VWware, for the most part, is an on-premises infrastructure and that typically means there is an on-premises storage architecture to support it. How, then, can organizations leverage cloud storage in support of their VMware infrastructure?
Cloud Storage for VMware Backup
The most obvious way to use cloud storage in conjunction with VMware is to use it as a backup target. Most organizations though won’t use cloud storage as the primary backup target. There are too many issues with transfer time and more importantly recovery time. Instead, these data centers will use the cloud to store an auxiliary copy of the backup. Essentially, the cloud backup is the copy of last resort in-case something goes wrong with the on-premises backup. Most VMware backup solutions that have added cloud connectivity treat cloud storage in the copy of last resort manner.
Ideally, if cloud storage is being used for backup the organization would also like to leverage the cloud for recovery. There is no getting around cloud latency and in a recovery all the data must, or at least most, must be sent across the internet back to the data center. The solution is for the data protection solution to support running the virtual environment in the cloud and leverage cloud compute.
Cloud Storage for VMware Archive
Another use case for cloud storage is to use the cloud for VMware Archive, specifically the archiving of virtual machines that are no longer needed but the organization either must, or at least wants to, retain a copy for a period of time. While implementing this use case could be as simple as copying the virtual machine image to the cloud, that process does not provide the management of the retention period.
Ideally, the organization should look for solutions that will identify virtual machines not in use and then archive them. These solutions will often also archive files within virtual machines, so that even active virtual machines can have their capacity requirements reduced.
Cloud Storage for VMware Primary Storage
The problem with most cloud storage use cases is the data center ends up managing two separate storage locations (one on-premises and one in the cloud). An alternative is to use cloud storage as primary storage which creates a single truly hybrid architecture, allows the cloud compute resources to be leveraged on the cloud data copy and automatically leverages cloud features like snapshots, replication and long term storage.
The challenge is, of course, overcoming the latency. First generation attempts at using the cloud as primary storage typically had an appliance acting as a cache on-premises and the actual data in the cloud. The problem with these solutions is that the penalties of a cache miss were so severe from a latency perspective is that applications would time-out and crash waiting for a response. Organizations either abandoned the idea or decided to only use the caching design for less sensitive data sets like unstructured data.
The solution to the latency problem is to create a intermediate storage area, essentially a metro point of presence, where the latency difference between on-premises access and the metro POP would not cause the application to crash. A regional service provider could provide the POP or the vendor could build POPs in strategic areas around the world.
Cloud storage brings some unique capabilities to VMware environments, but it is important the organization doesn’t create an architecture that is even more complex than it already is. A cloud storage as primary VMware storage solution combined with a POP architecture leads to a simplified design where the data center has a small, all-flash appliance and then leverages the cloud for functions like data protection, disaster recovery, data retention and copy data management.
To learn more about using cloud storage to improve VMware storage, watch our on demand webinar, “How To Leverage Cloud Storage for Hybrid VMware”.