What is Cloud Adjacent Storage? – INFINIDAT Briefing Note

Cloud adjacent storage is storage positioned within close proximity to a data center owned by a cloud provider. It enables compute the cloud provider hosts to have high performance, low latent access to data across traditional storage protocols. The challenge with most cloud-adjacent initiatives is that they are typically sold in a traditional model. The organization essentially owns (or leases) the storage.

Cloud Adjacent Storage Architectures

The most important element of a cloud adjacent architecture is location. Its proximity to the cloud providers dictates how well it will be able to reduce latency and deliver consistent performance. In most cases, the storage system is implemented at colocation facility that has a direct or premium connection to the cloud provider. For example, Amazon calls this connection AWS Direct Connect, and Microsoft Azure refers to it as ExpressRoute.

Once the connection is made between an organization’s cloud compute instance and the storage at the colocation facility, interaction with the storage system is very similar to if the compute and storage were in the organization’s data center. The application running on cloud compute can mount a volume from the cloud adjacent system and access it via traditional protocols like NFS and iSCSI.

Cloud Adjacent Advantages

Cloud adjacent storage enables an organization to run more traditional applications in the cloud. As a result, the organization leverages what the cloud is best for, rentable compute resources while avoiding one of the areas that the cloud struggles with like data permanence.

Another key advantage is the ability to shift cloud providers quickly. Several colocation facilities are in close proximity to multiple cloud providers. For example, the Amazon AWS West and Azure West-US facilities are close enough that a colocation facility can position itself between them and provide low latent access to both. This means that if an organization wants to it can start using cloud provider A to run an application and then shift to cloud provider B almost instantly because the only change is the connection to the storage. No data has to be moved. The result is reduced cloud vendor lock-in, as well as the ability to take advantage of spot pricing.

Cloud Adjacent Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage of cloud adjacent storage is cost. The organization is essentially buying or leasing a real storage system, and in many cases that storage system is entirely dedicated to that organization. While some organizations might require this level of dedication, most do not.

Another disadvantage is that most storage hardware vendors are limited in the number and types of use cases they support from a single system. For example, an all-flash system, while suitable for databases would not be practical for the long-term storage of unstructured data. The lack of use case flexibility leads to the organization having to buy or rent multiple storage systems at the colocation facility, as well as having to manage a variety of vendor contracts and interfaces. Other than leveraging cloud compute the solution is not very cloud-like at all.

Introducing INFINIDAT

INFINIDAT is a storage company that focuses on the large enterprise. Its solutions enable organizations to consolidate from dozens of storage systems to potentially a single storage system. They provide software-defined systems that intelligently leverage RAM, Flash and hard-disk drives to create a high performance, highly available, yet cost-effective solution that makes consolidation practical.

The INFINIDAT storage system, the InfiniBox, includes three active-active-active controllers, 24 Fibre Channel ports and 12 Ethernet ports. Each controller can address 480 hard disk drives, and the controllers collectively have up to 3.2TB of DRAM and up to 210TB of flash.

INFINIDAT has consistently claimed its neural cache design will out-perform any all-flash array when compared on real world use cases instead of artificial benchmarks.

INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage

INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage is a pilot program that takes the core INFINIDAT technology and moves it to a colocation facility within close proximity to the AWS and Azure data centers. INFINIDAT can show how a customer can leverage all of its capabilities to exploit cloud compute fully. For example, a customer can have a workload running in Amazon AWS, take a snapshot, set the snapshot to read/write and mount the snapshot in the Azure cloud for test/dev or other work – or set up a single file system that AWS and Azure environments can use concurrently.

A simpler use case is to use INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage as a replication target which is ideal for an organization that doesn’t have multiple data center-class locations. They can replicate data from their on-premises InfiniBox to the INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage service.

Without too much work, this cloud copy could serve as a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution. If the primary data center is compromised they can start up compute services in the public cloud provider of their choice and attach to the data in INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage.

Unlike other cloud adjacent solutions, INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage can be purchased in very similar fashion to cloud storage. The organization does not need to buy or lease a box in disguise – it can subscribe to capacity (volumes and file systems) as it uses and “give it back” when it is done. The multitenant architecture of INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage makes this flexibility possible, truly enabling a storage-as-a-service utility business model for INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage clients – in contrast to other vendors’ box-centric approaches.

StorageSwiss Take

INFINIDAT is taking a three–pronged approach to the market. First, it has a solution that large enterprises can consolidate around. Second, INFINIDAT has a backup appliance that meets enterprise data protection requirements. The emerging Multicloud solution, while still in pilot mode, has 40+ early customer engagements, and INFINIDAT has said it’s headed toward GA early next year, makes a strong third prong to their strategy.

Each of these three strategies are built around the same core software technology – proven in the real world with over 2.2 exabytes of deployed InfiniBox capacity – and each has an appeal to organizations at different points in storage architecture modernization efforts. If the organization is not yet ready to clean sweep its data center floor, they can start by using the INFINIDAT Backup Appliance, evolve into using the INFINIDAT Multicloud Storage and then come back to consolidation when the timing is right.

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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