Microsoft Azure and StorSimple: A true Hybrid Cloud Storage Offering

Microsoft Azure and StorSimple: A true Hybrid Cloud Storage Offering

Worldwide data stores are roughly doubling every 2 years. Most of this growth is concentrated in unstructured data. An abundance of applications produce active unstructured files including office document applications, email, content management systems, and PDF document formats; as well as intensive graphics and streaming data from engineering, healthcare and entertainment industries. Base products developed by storage vendors over the years have included NAS and SAN primary storage, backup software, disk or tape backup systems, and dedupe appliances. More recent development has added native dedupe, snapshots and replication to backup solutions, as well as adding the cloud as a backup target. However, in the face of massive data growth, traditional technologies are becoming a drain on the budget, and making the storage infrastructure more complex than it already is.

Storage is the underpinning of the IT infrastructure stack, impacting everything else above it. Strategic leaders, in response to various enterprise-wide surveys have indicated that storage related priorities are top of mind in 2014. These priorities are associated to:

  • Managing data growth and infrastructure sprawl.
  • Managing cost complexities due to ad-hoc storage expansion.
  • Leveraging cloud for efficient DR.

The Hybrid Cloud Context for CIO’s and IT Managers

Considering the necessity of enforcing governance policies for corporate data assets, it is unlikely that completely external, separate cloud solutions will solve storage concerns. Instead, success will likely come from integrating enterprise cloud services with enterprise infrastructure.

It turns out that there is a new kind of storage, cloud–integrated storage, or CiS, that combines on-premises SAN storage with the ability to store, access and manage data in cloud storage services. One of the storage applications for CiS is using cloud storage as a tier to store inactive data, creating a hybrid cloud storage solution.

With CiS, corporate IT policies for data retention and security can be applied to data stored in the cloud. Security concerns are addressed by the CiS system through the use of AES-256 encryption technology.

In this fully integrated architecture, IT retains on-premises storage strengths such as local performance for active data, fast recovery, and strongly encrypted data, coupled with cloud-based storage capacity on-demand. At the same time, the cloud also provides a very secure and efficient storage tier for timely data protection and recovery. The advantages of this highly scalable architecture are particularly strong when managing massive data growth in unstructured data.

The StorSimple Approach

Microsoft Azure StorSimple provide a hybrid cloud storage solution that consolidates the management of primary storage, backup, archival and DR. By eliminating frequent storage upgrades, tapes and traditional DR, Microsoft Azure StorSimple has the potential to save 30%-40% of your current storage TCO.

The heart of hybrid cloud storage is active tiering. StorSimple continuously identifies data set policies and characteristics, and automatically places data sets on one of four storage tiers(including Microsoft Azure). Tier 1 is very active data located in the SSD’s. This data is not deduped or compressed. Tier 2 is frequently accessed data still located in the SSD’s and undergoing primary dedupe. Tier 3 is occasionally accessed data located in the HDD’s, deduped and compressed. Tier 4 stores inactive data in the cloud, where it remains easily recoverable. All tiers are centrally managed. This extremely efficient tiering capability offers greatly reduced TCO.


Key Benefits:

  1. Eliminate ad-hoc on-premises storage expansion by leveraging Microsoft Azure cloud storage.
  2. Eliminate the need to ship tape backups to offsite by introducing cloud backup.
  3. Reduce storage TCO by automatically & intelligently archiving older data to cloud. 



Microsoft Azure Services Announcements – Oct 2014

Microsoft announced the general availability of Azure Automation, Runbook Gallery, Event Hubs, and Microsoft Antimalware, plus the public previews of Azure Data Factory, Stream Analytics, Azure Batch, and SQL Database business-continuity features. 

Azure Automation and Runbook Gallery generally available

Azure Automation enables the creation, deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of resources in Azure environments using a highly scalable and reliable workflow-execution engine.

As part of this release, Microsoft also announced the availability of the Automation Runbook Gallery. This new feature puts existing Automation sample, utility, and scenario runbooks right at your fingertips to help you quickly get up and running with your automation tasks.

Azure Event Hubs generally available

Azure Event Hubs is a real-time, highly scalable, and fully managed data-stream ingestion service. As the onramp for stream processing in the cloud, Event Hubs enables publish-subscribe data distribution in a flexible platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model that can scale with your needs and provide a durable buffer between event publishers and event consumers.

Microsoft Antimalware for Cloud Services and VMs generally available

Microsoft Antimalware for Cloud Services and Virtual Machines (VMs) is now generally available for identifying and removing viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It offers real-time protection from the latest threats, on-demand scanning, basic configuration management, and monitoring—all at no additional charge. You can select the Antimalware security extension when you create a VM and configure the feature for both cloud services and VMs programmatically using APIs/PowerShell.

Azure Data Factory in public preview

Increasingly, organizations need to gather insights from a diverse set of on-premises and cloud data sources and streams, using a combination of traditional and transformative analytics and services. Azure Data Factory gives you an agile way to manage the production of trusted information from these complex processes—making it easier to create, orchestrate, and manage data-processing pipelines over a range of transformation services and diverse data sources. You can quickly connect to data in Azure Storage or your on-premises SQL Server implementations. Choose from custom C# transformations or Apache Hive and Pig scripts running on Azure HDInsight for Apache Hadoop implementations.

Data Factory offers IT professionals holistic monitoring and management for these processes, including a view of data production and data lineage down to the source systems. With Data Factory, you can transform raw data assets into trusted, easily consumable information that can be broadly shared with BI and analytics tools.

Azure Stream Analytics in public preview

Powered by Azure, Stream Analytics is an event-processing engine that helps uncover insights from devices, sensors, cloud infrastructure, and existing data properties in real time. Thanks to out-of-the-box integration with Event Hubs, this combined solution can ingest millions of events, as well as produce analytics to help you better understand patterns or trigger an action during real-time data streaming.

Stream Analytics is highly scalable and requires no hardware or other upfront cost, installation, or setup. Developers simply describe their desired analytic function in SQL-based query syntax, and the system transparently deals with distribution for scale, performance, and resiliency.

Azure Batch in public preview

Azure Batch is a new platform service that enables you to run large-scale parallel and HPC applications in the cloud. Azure Batch makes it easy to cloud-enable your applications and run jobs without setting up or managing a cluster and job scheduler. Use the SDK to integrate client applications with Azure Batch through a variety of languages, stage data to Azure, and build job-execution pipelines. You can use Azure Batch as part of your workflows and to deliver self-service applications as a service. Sign up for the preview program in the Azure Management Portal, and start using Azure Batch as soon as your subscription is approved. During public preview, the service will be offered at a discount in all the regions it’s available.

Azure SQL Database business continuity features with new visualizations in public preview

Now available to try in the Azure Preview Portal, new functionality allows you to manage existing SQL Database business-continuity features with greater ease and a highly visual graphic interface. Features include Active and Standard Geo-Replication, plus Point-in-Time Restore. Additionally, Active Geo-Replication offers map-based configurations with “click-to-add” secondaries for breakthrough disaster-recovery administration. You can also more easily manage database alerts and events within the portal.