There have been two interesting and contrasting announcements covering cloud storage in the last couple of weeks.  The first was NetApp, who have announced “NetApp Private Storage for AWS”.  which seems to a proprietary way of replicating data into the AWS cloud.  The second comes from Nirvanix and Violin Memory; Violin have deployed their all-SSD storage appliances into Nirvanix’ public cloud infrastructure to speed up customer response times.  Let’s look at these in more detail.

NetApp Private Storage

From what I can ascertain from the press release and various blogs, the NetApp offering appears to be a physical NetApp FAS or gateway (v-series) placed into Amazon’s partner co-location data centres.  The customer can then replicate data using SnapMirror/SnapVault from their own premises, into the AWS cloud, still on the NetApp proprietary platform.  From there using Amazon Direct Connect (which exists as a feature today to allow customers to build hybrid private/AWS environments), the replicated data can be made accessible to EC2, Amazon’s cloud server service.  There’s obvious benefits in being able to get data easily into a cloud environment, however the NetApp solution is heavily based around their existing FAS & Snap technology.  It also means providing additional hardware into an Amazon partner co-location site.  In order to ensure high-availability, would this mean multiple pieces of hardware across availability zones?  It makes sense that it would.

I see both advantages and disadvantages in NetApp’s offering.  On the positive side,  SnapMirror is a highly efficient replication technology, moving data at 4KB block granularity.  However, the data in AWS is still on a proprietary NetApp device, with all the incumbent management issues that Cloud is supposed to alleviate. Of course there’s also the cost of this solution; it’s not going to be cheap to buy and co-locate hardware just to get data into AWS.

Nirvanix & Violin

This week Violin Memory and Nutanix announced that Violin appliances have been deployed into both private and public Nirvanix cloud infrastructures.  The press release discusses both improvements for primary data and for backup.  It seems a little excessive to be using SSD appliances for backup, but then it depends on your requirements.  From the public/private cloud perspective, deployment in private cloud is nothing more than an another route to market for Violin.  Public cloud seems a little more interesting, but Nirvanix don’t offer cloud compute, so any potential latency benefit from Violin will surely be lost in transiting the network.  Perhaps there’s more to this news than I’m seeing.

The Architect’s View

Traditional storage array vendors want to be in on the Cloud party.  However, implementing vendor-proprietary solutions and additional hardware seems to go against the principles of the way Cloud is supposed to work.  Having faster back-end storage to deliver performance is a good thing and it’s even better when this hardware remains abstracted from the compute on which it is used.  Proprietary solutions are a stopgap but won’t be the future.  The future has to be hardware-independent logical data replication and movement, otherwise Cloud is just your kit in someone else’s data centre.

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Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.