Revealing interview with an Azure StorSimple user

Revealing interview with an Azure StorSimple user 29th November 2016

Are hybrid cloud storage solutions poised to change the enterprise landscape? Having worked with both traditional and hybrid cloud solutions, Bobbie Couhbor aims to answer that question.

Specialist Enterprise Storage Consultant, Bobbie Couhbor generously shared his time with me to discuss some of the key reasons an organisation should consider investing in a cloud storage future (especially Azure StorSimple), and whether there is really anything wrong with current storage solutions.

It’s all about the money, right?

Bobbie: “Although direct product and price comparisons are difficult, attractive cloud storage prices seem incomparable to traditional enterprise solutions. Businesses can’t look past a hybrid solution.”

While StorSimple calls their backups 'snapshots', they’re technically not the same as traditional snapshots

Cost aside, what are the main issues with the older, more traditional storage solutions?

Bobbie: “Common problematic scenarios with traditional methods are typically backup related. Specifically; growing backup durations resulting in a longer time until next backup and unacceptable data recovery times. Both issues result in increased risk to the business.”

Are StorSimple ‘snapshots’ a true backup?

Bobbie: “A lot of people say Azure StorSimple backups are simply snapshots. In traditional terms, a snapshot is not considered a true backup as it is stored on the same infrastructure as the original data volume itself.
If a disaster occurs, perhaps the device gets burnt to the ground, your snapshots are gone with it.

While StorSimple calls their backups ‘snapshots’, they’re technically not the same as traditional snapshots. When StorSimple takes a snapshot the very first one pulls the entire file system as a baseline into the cloud onto redundant storage.

If you’re using Azure, by default, you’ve got six copies, three in one geographical location and three in another. After that, every snapshot that is taken is the differences between the previous snapshot and the time the snapshot is taken.”

Does StorSimple reduce recovery times?

Bobbie: “In terms of RPOs, we’re finding it’s around two minutes for a StorSimple snapshot to be remounted on another StorSimple device. All it’s really doing is pushing down the volume metadata to present a view of the file system.

When someone goes to access that volume it does an initial pull of the data from the cloud and caches it on the device. Think of it as the file allocation table of the file system table. Basically a map of where files are within that volume.

To the end user, it looks like a regular file system. When a user double clicks on a file, instead of pulling it down from the StorSimple device, the device will go out to the cloud, grabs that file and then pull it down.

There may be some latency, but in terms of Recovery Time Objectives, it’s a lot quicker than having to wait for an entire file system to recover from tape or even from disk. It really does redefine backup recovery times models.”

Is StorSimple a more secure future for backups?

Bobbie: “This is one of the downsides of hybrid cloud storage, to be honest. If you’ve been backing up data onto tape and the tapes get stored off site, it’s going to be really hard for anyone wanting to harm your business by deleting your data to get to them.

But when you’ve got all your data online, sitting behind a username and password, if that is compromised and someone logs into your StorSimple Manager, then they can gain access to delete your backups.”

So, is cloud storage the death of tape?

Bobbie: “The great thing about moving away from tape is the end of the manual and time-consuming administrative overheads involved in storing and cataloguing tapes. Different data sets with different retentions residing on a single tape can make retention decisions difficult.

In many cases, I’ve seen organisations keep tapes in storage for twenty-five years, even though they don’t know what’s on the tape. So the ability to store and describe backups in a solution like StorSimple makes retention decisions a lot easier.”

Are we going to see a less complex future for storage?

Bobbie: “Probably one of my favourite things about StorSimple as a ‘techie’ is that it moves away from the complexity of having to look after 3rd party applications or tools that do some sort of file archiving, which is really hard to exit from.

StorSimple does that all at a lower layer, so administrators don’t really have to manage or even know how it works. It detects what files are hot and cold and transparently moves it to the cloud. As far as users can see, all the files reside in one place. If required, you could select all and move to a separate storage device. So you’ve got options to exit the technology if you wanted to.”

Is StorSimple the future for everyone?

Bobbie: “There are things to consider which people might not be too aware of. StorSimple is excellent for business workloads that don’t have strict latency requirements, such as unstructured data, files, excel spreadsheets, that kind of stuff.

But when you’re starting to look at latency sensitive workloads such as databases, if say 90% of your workload is databases or virtual machines, there are things that need to be taken into consideration. It doesn’t mean running a database on StorSimple is the end of the world, but you need to weigh up your options and see if it really is suitable.”

Curo Talent would like to thank Bobbie Couhbor for his valuable time and insight (you can connect on LinkedIn). We are confident some of the above points will help you and your organisation decide on the future of your backup, storage and disaster recovery solution(s).

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Martin Musselwhite, Curo Talent

Author: Martin Musselwhite

Martin joined Curo Talent in 2016, having previously been a Consultant for a Microsoft Gold Partner. Martin’s broad & deep talent sourcing expertise, coupled with his knowledge of Microsoft technologies help to ensure Curo remain one step ahead with services we bring to the Microsoft ecosystem.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinion of Curo Talent.

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