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Velostrata Cloud Edge bucks hybrid cloud storage model

Velostrata Cloud Edge alters a traditional hybrid cloud storage model by sending only the virtual machine boot-up information into the cloud.

Velostrata emerged from stealth mode on Wednesday with software designed to shake up the conventional hybrid cloud model.

Velostrata Cloud Edge lets enterprises stream virtual machine (VM) workloads to the cloud while keeping storage, including boot images, on premises. The application resides in the cloud while the data stays on premises and can be streamed to the application.

The initial release streams boot images from back-end storage systems to Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Elastic Block Storage. Customers retain local control of storage and purchase computing capacity as needed to support VMware VMs hosted in AWS.

Issy Ben-Shaul, Velostrata CEO, said subsequent releases will support Microsoft Azure and more public cloud providers.

Velostrata sends only the information needed to boot up VMs in the cloud. When a VM is taken out of service, all its data reverts from the cloud to on-site storage. Cloud Edge retains a boot image in case the VM needs to be restarted.

Along with previewing its software, the startup said it received $14 million in Series A funding from Norwest Venture Partners and Greylock Partners.

Paul Burns, president of IT analyst firm Neovise, said Velostrata gives enterprises a different hybrid cloud approach by streaming only data that workloads need to run in the cloud.

"It's the perfect scenario if you want to take advantage of the public cloud, even on a temporary basis, and not have to add more servers. It gives you the ability to keep your data on premises and stream only the pieces that the application consumes. You leverage resources in the public cloud and then fold everything back in your private data center once you're done," Burns said.

Velostrata beta testing includes 12 enterprise customers

Velostrata did not disclose general availability or pricing models, except that it will be offered as a 12-month subscription. Customers need an AWS account and minimum bandwidth speed of 20 gigabits per second to use Cloud Edge.

The vendor said beta tests are under way with about a dozen customers, including two major U.S. automakers, a flash memory storage manufacturer and a Connecticut-based conglomerate.

One beta customer is Just Energy Group Inc., a Canadian retail energy provider based in Mississauga, Ontario. Just Energy is completing a proof of concept using Velostrata to stream SQL Server database workloads to Amazon for disaster recovery.

Just Energy infrastructure architect Troy Jennings said set up was simple and early returns are promising.

"Velostrata is using our storage to run a boot image and caching data calls to the cloud. We have moved our workload to the cloud and back several times quite successfully," Jennings said. "What is even more surprising is that the applications actually performed better in the cloud. Once all the caches are populated, we got a 40% improvement in response time, [compared] to what we were getting on premises."

Velostrata is trying to appeal to customers who want to offload primary storage workloads to a hybrid cloud. It could be a tough sell. Despite the hype surrounding the hybrid cloud model, enterprise customers have moved slowly to embrace it for primary use cases.

"Up until now, the common belief (has been) that compute and storage must be tightly coupled," Ben-Shaul said. "We took the challenge to change that premise by decoupling compute and storage. Enterprise customers face a number of barriers to leveraging the public cloud. The biggest barrier is [the need] to have storage permanently to the cloud to run production workloads."

When a cloud gateway isn't a cloud gateway

Velostrata technology differs from purpose-built cloud gateway archiving appliances used for long-term retention storage. Velostrata Cloud Edge software runs as a virtual machine that is managed through VMware vCenter. The software does not move block storage to the cloud. The Cloud Edge appliance retains a local boot image and any data associated with an application. Velostrata uses the image to boot production VMs as a temporary cloud instance.

Running VMs in the cloud typically requires customers to pay for ongoing cloud storage to keep images up and running. Velostrata's product potentially gives customers a way to sidestep that cost by firing up a VM from a 2 MB Amazon Machine Image (AMI) hosted locally on Cloud Edge, then spinning it down when the VM is no longer needed.

"With other solutions, you need [to convert] at least a minimal machine image to make it available in the cloud. We have a generic AMI boot logger that has almost no storage associated with it. We only need 2 megabytes," Ben-Shaul said.

Velostrata sends VM workloads to the cloud using standard network protocols. Customers are not required to reconfigure applications or replicate storage off-site for cloud migration. Cloud Edge software includes storage quality-of- service features and read/write caching across multiple tiers to support online transaction processing, enterprise resource planning and other line-of-business applications.

The software pre-fetches data after examining access patterns and predicting which applications need to access the image. Projected use cases include cloud bursting, site-to-site disaster recovery, temporarily running cloud VMs to relieve data center hosts, and storage consolidation.

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