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Microsoft's StorSimple: A first look at the 8000 series

Jonathan Hassell | Sept. 4, 2014
Melding on-premises, cloud storage.



Maximum available storage, including local and cloud-connected capacity









The 8000 series arrays have 10GB Ethernet connections, which help achieve a reported bandwidth increase during data transfer of 2.5 times that of their predecessors. The appliance is a SAN in a box, with full multipath I/O, dual controllers, dual power supplies and dual cooling, along with RAID and hot spares and all the redundancies you would expect out of an enterprise-class device.

The "in a box" part is important, though, because it's a sealed box you can't upgrade later. It stays in one configuration until it's retired.

What's unusual about the StorSimple 8000 arrays is the addition of a cloud tier to the traditional storage tiering approach. Storage appliances and SANs have long used tiering as the best way to achieve performance at an acceptable cost.

Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2's built-in Storage Spaces technology also allows for tiering: Files and folders that are frequently accessed are stored using solid state drives to allow for really fast retrieval. Once those files and folders have gone cold, the array or service automatically moves those colder files to the lower-cost and higher-capacity, but slower, traditional spinning media.

Generally, goal is to keep 15% or less of total storage in the hot tier, and move the remaining 85% or more of the data to other, colder tiers. This is the best balance between cost and performance.

Almost all storage appliances today have a cold tier that consists only of spinning media, which is cheaper than solid state, of course, but slower. StorSimple's arrays provide a third option -- move the coldest data out of the cold tier on the local array and over to the cloud.

In this case, the cloud is Microsoft Azure, and the cloud storage option is a specialized version of traditional Azure blobs -- binary large objects or, basically, just files as unstructured data. The data that is passed back and forth to the cloud storage tier is encrypted both in transit and at rest using an encryption key that Microsoft says it cannot access in any way.

In addition, StorSimple automatically manages the two local storage tiers and provides compression services to maximize space. It also dedupes based on the Windows Server 2012 deduplication technology, which has been proven to be very effective -- in some scenarios (virtual desktop infrastructure in particular) achieving an over 90% space-savings rate. It also provides snapshot backup capabilities, so in the event some data gets deleted accidentally, you can restore a snapshot backup from before it happened with just a couple of clicks.


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