The Coming of Application-Aware Cloud Storage

Michael Vizard

One of the challenges with cloud computing storage is that most of the services out there are not particularly aware of any given application. For example, to use the Amazon cloud storage service, your organization needs to first integrate its applications with a custom application programming interface from Amazon.

There's work being done to come up with standard cloud storage interfaces, but obviously, most IT organizations are looking for something a little simpler to deal with.

For that reason, we're seeing the emergence of application-aware storage services in the cloud. For example, StorSimple has created cloud computing software that is aware of Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server that can be deployed on Azure cloud infrastructure from Microsoft or Amazon, Iron Mountain, AT&T or EMC. In a similar vein, CTERA Networks has a cloud storage service that is aware of Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and Active Directory software. That service is based on an on-premise NAS system that is integrated with a cloud storage service managed by CTERA.

According to StorSimple chief marketing officer Ian Howells, StorSimple leverages an appliance configured with solid-state disks and SAS drives on premise that stores frequently accessed files from any local storage system in cache. The system then monitors usage of the applications to migrate files between the appliance and the cloud storage service. If a file on the cloud service is being accessed frequently, StorSimple moves that file back to the appliance to improve I/O performance.

While there's a lot of interest in cloud storage, making it easier to use and adopt is the industry's next big challenge. And once that happens, you can bet that the vast majority of secondary storage in the enterprise is heading into the cloud.

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Oct 1, 2010 5:10 PM Joel C Joel C  says:
(disclosure: I work with Ian at StorSimple) Hi Mike, Great article. We're definitely seeing a lot of interest from customers in finding ways to make cloud storage integrate into their data center rather than them trying to find ways to make their applications integrate into the cloud. Being able to rapidly provision storage using the cloud while overcoming performance, security, and other concerns is allowing customers to realize that cloud storage services, when coupled with an on-premises gateway, can solve a number of issues for high-growth applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, and virtualization. In terms of standardization, I think the ultimate standardization is giving customers the ability to integrate cloud the way they've integrated on-premises systems over the past number of years. People are used to provisioning storage volumes and connecting that capacity to their servers using industry-standard protocols (iSCSI, FC, FCoE). Giving them the ability to do that with cloud storage (which generally uses HTTP-based RESTful APIs, or SOAP) eliminates the complexity and headache not only for the customer (do my apps speak these APIs natively?) but also on the application vendors themselves (what do I need to do to allow my app to take advantage of cloud storage services?). Longer term there may be standardization on the APIs themselves - which would ultimately provide customers more flexibility - but I think the effort to make such a standard mainstream will be bound by the willingness of the cloud providers themselves to adopt it. Cheers, Joel Christner Chief Scientist @StorSimple Reply

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