potentially thousands of miles away, will at a minimum frustrate users of on-premises applications, and worst case cause those applications to fail.

The reality of cloud storage latency is the use cases for public cloud storage are fragmented and typically only focus on secondary data – backups, disaster recovery as a service and copy data management.

Primary storage is left out of cloud storage services portfolio except for file sharing and distribution. File-systems tend to be more forgiving than applications when it comes to retrieval latency, so a cache miss, while a frustration to users, does not cause the file server to crash.

The Latency-Eliminating Storage Reseller

Applications are less tolerant than file systems. The organization could buy a cloud cache that is big enough to cache the entire application all of the time. While that would eliminate the cache miss concerns, it would also eliminate the cost savings the organization would get by leveraging public cloud storage.

Most major metropolitan areas have managed service providers (MSP) and storage resellers. With the right local broadband connection these organizations are only a few milliseconds away in terms of latency. And those metro high-speed broadband connections are very affordable.

An Ideal Architecture

If the storage architecture were structured so the organization had an on-premises cache, but the majority of cache misses were serviced by the local storage reseller at the edge, instead of  at the public cloud storage provider seconds away, the application would not fail and the users would not notice a performance difference.

The MSP or storage reseller would install a high capacity, cost effective object store in their local facility and then replicate that data to either another facility of theirs in another location or to the public cloud.

From a networking perspective, most regional MSPs already have the connectivity skills to offer the service. From reseller’s perspective, they’d need to add those capabilities – but they probably have a deeper storage skill set.

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A Win-Win

For the organization, the goal of getting out of the storage game is accomplished. All of their data is hosted off-site by either the provider or the reseller, shrinking their actual storage costs, by reducing the physical data center floor space the storage hardware takes up and the energy costs of powering and cooling those storage systems.

The organization also benefits from improved data protection, better disaster recovery and more powerful copy data processing. And each of these, since they are now operating on cloud-hosted data have access to cloud compute which reduces the amount of servers the organization needs to purchase on-premises.

For the MSP or storage reseller, it provides a new way for them to add value to their customers and modernize their service offerings to include hybrid cloud services. Instead of getting run over by the cloud, they are taking advantage of it and integrating it into their businesses.

If the MSP or storage reseller decides to use the cloud as their replication point, then the public cloud storage provider also wins since they get to sell their storage resources. The organization gets an extra layer of protection in case the same disaster impacts both the organization and the regional MSP or storage reseller. And the MSP or cloud storage reseller won’t need to build a whole new data center in order to meet the customer’s DR expectations.

StorageSwiss Take

Certainly organizations will continue to buy on-premises only storage solutions and others will want to leverage the cloud to create a geo-distributed file system. But, an increasing number of organizations will want to get out of the storage game all together. They are looking to the public cloud to accomplish that goal, which threatens the existence of the regional MSP and storage reseller.

A smart business strategy for the MSP and storage reseller is to offer solutions that solve all three types of requests. Certainly they should continue to offer on-premises storage to those organizations that want it. MSP and storage resellers should also adopt one of the several geo-distributed file-systems for potential customers that need to operate on the same data at multiple offices. But MSPs and storage resellers also need to offer a solution for organizations wanting to move out of the storage game and are looking for the cloud to provide that answer.

MSPs and storage resellers looking to learn more about how they can offer primary storage to their customers should watch our on-demand webinar, “What’s Next in Storage for Managed Service Providers?

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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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