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What are some of the concerns around cloud-integrated storage?

Cloud-integrated storage uses object storage as a tier to keep costs low, but migration and performance limitations are holding it back.

Cloud-integrated storage (CIS) looks like any other block or file storage system, but with a twist. Data written...

to a cloud-integrated storage system is moved to cloud object storage based on policies such as the age of the data or time since last access. Data moved to the cloud leaves a stub locally and appears local to any application or user. The only difference is that it takes a little longer to access data in cloud object storage.

In this manner, the most frequently accessed and relevant data is kept locally, while inactive or passive data is stored on more economical cloud object storage. This effectively makes the cloud object storage an unlimited nearline tier for CIS. The cloud-integrated storage also deduplicates all data sent to the cloud object storage, reducing the monthly cost of storing inactive data. Frequent snapshots of the local data by the CIS provide an offsite layer of data protection.

While cloud-integrated storage sounds like a good value proposition, the technology never gained traction in the market for two reasons:

  • Performance and functionality. Most cloud-integrated systems have a problem being the primary data storage system because the majority of them simply do not perform as well as SAN storage or NAS systems, nor do they often offer the same level of data service capabilities. This limited performance and service typically relegates cloud-integrated storage to secondary or nearline storage. Nearline storage is used primarily for backup and archive data or infrequently accessed data. Cloud-integrated storage is a separate platform, so data has to be moved from primary storage to the cloud-integrated nearline storage. This is where the CIS value proposition begins to wane.
  • Data migration is generally a manual, labor-intensive process. Backup and archiving work with cloud-integrated storage just like any SAN or NAS system. But the problem with CIS is that the majority of those same data migration applications also have the ability to migrate data directly to cloud object storage. The same is true for backup and archive applications.

  • The requirement for multiple systems to prevent a single point of failure for accessing the data. If a cloud-integrated storage system fails, how will applications access data in the cloud? Without a second system with an up-to-date copy of the metadata, the data is not accessible.

Next Steps

CIS limitations to be aware of

Analyst: CIS best bet for local primary data

Object and cloud-integrated storage work together with RESTful APIs

This was last published in June 2015

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Would you consider cloud-integrated storage despite the drawbacks? Why or why not?
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Well, most "cloud integrated storage" is really object-based storage that resides locally, or in a co-location space or in a service provider's cloud. Not many object-based storage software vendors are pushing hard on claiming they can replace primary storage systems. Object-based storage and flash arrays are becoming the two-tier model for data storage. Flash arrays will contain the hot or transactional data and object-based clusters will contain the warm or cold data. Flash array vendors will tier their not so hot data to object-based storage on a policy basis and object-based storage vendors, like Cloudian, can tier data on a policy basis from their S3-compatible storage clusters to AWS S3 or Glacier. The future of data storage will be simplified to two or three tiers that are policy enabled to move data to where it can be stored in the most cost-efficient manner.
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