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Microsoft Aims To Disrupt Storage Industry with Azure StorSimple Arrays

When it comes to enterprise storage, companies such as EMC, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, IBM and NetApp may come to mind first. But there are a lot of new players out there taking a piece of the pie. Among them are Fusion-io, GridStore, Nimble Storage, Nutanix, Pure Storage, SolidFire and Violin Memory, just to name a few high fliers. Another less obvious but potentially emerging player is Microsoft, which acquired storage appliance maker StorSimple in 2012.

As I noted a few weeks ago, Microsoft is aiming at commoditizing hardware with software-defined storage. In recent months Microsoft has also indicated it has big plans for making StorSimple a key component of its software defined storage strategy, which of course includes Storage Spaces in Windows Server. Microsoft this week announced it is launching the Azure StorSimple 8000 Series, which consists of two different arrays that offer tighter integration with the Microsoft Azure public cloud.

While Microsoft's StorSimple appliances always offered links to the public cloud, the new Azure StorSimple boxes with disks and flash-based solid-state drives use Azure Storage as an added tier of the storage architecture, enabling administrators to create virtual SANs in the cloud just as they do on premises. Using the cloud architecture, customers can allocate more capacity as needs require.

"The thing that's very unique about Microsoft Azure StorSimple is the integration of cloud services with on-premises storage," said Marc Farley, Microsoft's senior product marketing manager for StorSimple, during a press briefing this week to outline the new offering. "The union of the two delivers a great deal of economic and agility benefits to customers."

Making the new offering unique, Farley explained, is the two new integrated services: the Microsoft Azure StorSimple Manager in the Azure portal and the Azure StoreSimple Virtual Appliance. "It's the implementation of StorSimple technology as a service in the cloud that allows applications in the cloud, to access the data that has been uploaded from the enterprise datacenters by StorSimple arrays," Farley explained.

The StorSimple 8000 Series lets customers run applications in Azure that access snapshot virtual volumes which match the VMs on the arrays on-premises. It supports Windows Server and Hyper-V as well as Linux and VMware-based virtual machines. However unlike earlier StorSimple appliances, the new offering only connects to Microsoft Azure --  not other cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services. Farley didn't rule out future releases enabling virtual appliances in other clouds.

The aforementioned new StorSimple Manager consolidates the management and views of the entire storage infrastructure consisting of the new arrays and the Azure Virtual Appliances. Administrators can also generate reports from the console's dashboard, letting them reallocate storage infrastructure as conditions require.

Farley emphasized that the new offering is suited for disaster recovery, noting it offers "thin recoveries." Data stored on the arrays in the datacenter can be recovered from copies of the data stored in the Azure Virtual Appliances.

The arrays support iSCSI connectivity as well as 10Gb/s Ethernet and inline deduplication. When using the Virtual Appliance, administrators can see file servers and create a virtual SAN in the Azure cloud. "If you can administer a SAN on-premises, you can administer the virtual SAN in Azure," Farley said.

Microsoft is releasing two new arrays: the StorSimple 8100, which has 15TB to 40TB of capacity (depending on the level of compression and deduplication implemented) and the StorSimple 8600, which ranges from 40TB to 100TB with a total capacity of 500TB when using Azure Virtual Appliances.

The StorSimple appliances are scheduled for release next month. Microsoft has not disclosed pricing but the per GB pricing will be more than the cost of the Microsoft Azure blog storage offering, taking into account bandwidth and transaction costs.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/09/2014 at 1:50 PM


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