Microsoft says new hybrid storage options can cut costs up to 60%

Microsoft Azure StorSimple storage options mix on premises with cloud resources.

Microsoft is coming out with new hardware and cloud management features for its StorSimple hybrid storage offering that promises lower costs and better data protection.

The new products, available Aug. 1, include two models of the new StorSimple 8000 storage array that are tied into a management platform and a virtual storage appliance, both deployed within Microsoft’s Azure cloud. The package is called Microsoft Azure StorSimple.

With it, customers can cut storage costs 40% to 60%, receive faster disaster recovery and access tools that provide detailed views of storage status and trends, Microsoft says in a blog.

The hardware – StorSimple 8100 and 8600 – tier data between SSD and HHD drives, but also with storage within the Azure cloud. This hybrid architecture gives customers the ability to readily expand overall storage capacity in the cloud and add disaster protections, the company says.

StorSimple Virtual Appliance supports the functionality of the on-premises StorSimple hardware except that it is deployed on virtual machines within the Azure cloud. Paired with StorSimple hardware at customer sites, the virtual appliance can run applications in the Azure cloud by accessing virtual volumes uploaded to the cloud from the on-site storage arrays.

This arrangement enables running new applications in Azure that use cloud-based snapshots of historical data without having to access it in the corporate data center, thus avoiding disruption of existing data-center workloads, the company says. The data used in this way must be from Windows Server, Hyper-V, Linux or VMware servers, according to Microsoft.

The Virtual Appliance can play a role in disaster recovery in Azure as well. Applications that have been virtualized in an Azure StorSimple array on-prem can be restarted on virtual machines within Azure using data that has been uploaded there beforehand. Once the on-site customer data center has been restored, any changes to the data in the cloud that were made during the restoration process are downloaded from the cloud, Microsoft says.

On-premises data is up loaded to Azure as cloud snapshots, which are like traditional storage snapshots only these are stored in Azure’s cloud. The cloud data deduplicated so it takes up less space and is synched with on-site data. Once in the cloud it can be used not only for disaster recovery but also for development and testing applications, search and application migration, Microsoft says.

The cloud-based management platform gives a central console for all the StorSimple storage arrays throughout an enterprise as well as the storage within the Azure cloud. This enables applying central policies and controls and gives access to all arrays automatically, says Mike Schutz, the general manager of product marketing for Microsoft’s Server and Tools Division. The manager also supports real-time status reports.

Detroit-based construction firm Walbridge has used StorSimple 7000s for three years and has saved 40% of its storage costs vs. what it would have spent over that time if it had continued buying on-prem servers, says Cynthia Weaver, the firm’s assistant vice president for IT.

She’s not certain the company will upgrade to Azure StorSimple but is intrigued by its ability to support disaster recovery to the cloud. Currently restoration requires a second StorSimple array to recover to. She says she’ll consider Azure StorSimple the next time she replaces some of the company’s remaining on-site storage.

Walbridge’s strategy is to move storage to the cloud as it retires outdated gear, Weaver says. Between StorSimple and Office 365, the company now stores more data in the cloud than it does on-site and has actually reduced the size of its data center and reallocated the space to create two offices, she says.

Microsoft bought the independent startup StorSimple in November 2012, and the introduction of Azure StorSimple is the first new generation of its product since then. The Store Simple hardware capacity ranges from 15T to 40T Byte on premises with support for 200T Byte in the cloud. The previous hardware family StorSimple 7000 ranged from 4T to 20T Byte.

The virtual appliance and cloud-based management are not available for StorSimple 7000 devices.

Microsoft’s StorSimple products compete against products from TwinStrata, now owned by EMC, Nasuni and Panzura, which act as storage gateways to public cloud services. Microsoft has the advantage of creating unique enhancements that come from controlling both the on-prem hardware and the cloud service.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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