More cloud storage gateways come out

Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)
Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)

Multiple cloud storage gateways either have been announced or are coming out in the next quarter or so. We have talked before about Nasuni’s file cloud storage gateway appliance, but now that more are out one can have a better appreciation of the cloud gateway space.

StorSimple

Last week I was talking with StorSimple that just introduced their cloud storage gateway which provides a iSCSI block protocol interface to cloud storage with an onsite data caching.  Their appliance offers a cloud storage cache residing on disk and/or optional flash storage (SSDs) and provides iSCSI storage speeds for highly active working set data residing on the cache or cloud storage speeds for non-working set data.

Data is deduplicated to minimize storage space requirements.  In addition data sent to the cloud is compressed and encrypted. Both deduplication and compression can reduce WAN bandwidth requirements considerably.    Their appliance also offers snapshots and “cloud clones”.  Cloud clones are complete offsite (cloud) copies of a LUN which can then be maintained in synch with the gateway LUNs by copying daily change logs and applying the logs.

StorSimple works with Microsoft’s Azure, AT&T, EMC Atmos, Iron Mountan and Amazon’s S3 cloud storage providers.   A single appliance can support multiple cloud storage providers segregated on a LUN basis.  Although how cross-LUN deduplication works across multiple cloud storage providers was not discussed.

Their product can be purchased as a hardware appliance with a few 100GB of NAND/Flash storage up to a 150TB of SATA storage.  It also can be purchased as a virtual appliance at lower cost but also much lower performance.

Cirtas

In addition to StorSimple, I have talked with Cirtas which has yet to completely emerge from stealth but what’s apparent from their website is that the Cirtas appliance provides “storage protocols” to server systems, and can store data directly on storage subsystems or on cloud storage.

Storage protocols could mean any block storage protocol which could be FC and/or iSCSI but alternatively, it might mean file protocols I can’t be certain.  Having access to independent, standalone storage arrays may mean that  clients can use their own storage as a ‘cloud data cache’.  Unclear how Cirtas talks to their onsite backend storage but presumably this is FC and/or iSCSI as well.  And somehow some of this data is stored out on the cloud.

So from our perspective it looks somewhat similar to StorSimple with the exception that it uses external storage subsystems for its cloud data cache for Cirtas vs. internal storage for StorSimple.  Few other details were publicly available as this post went out.

Panzura

Although I have not talked directly with Panzura they seem to offer a unique form of cloud storage gateway, one that is specific to some applications.  For example, the Panzura SharePoint appliance actually “runs” part of the SharePoint application (according to their website) and as such, can better ascertain which data should be local versus stored in the cloud.  It seems to have  both access to cloud storage as well as local independent storage appliances.

In addition to a SharePoint appliance they offer a “”backup/DR” target that apparently supports NDMP, VTL, iSCSI, and NFS/CIFS protocols to store (backup) data on the cloud. In this version they show no local storage behind their appliance by which I assume that backup data is only stored in the cloud.

Finally, they offer a “file sharing” appliance used to share files across multiple sites where files reside both locally and in the cloud.  It appears that cloud copies of shared files are locked/WORM like but I can’t be certain.  Having not talked to Panzura before, much of their product is unclear.

In summary

We now have both a file access and at least one iSCSI block protocol cloud storage gateway, currently available, publicly announced, i.e., Nasuni and StorSimple.  Cirtas, which is in the process of coming out, will support a “storage protocol” access to cloud storage and Panzura offers it all (SharePoint direct, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, VTL & NDMP cloud storage access protocols).  There are other gateways just focused on backup data, but I reserve the term cloud storage gateways for those that provide some sort of general purpose storage or file protocol access.

However, Since last weeks discussion of eventual consistency, I am becoming a bit more concerned about cloud storage gateways and their capabilities.  This deserves some serious discussion at the cloud storage provider level and but most assuredly, at the gateway level.  We need some sort of generic statement that says they guarantee immediate consistency for data at the gateway level even though most cloud storage providers only support “eventual consistency”.  Barring that, using cloud storage for anything that is updated frequently would be considered unwise.

If anyone knows of another cloud storage gateway I would appreciate a heads up.  In any case, the technology is still young yet and I would say that this isn’t the last gateway to come out but it feels like these provide coverage for just about any file or block protocol one might use to access cloud storage.

7 Replies to “More cloud storage gateways come out”

  1. Ray – great post. I wanted to respond to your comment about eventual consistency. This is just one of the unique attributes of cloud storage that the Cirtas Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller addresses. There are several others too, but as you pointed out, we're in stealth mode, so I'll have to save that discussion for a later date. I've seen a tendency to think of cloud gateways as 'API translators' that simply convert standards-based storage protocols into cloud API calls. This is relatively easy to do and many products do nothing more. However, an enterprise-class product has to handle all the things that make cloud storage unique, which is a much greater challenge. At Cirtas we've put considerable attention into identifying, understanding, and resolving these unique attributes of cloud storage (which vary from provider to provider) so that the experience of using our Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller is the same as using local storage systems.

    –Josh Goldstein, VP Marketing – Cirtas

    1. Josh -Thanks for your comment. I do believe enterprise class storage has a number of responsibilities and I try to touch on most of them in my posts. As you say, handling eventual consistency properly is just one of them. I look forward to hearing more about Cirtas.

      Ray

  2. Thanks for the mention in the article, Ray! Eventual consistency is something that any hybrid storage solution provider will have to account for, and something that StorSimple addressed early on while we were working closely with cloud storage service providers to certify our technology on their platforms and establish our partnerships.

    As you rightly pointed out, it is indeed becoming a 'crowded market'. What we're starting to see is a number of competitors trying to put everything and the kitchen sink into their product – casting a net far and wide, which is a risky approach. Our approach is simple (we have simple in the name) – enable enterprise organizations to confidently take advantage of the economics of cloud storage without compromise. Our solution includes not only our hybrid storage appliance, but also the software integration that we've provided for the key applications that we've chosen to focus on initially, including Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and environments with virtualization (desktop, servers) and general unstructured data. Thus far our beta customers have expressed strong levels of satisfaction.

    Keep up the great work on your blog, it's something we all enjoy reading!

    Joel Christner
    StorSimple

    1. Joel – Thanks for your kind words. It's always interesting to see how new technology get's adopted in the market space. I have a feeling that cloud storage gateways will become a primary interface to cloud storage for most enterprise users. I look forward to seeing more about your product.

      Ray

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