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This Buying Guide looks at four ways to achieve faster storage in the cloud. It deals with several different issues within storage and the companies that are offering up a solution: SolidFire on flash in the cloud; Riverbed on backup centralization/WAN optimization; iWave on cloud automation; and Ciena on moving data rapidly to the cloud.
1. Rapid Data Center to Cloud Connectivity With Ciena
Ciena is all about the enterprise data center to cloud connection, moving peak workloads from one data center to the cloud and back. Interestingly, this company is a networking company, not a storage player. But the rise of Big Data and the need to move large quantities of information around leads straight into its core competence -- carrier grade network connectivity.
Here is the basic value proposition: If an IT administrator must make a platform change on a single server loaded with 10 VMs of medium size, with each VM having 5 GB of memory and 1,000 GB of storage, the total data to transfer would be about 10 terabytes (10x5 GB memory + 10x1000 GB storage). To transfer 10 TB of data over a typical 40 Mb/s MPLS connection takes approximately four weeks, assuming full bandwidth utilization, no re-transmissions and 80 percent utilization of the network.
"Ciena can accomplish the same data transfer in around five hours," said Jim Morin, Product Line Director at Ciena.
The company recently demonstrated a live vMotion of more than 100 km, and storage virtualization between EMC VPlex clusters over a high-performance network in a hybrid cloud environment.
2. Automatic Cloud Provisioning With iWave Software
iWave Software has released Storage Automator v6 as a means of automating provisioning and reclamation in the cloud. According to the company, it enables users to create their own private or public storage cloud out of the box using their current storage environments. It allows end users to provision their own storage via a service portal.
iWave Storage Automator includes: policy-based storage selection; a multi-tenant, self-service portal and catalog; end-to-end automated storage services; change control, scheduling and notification; various service level options and chargeback.
"Before iWave, storage automation resided within management consoles and custom storage scripts along vendor and product lines," said Ron Smith, vice president of marketing at iWave Software. "It ships with more than 50 pre-built adapters that provide connectivity to storage arrays, SAN switches, host operating systems, host hypervisors, network devices and ITIL service support."
iWave Storage Automator provides a multi-tenet portal and service catalog to provide an out-of-the-box private storage cloud solution for service providers and large enterprises. In the case of existing private cloud integration, iWave supports two options. The iWave Storage Automator Restful API allows integration into an existing cloud service providers' portals and processes. It can leverage the general-purpose iWave Orchestrator platform for delivering automation/orchestration of the storage workflows. This platform can be extended using iWave cloud services management services (self-service provisioning, automated disaster recovery, workload management and self-healing) to deliver a public or private cloud. General availability is planned for September 2012.
3. Flash in the Cloud With SolidFire
SolidFire is offering an all solid state storage system that has been built to scale out for large-scale could environments. But isn't that the same thing Texas Memory, Violin Memory and ExtremeIO are proposing? Jay Prassl, vice president of marketing at SolidFire, seeks to differentiate SolidFire's by drawing attention to the degree of control provided by SolidFire.
"Flash is fast, but what is performance without control," he said. "We guarantee performance across thousands of tenants within one infrastructure."
Take the example of a public cloud environment. If you bring performance-sensitive apps into that cloud, its neighbors might eat into the amount of performance available. In that case, it is hard to promise a high level of performance to a specific app.
"Other flash providers can provide a high number of IOPS, but it's like the Wild West," said Prassl. "One customer can consume most of it."
By guaranteeing a set level of performance, SoldFire hopes to open up a bigger market for the cloud. His logic is that with that guarantee, you can pack in more users. SolidFire packages its offering as either minimum-, maximum- and burst-level performance per volume. The amount of burst, too, can be capped.
"Cloud providers are our main customers, but large enterprises can also leverage it," said Prassl.
SoldFire complements this core functionality with compression, inline deduplication, management automation and scale. General availability is expected late in 2012.
4. Branch Offices to the Cloud With Riverbed
Riverbed is piggybacking its Granite appliance with EMC's Symmetrix VMAX and VPLEX to move data faster into and out of a cloud or between data centers, The Riverbed Granite appliance is all about taking data from multiple branches and transmitting it efficiently back to the head office.
"Granite does WAN Optimization for backup and certain other applications," said Eric Carter, senior product manager at Riverbed.
A Granite appliance sits in the data center and connects to EMC Storage. Each branch or office has a Riverbed Steelhead appliance. The granite appliance combines with EMC VMax for large-scale block storage and EMC VPlex to transmit that data between data centers. Thus, you have data gathered from branches and then shared with a second data center (or the cloud).
"Storage protocols don't work well over a WAN as there is too much latency," said Carter. "Granite solves this issue."
Riverbed, of course, has been playing this tune for a while. However, Carter said the first phase of WAN Optimization was best suited for applications like mail servers. This newest update to WAN Optimization better addresses backup and other apps, which can now further eliminate apps running locally. Instead of multiple acks needing to go back and forth up and down the WAN slowing transmission down enormously, Riverbed's technology takes care of those acks locals so the data can be transmitted fast.
The end result is that this set up allows IT managers to consolidate and manage all edge applications, servers and storage centrally at the data center.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).