Cloud gateways open up cloud-based storage options for SMBs

Marc Staimer

What you will learn in this tip: Cloud storage gateways can be an attractive storage solution for your organization. They look like and work like the storage you're used to, and provide advanced functions like snapshots and deduplication. But it's how cloud gateways move data to and from cloud storage providers that makes them attractive to small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Cloud-based storage is a very cost-effective form of storage for SMBs. It is a true pay-as-you-go service with unlimited capacity potential. Cloud-based storage is typically priced ranging from $.10 per gigabtye per month to as high as $1 per gigabyte per month.

There are two key obstacles stopping most SMBs from utilizing cloud storage. The first is the relatively slow performance as measured by response time. This slow response time often makes cloud-based storage unacceptable for some users. The second is the requirement to write code for applications to the representational state transfer (REST) API. If the applications don't have a native interface to cloud storage, many SMBs lack the aptitude, desire, skills or time to develop it themselves.

Cloud storage gateways are designed to overcome both those obstacles. They do this by first looking, acting and operating just like a standard local DAS, SAN or NAS storage system. This means for servers, applications and users, the cloud gateway is just like the storage they’re used to. It provides most of the functions expected in primary storage today including snapshots, thin provisioning and even deduplication and/or compression. This eliminates any requirement to write application code for SMBs to utilize cloud storage.

But it’s how these cloud gateways move data to and from the cloud storage providers that makes this type of solution very attractive to SMBs. The gateway acts as a cache for the storage cloud. Most of the cloud storage gateway vendors allow the user to utilize any or multiple different cloud storage providers such as Amazon S3, Azure, EMC Atmos service providers, Nirvanix and others. Data is stored initially locally on HDDs or even solid-state drives (SSDs). It's then moved to the storage cloud based on policy such as age of the data, time since last accessed, or the number of newer snapshots.

Cloud storage gateways are also ideal target storage for backups and snapshots. Just like snapshots, data protection windows are met because of SAN or LAN performance. Then the backup or replicated data is deduped, compressed and moved offsite based on policy. In essence, these gateways use the cloud storage providers as just another tier of storage that just so happens to be, for all intents and purposes, infinite. Even better, the cloud gateway provides a true pay-as-you-grow financial model.

That financial model creates an attractively low TCO for an SMB. Remember: This is a combination of a gateway (local primary storage); cloud storage (for older files, data and archives); data protection (instantaneous multiple snapshots with rollback and, in most cases, integrated with Windows VSS); and disaster recovery (migration of older snapshots to the cloud storage on an automated policy driven basis, taking protected data offsite). That’s four different solutions rolled into one low cost.

There are a number of cloud storage gateway vendors in the market today, with more emerging every quarter. They include Cirtas Systems, CTERA Networks, Nasuni Corp., StorSimple Inc., TwinStrata Inc. and others that are still emerging.

About the author: Marc Staimer is the founder, senior analyst, and CDS of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, OR. The consulting practice of 12+ years has focused in the areas of strategic planning, product development and market development. With more than 30 years of marketing, sales and business experience in infrastructure, storage, server, software and virtualization, he’s considered one of the industry’s leading experts. Marc can be reached at marcstaimer@comcast.net.

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