Cloud storage appliances: What they are and who provides them?
Spend on the cloud seems to be set to eclipse in-house hardware and software in 2016. When asked which areas would see increases in IT budget this year, cloud services (computing and storage) come out top (50%), while software (48%) and hardware (33%) follow behind. To put that in perspective, at the same time 37% expect a drop in hardware spend and 22% expect shrinkage in software spend. However, only 4% believe spending on cloud will decrease.
When asked specifically about back-up projects in 2016, cloud again came out well, with 30% planning to implement cloud backup the same as 2015.
Virtualisation continues as a key project, and spin-off tasks such as storage and backup for virtual environments are still important, although increasingly Server virtualisation is a priority for 38% of respondents, while virtual desktops are high on the to-do list for 22%. Meanwhile, storage for virtual environments is a key priority for 24% of those questioned (slightly down from 26% in 2015).
Backup for virtual servers continues to be a key priority, with 23% planning to deploy it in 2016. That figure, however, seems to indicate IT departments have increasingly got to grips with this task. It is down from 28% in 2015, 36% in 2014 and 41% in 2013.
Solid state storage is a key project for 16% of respondents, down slightly from just about plateauing across 2015 (19%), 2014 (20%) and 2013 (18%). When asked about overall IT priorities, the key storage-related project indicated by respondents is compliance, which is a priority for 37% of those questioned. Possibly in keeping with this, in-house disaster recovery was indicated as a key storage priority (37%), while snapshots and replication are another key data protection project under way for many (24%).
Overall IT budgets are relatively flat. Some 25% have the same budget as 2015, but 34% expect budgets increases of 5% or more.
Cloud storage appliances have evolved to make cloud storage a more practical proposition in work and office contexts. They act as a translator and accelerator that will allow business systems to access public or private cloud storage as if it were local storage. Why are they needed? While cloud storage has a lot going for it including less hardware to buy and manage, usage-based pricing, and easy access from anywhere what works well when storing smartphone photos and
It is one thing to use a web-based app that backs onto cloud storage, but quite another to use cloud storage with enterprise applications, even ones as apparently simple as file-sharing. That is because most cloud storage is object-based and stateless, accessed via web-friendly APIs, whereas enterprise software is typically file or block-based (although with the appification of the enterprise, this is changing) at home or in a café, where each individual probably uses different apps and services, may work less well when you have a group of collaborating workers all on the same applications and datasets, and all on the same office internet connection.
Unlike legacy enterprise applications, web apps are (usually) designed to cope gracefully with the latency and bandwidth issues associated with connection over a wide area network such as the internet. A hardware gateway can help by including local storage as a cache or buffer. This is especially useful in common use cases such as cloud backup and archiving, where local caches can accelerate backup operations and access to online data.
Cloud storage gateways have evolved in something of a continuum, but we can see distinctions emerge, as well as step-changes in their capabilities and intended uses.
This is the most usual model. An appliance (physical or virtual) sits on the premises, connected on one side to the LAN and on the other to the cloud. It might take cloud storage and present it to your servers as iSCSI block LUNs, say, or as CIFS file-server volumes. These devices can also include local storage, either to cache hot data locally or to serve as the primary storage tier for certain data for performance reasons, security or whatever.
As well as gateway capabilities, these devices aim to provide services similar to those offered by traditional enterprise storage arrays, except that the data is stored in the cloud. They add features such as data deduplication, compression and encryption, and cloud-based clones and snapshots.
A step up from the controllers, these provide a higher degree of integration between cloud and local storage. In effect, they assume you will have both, and they treat the cloud storage as one of several tiers, dynamically moving data to the most appropriate tier based on policies. Related to this, we are also seeing the evolution of hybrid hardware/cloud storage arrays. These have built-in cloud integration, so they can add and utilise a storage tier that is actually located in the cloud.
AWS Storage Gateway sends only changed data to save bandwidth, and allows primary data to stay on-premise via gateway- stored volumes. Hybrid-cloud NAS gateway can, for example, add a capacity tier to on-premise performance NAS or mirror to the cloud. It also offers CloudFusion, mentioned above. Barracuda Backup acts as an on-premise backup target, before deduplicating data and sending it to cloud storage.