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back to article Microsoft lures punters to hybrid storage cloud with free storage arrays

Microsoft is giving away its StorSimple arrays to customers willing to spend up big on Azure services. Microsoft acquired StorSimple in October 2012. The company made more or less vanilla iSCSI SAN, but could also dump data intro the cloud and present that data to servers as if it were a local resource. StorSimple arrays can …

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Bronze badge

Not sure how your demo went but what's described in the article isn't what Microsoft told us happens at all!

The StorSimple appliance is a cache for cloud storage, not a vanilla iSCSI SAN, although it does provision storage over iSCSI.

You don't create the volume in the cloud, you provision Azure storage which the appliance then uses to move cold blocks to, or to back up the data when a snapshot is taken. The local storage is there to reduce latency for hot blocks so in theory you will never access data from Azure.

The volume you create in the appliance cannot currently be used elsewhere in Azure without first being copied to a VHD and separately uploaded.

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vanilla iSCSI SAN

Hi Lusty

Disclaimer: I delivered this presentation and work for Microsoft

I've got some more details on how it works at my blog cdrants.wordpress.com

It is a standard enterprise iSCSI SAN from a HW perspective. It has dual controllers, flash optimised, redundant power and cooling, RAID and hotsparing for disks, dial home and all parts are hot swappable and we can do in place version upgrades of the software with full MPIO support. It is everything you expect when buying an enterprising iSCSI SAN. On top of this it also has VAAI and ODX support.

It is more than a cache, as it keeps all data local....until it gets to high watermark when the cold data starts to tier to the cloud. We can also have data preferred local so we reserve capacity for data which is not tiered at all (still can be backed up by cloud snapshot to the cloud though)

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Bronze badge

Re: vanilla iSCSI SAN

Hi Bendiq thanks for taking the time to respond. I didn't mean it wasn't an iSCSI SAN, I was just pointing out that it's not designed to be used in the same way. For instance, although you say that it has everything I'd expect from an enterprise SAN, we were told in a partner briefing that it lacks the ability to add more local disk - this is a very important feature of a normal enterprise SAN!

What I meant by cloud cache was that in the Microsoft future, your infrastructure will be in the public (preferably Azure) cloud, and therefore cloud will be the primary location of your data. Where this box then comes in useful is for those appliactions which require a local presence such as file services. These would then be provisioned on a local private cloud (preferably Hyper-V) and the content effectively cached locally but stored in the cloud as part of the Azure subscription.

The storage present in this box is only there to improve performance of the remote storage, the fact that you are unable to specify where the data lives (which the article implied you could) is evidence of this. All data will be moved to the cloud if it becomes cold and the waterline is hit or a snapshot takes place.

These are also ideal for archiving where a product such as Enterprise Vault can burst data to the local store as part of it's operation and then the SS box will gradually drip feed it up to the cloud as the bandwidth allows.

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Anonymous Coward

False economy

AH. Nothing is for free. Lets take a simple case of Exchange. You can purchase a storage solution that can handle 20 thousand Mailboxes (published Microsoft ESRP number) across 2 HA sites for 0.33c per user per month. Microsoft Exchange in the cloud costs between $4 and $8 per user per month. That leaves a lot of profit margin in there for Microsoft if you buy their software on a perpetual license or in the cloud.

It would take a lot of software and server hardware and services/operational costs to make up the difference.

Here is a blog on the subject:

http://blog.starboardstorage.com/blog/bid/304377/Hybrid-Storage-Performance-with-Microsoft-Exchange-20-000-Mailboxes

Bottom line. They have to give you free stuff to make it anywhere near as effective from a performance standpoint as an in house solution and as Lusty comments it is not real storage anyway. It is a cache and you can get a hybrid storage solution that can do that internally for all of your workloads very cost effectively.

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Silver badge

Re: False economy --> different customers

If you are a huge corporation then running your own servers makes a whole lot of sense.

If, instead, you are one of the small/medium sized company (say up to 100 employees), then it makes a whole lot more sense to outsource the storage and BOFHery to someone else. Paying $20 per month per employee for a bunch of services is way cheaper than spending thousands per month keeping a BOFH in the corner, buying servers & software and keeping them all up to date.

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Re: False economy

Disclaimer: MS employee

I've done a post on the hardware here

http://cdrants.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/storsimple-deep-dive-1-an-enterprise-iscsi-san/

Performance on premise is exactly what you expect from an enterprise storage array, particularly for the use cases we are targeting. We work on the premise that the cold data is taken to the cloud where we geo replicate across two data centres (with three copies per data centre) which is more cost effective than buying additional disk shelves for an existing storage array (which you then have to duplicate for DR, buy extra per TB license for your backup software and more storage for your disk target for backup). At approx. 7c/GB per month for this storage (geo replicated) and the price only going down on this it is very hard to compete with this using traditional storage.

From a performance perspective within Azure we are no laggard. A recent article did some testing on this

http://www.cloudspectator.com/cloud-server-performance-a-comparative-analysis-of-5-large-cloud-iaas-providers-3/?loc=zTS2z&prod=zWAz&tech=zCLz&prog=zOTprogz&type=zOTtypez&media=zOTmediaz&country=zUSz

From my perspective we want to encourage people to use and experience Windows Azure because we believe it is a great product with a massive amount of functionality. StorSimple gives people a low risk entry where they can address some of their most challenge data (file server data particularly) and not have to move whole apps or data centres into the cloud. They can then use the rest of the commitment for whatever else they want within azure - websites, IaaS, identity, HDinsights, mobile apps or even PaaS based solutions on any code base you want to use. This commitment is for 12 months and after that you can cut it back, grow it or discontinue it altogether. The device remains yours and it is an open system no matter what

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Re: False economy --> different customers

Disclaimer: I work for MS

I'd agree with you there...go and build your whole app or run your IaaS in a service like Azure makes a lot more sense. I would do the same thing. In fact if a small business where I don't have to create custom apps I'd try and avoid IaaS as well and use SaaS where ever possible. Why do I want to manage an OS where I don't have to! Of course that leads to the challenge of identity/single sign on and now there are a lot of solutions out there to help address this luckily

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