We think of the cloud as this vast pool of unlimited storage, usually at not super fast speeds, and accessed via the internet. Great use case if your compute is in the cloud, or you’re not concerned about the latency. If you want low latency access to the data, you’re probably going to at least look at a storage array. We think of storage arrays as having a finite bucket of capacity, the polar opposite of cloud storage. The closest thing a storage array has to unlimited capacity, snapshots, are usually tied to some strict limits. Your storage array needs more capacity. Public cloud providers have extra capacity. It sounds like the beginnings of a match made in heaven.
At Storage Field Day 13 Dell EMC talked about their Unity storage array and its integration with their own Cloud Tier Appliance. The Cloud Tiering Appliance is an external device that allows data to move from the storage array to a public cloud provider. The best feature is that you can take a unity snapshot but write the data to an S3 object store using. This feature allows you to work around the annoying Unity snapshot limit and is kind of cool. The snapshot is written to the object storage as if it’s just an extension of Unity array, so it can’t be used without the array and Cloud Tiering Appliance. In other words, you can’t take the Unity cloudified snapshot and natively attach it to an Amazon EC2 instance.
Usually, when we’re talking about cloud lift and shift, we’re talking about applications. However, in this case, we’re talking about lifting a snapshot from an on premises storage array and shifting it to the cloud. I’m sure you’ve heard me say most applications, when we lift and shift, don’t get all of the benefits of public cloud? Well, guess what? The same goes for a cloudified snapshot. Sure Unity can write the snapshot and store the date, but it doesn’t integrate with the public cloud. It doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the public cloud features when it comes to application development, data protection, or anything else. What if that cloudified snapshot had been written to Amazon in its native format?
Purity CloudSnap, from Pure Storage, does exactly that. At a Storage Field Day Exclusive at Pure Accelerate 2017 I got a chance to talk about this new offering, and I was impressed. By allowing the storage array to write a snapshot to AWS in its native format, it opens up a whole new use case besides archive snapshots. Suddenly I can spin up a clone of prod in Amazon, using real data via snapshotting. Even cooler is that the snapshot is portable, bi-directionally, between array and cloud provider. I’ve not seen a demo yet, but if it works as advertised, this can be a huge selling point for a Pure Storage array.
It’s clear that the ability to write from an on premises array to the cloud is a major check mark when comparing storage arrays. However, I’ve not run into anyone it this in the wild yet.
Is this concept just a check mark for EMC because it’s usefulness is largely longer term retention? Will the ability to use the snapshots natively on the public cloud be something a lot of Pure Storage customers use? Only time will tell.