E-STaaS SAN and NAS? Now cloud storage for enterprises – and the rest of us

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Zadara Storage has developed block storage software to run on commodity x86 hardware within a private or public cloud, calling it “Enterprise-class Storage as a Service” (E-STaaS no less!).

Built for the cloud from the ground up, its design allows the user (e.g. through a cloud provider) to specify such things as: controller performance level, cache amount, drive types, clustering, database I-O, OLTP latency limit, block- and file-based access, availability and uptime. Then, as it is offered as a service, these settings are elastic so can be easily modified.

A big advantage to the end-user of this approach is that it obviates the need for up-front hardware and software investment (CAPEX). It also greatly limits business risk because, if storage provisioning or performance proves to be seriously under- or over-estimated, a few tweaks may be all that is needed to correct this. Usage is metered and billed by the hour for the functionality selected.

A key part, perhaps the hardest part, of this is that each user has his own virtual private storage arrays (VPSAs) connected by iSCSI or NFS to the cloud servers; each VPSA has (as a minimum) dual RAID-encrypted controllers to access a choice of SSDs, SAS and SATA drives. This provides performance and secure isolation between users including data encryption. Customers do not give up their existing systems that run over this architecture (but data migration is needed).

While this has already been adopted used by some large enterprises, there may be little to stop SMEs – the rest of us – also deploying this. Zadara VP of business development Noam Shendar told me, “Customers don’t know of a SAN with all the bells and whistles, and that you can build your own EMC [- or equivalent storage system] in 90 seconds.” A free trial is also offered. This sounds very agile, but what of the pitfalls?

I asked Shendar about latency and real performance in a remote cloud; he explained that the software was only rolled out where they had a very large host close by (for the UK it is Amazon Web Services based in Dublin with, typically, a 1ms latency); finding at least one suitable host and hosting partner for each major global territory is one factor preventing faster world-wide roll-out.  Zadara can also install commodity storage hardware in-house at the user for speed and security (including replacing faulty drives) as it manages the system in a public or private cloud.

Indeed, management is one of the biggest headaches for data centres and small IT operations alike, but smaller businesses lack deep pockets. So, I see this in time being at least as attractive for smaller organisations without formal IT capabilities. If the subscription model works for them, they can move their existing storage and data protection systems to a high-performing, resilient, secure platform with massive storage expansion capability (beyond petabytes) and advanced enterprise features – and, by choice, off-load the management headache to boot.

Commodity hardware and a subscription model also means no or little up-front capital outlay needing executive approval (except for data migration dependent on the amount of data to process). If the metering is applied departmentally, it can also help businesses pinpoint the parts of the firm eating up processing resources.

Zadara’s agile storage approach – true multi-tenant enterprise storage as a service (E-STaaS – urghh!) in the cloud – will gain a lot of traction as the cloud storage market soars to new heights in the coming months.