Why Storage Companies Are Partnering with Microsoft Azure for Cloud Storage

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These days, everyone who is anyone in data storage appears to be partnering with one or more of the big three of the cloud – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. Of late, Azure seems to be in the ascendancy. The likes of DataCore, Panzura, Nasuni, Zadara, Veritas, Caringo, Datapipe and many others have announced deals with Azure to harness its cloud platform as part of their storage offerings.

“Storage and data protection vendors need to have a point of presence in and with the cloud providers, such as Azure, for their customers,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group. “If vendors don’t add support on and for those cloud platforms, somebody else will do it and their customers or prospects may look elsewhere.”

Another way to look at it is that cloud platforms such as Azure are another tier of storage. But more than that, their underlying compute platforms have local cloud instance of storage backed by elastic block, file and object storage. Storage vendors can deploy their own storage software on this foundation. This gives users options and flexibility regarding where and how they want their storage software deployed.

“Azure continues to expand including with the new Azure Stack which enables hybrid deployments,” said Schulz.

Some data storage vendors simply connect to cloud service providers via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or a gateway. Others port their storage software to run on a cloud instance (VM) or emerging Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and Dedicated Private Servers (DPS). In this latter case, instead of the storage vendor’s functionality running on a local hardware appliance, VM or container, it runs in the cloud, using a mix of instances and persistent cloud storage, said Schulz. The advantage, he added, is that when vendor software is running on Azure or another cloud instance, its technology is now in the cloud and using cloud resources.

Examples include Caringo Swarm on Microsoft Azure, which brings file storage into the cloud using Azure’s worldwide network of managed data centers. The Zadara Storage Cloud delivers block, file and object storage for applications leveraging Azure. By leveraging a Zadara VPSA storage array on Azure, you can migrate applications such as SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint and others to Microsoft Azure without having to reconfigure them. Similarly, Box and Microsoft are working together on Box cloud content management using Azure services. They are exploring ways to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and add Azure regions outside the U.S. to Box Zones for in-region storage on Azure.

Nasuni is another company with a strong Microsoft Azure relationship. “Microsoft has a massive base of enterprise customers who, in many cases, already have Azure subscriptions,” said Warren Mead, vice president, alliances and business development, Nasuni. “They are looking for ways to increase their use of Azure as a means of achieving digital transformation, and Azure object storage is a natural first or second foray into the cloud, especially given every enterprise is dealing with storage growth pains.”

That’s why he said it makes good business sense for storage software companies like Nasuni to partner with Microsoft. This provides an opportunity to help users transition from legacy, device-constrained NAS and SAN infrastructure to a scalable, Azure-based storage infrastructure. Mead believes cloud object storage is the “new disk,” as it provides limitless capacity, high availability and geo-redundancy with cloud economics.

How does Nasuni add value? Without a file system, object stores are merely containers, and it is difficult for enterprises to tap their potential for file sharing and collaboration. Nasuni has developed a global file system that lives in and scales with the cloud. Nasuni enterprise file services, powered by the Nasuni UniFS global file system, leverages Azure object storage to provide primary NAS and archive capacity, backup/recovery, disaster recovery (DR) and global file access in one hybrid cloud. By storing all metadata and files in Azure first and using on-premises caching appliances to provide fast, secure access only to the active data, it is said to offer unlimited capacity on demand, pay-as-you-grow flexibility, rapid recovery points and recovery times, DR anywhere you have power and bandwidth, file access through any device, file collaboration without version conflict and centralized management.

DataCore, too, has made its DataCore Cloud Replication software available in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace to support DR efforts. Those with on-premises DataCore deployments can use the Azure cloud as an added replication location to safeguard high availability systems.

“For DataCore users seeking hybrid cloud storage, Azure offers a convenient and economically attractive way quickly to roll out and scale a secure remote replication site to safeguard and archive their data; especially when compared to setting up and maintaining a dedicated remote location at a branch office or data center for just this purpose,” said Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing, DataCore Software.

DataCore software replicates data from on-premises virtual storage pools to a remote pool in Azure cloud storage. The asynchronous remote copy travels over standard Internet links protected by a virtual private network (VPN). The on-premises configuration consists of either a software-defined storage infrastructure controlled by DataCore SANsymphony or DataCore Hyper-converged Virtual SAN. They communicate with other instances of DataCore software executing in Azure. Should the on-premises site suffer a major outage or have no space to keep a long-term archive, the copy stored in Azure may be accessed from anywhere.

Managed service providers (MSPs) are also leaping on the bandwagon. Datapipe, for example, has added Azure cloud storage into its portfolio. The company utilizes local disk storage all the way up to its own cloud storage solution.

“Being able to include products like StorSimple for Azure allows our clients to keep investments they already have in one of our storage solutions and expand into Azure,” said Tim Campbell, product manager, at Datapipe. “Start with an easy project like server backup to Azure storage as a way to get backups off site in a cost-efficient manner and gain familiarity with cloud storage technologies.”

Speaking of backup, Veritas and Microsoft have inked a multi-year partnership to link Azure (cloud storage, compute, analytics and machine learning) with new management and governance capabilities from Veritas. This includes collaboration to sell hybrid cloud storage jointly to mutual customers.

As part of the partnership, Veritas NetBackup 8.0 now supports storage tiering to Azure. This is said to improve data lifecycle management by optimizing the movement of data to Azure cloud storage. This reduces or eliminates the need to deploy additional storage with a separate point product. For small and midsized businesses, Veritas Backup Exec 16 supports the movement of backup data to Azure. Veritas is also leveraging Azure to drive greater efficiencies for its own workloads. The company has selected Azure as the cloud backend on which to run its Enterprise Vault.cloud service, which provides policy-based information retention to streamline eDiscovery and helps Office 365 subscribers to find archived information quickly.

“Enterprises are increasingly looking to Microsoft to help power their digital transformation as they adopt Azure cloud services and Office 365,” said Chris Mancebo, global strategic alliances, Veritas. “Such hybrid cloud storage scenarios will enable customers to take advantage of the cloud (or multiple clouds) to reduce their storage costs while increasing business agility, and to extract greater value from their data.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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