Big congratulations to Avere Systems, who recently announced their acquisition by Microsoft.  Avere is a company I’ve followed since inception in 2008.  Their technology started as an edge NAS filer, extending data centre content to branch offices.  Over time, the platform became virtual and moved to the public cloud.  Today, vFXT (the cloud instance of the filer), enables customers to present their data to cloud resources and use the benefit of public cloud analytics and processing, without having to commit to the wholesale migration of data to public cloud storage.

Why is this useful?  Well, as we see more hybrid and multi-cloud use cases, businesses will want to perform processing on ever-larger amounts of unstructured data.  The issue here is how to (a) get that data into the right place (b) optimise storage costs (c) minimise transfer time (d) keep data consistent.  Imagine an organisation has petabytes of data and needs to run some query or processing against a subset or all of the data.  It’s totally impractical (say) to move all the data between AWS and GCP.  Keeping a copy in both locations introduces extra cost and complexity in keeping the copies in sync.  Avere edge filers allow the data to be visualised in another location, without having to move all the content.  Only the data being accessed is cached in the target cloud provider.

In effect, Avere is one solution to the looming data mobility problem.

Integration into Azure

How does this help Microsoft?  Well, the hyper scalers have issues with getting data into their clouds (from each other), as each typically charges an egress fee.  I spoke to Google last year and they told me that they cover the cost of egress in some cases.  I’m sure Microsoft wants to avoid paying charges where possible.  With vFXT running in Azure, a Microsoft customer can visualise their data into the public cloud (either from on-prem or another cloud provider).  At this point, data can be accessed, with any updates or new content kept in sync with the source.  Microsoft can now offer services to a whole new set of customers.  This includes those who don’t want or can’t move their data from its current location.

Theoretically, of course, data could move the other way.  Azure customers could run vFXT in GCP or AWS (as they can today).  It remains to be seen whether those offerings disappear.

NetApp

What about Azure Enterprise NFS – is there a risk here?  Remember NetApp only recently inked a deal to be the first citizen provider of this service for Microsoft Azure.  I have to say that I think Avere isn’t competition, but a value-add way to get data into the public cloud in as frictionless a way as possible.  Enterprise NFS is barely available, so I doubt Microsoft would be pulling out this early.

The Architect’s View

It will be interesting to see where Avere fits into Microsoft’s Azure architecture and how this increases competition to gain hold of customer’s data.  Just one word of warning though.  Remember StorSimple?  Microsoft acquired the company in 2012.  The StorSimple platform doesn’t seem to have lived up to the potential it promised.  I’m rather hoping this doesn’t happen with Avere.

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Written by Chris Evans