A frustrating reality for IT leaders is that their teams continue to struggle with the complications of data growth even though they spend more money on storage every year. It’s not surprising that IT leaders are looking for new storage architectures to help them solve their scalability problems and reduce their costs. A post to this blog in June briefly discussed the problems customers are having with data growth and mentioned how a StorSimple Cloud-integrated Storage system could be used to alleviate them. This post expands on that conversation and introduces the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution.  

Wanted: a technology model to match the business model

Information systems that enable business agility are an asset and those that inhibit it are a liability.  Unfortunately, traditional storage technologies lack the flexibility to quickly re-align with changing business strategies. The combination of compound data growth and inflexible storage means that the IT team spends too much time, money and energy maintaining the status quo, as opposed to facilitating change. The result is that the data assets of the business cannot be leveraged the way business leaders want them to be. 

IT organizations need new power tools to manage storage and data affordably in an environment of unyielding data growth. The situation demands continuous, automated data and storage management that frees the IT team from time-consuming and error-prone tasks.

Hybrid cloud storage, an unlikely looking power tool

A recent development in business storage is hybrid cloud storage that integrates a StorSimple on-premises Cloud-integrated Storage (CiS) system with Windows Azure Storage, as shown in the figure below. The StorSimple part of the solution is an enterprise iSCSI SAN storage system with internal SSDs and hard disks to store data, along with software for data deduplication, compression and tiering that reduces capacity consumption and places data on resources that are optimized to reduce cost or deliver performance. Above and beyond these features, the StorSimple system automatically accesses Windows Azure Storage to transparently extend usable capacity, and protect and archive data. 

 Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution

The Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution

Unlike traditional storage systems that require periodic, disruptive and expensive capacity upgrades, the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution provides uninterrupted, pay-as-you-grow capacity expansion in Windows Azure. In other words, customers only pay for the cloud storage capacity they use, as opposed to over-buying storage capacity in advance. In addition, data is protected automatically by copying it to the cloud, where it can be kept for virtually any amount of time without the high cost of replication or the complications of working with tape. 

The StorSimple Cloud-integrated Storage system manages capacity by relocating dormant, unused data to Windows Azure Storage. If applications or users ever need data that was relocated to the cloud, it is transparently accessed and reloaded back onto the StorSimple system. Storage administrators don’t need to worry about running out of capacity unexpectedly because Windows Azure Storage can be instantly allocated whenever a capacity “relief valve” is needed.

Customer-settable data retention policies are easily implemented to comply with government regulations and corporate legal requirements. Data stored in the cloud is immutable and is checked to ensure data integrity with every read. Windows Azure Storage makes three copies of data and puts them in three different fault domains to protect them in the cloud with an option for three additional copies in a remote Windows Azure data center. All data written to the cloud is encrypted prior to being uploaded using encryption keys that are created and managed by the customer. Data in the cloud supports multiple storage functions simultaneously, including backup, DR, archiving and capacity expansion. Disaster recovery operations are location-independent and the data downloaded during recovery is restricted to those applications and users that need it, saving a great deal of time when time savings are most valuable.

Best use cases for the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution

The Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution is optimized to address the problems caused by the growth of unstructured data. The scenarios that will generate the best results include corporate file sharing, large SharePoint installations, document management applications, data archiving, virtual server storage or any other environment where there is a sizable amount of dormant, inactive data that is not regularly accessed. To find out more about the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution, visit: http://www.microsoft.com/storsimple