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

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

Both 8000 series arrays use iSCSI to present raw space to your network and its various resources. The iSCSI SAN connection adds the array's space to your current storage network, and the arrays use a standard Internet connection to reach out to Azure to enable the cloud storage tier feature; there are no special tunneling requirements needed to get that functionality going.

Management features
Managing the StorSimple 8000 arrays occurs via the Internet using the Microsoft Azure StorSimple Manager service -- whether you are currently on the same network as the appliance or not. The over-the-wire management lets you manage all of your arrays from a single console through the Azure management portal. This is an example of the StorSimple Manager interface:

It is easy to click around and see information about your device's usage, as is shown here:

The Azure StorSimple Virtual Storage Appliance
The Azure StorSimple Virtual Storage Appliance is a pseudo-device that lives up in the Azure cloud. It consists of Azure virtual machines (which you pay for, of course, as part of a compute charge), virtual networks and Azure storage (which you also pay for). Consider it a "clone" of your physical appliance, but running up in the cloud.

You can use it for obvious applications, like disaster recovery -- the virtual appliance can spin up and your users can access the data stored on it seamlessly, so it takes the place of an expensive secondary hot spare site and appliance. This could result in cost savings for high-availability services.

The virtual appliance can access any data that a physical StorSimple array has uploaded into Azure. You can use the data that was moved up to the cloud to perform Azure-specific testing, deploy workloads using the previously on-premises data and migrate some virtual machines up into Azure that you previously ran on-premises.

Think of this as a conduit through which you can transition large amounts of data back and forth between your existing network and Azure. Once the data is within the virtual storage device, using it with Azure services becomes an easy and fast proposition, versus having to transmit data up and down, over and over, every time you start a new project for evaluation or workload for production.

You can spin these virtual devices up really easily from within the Azure portal; the screenshot below shows what that looks like -- a single screen where you name it, tell Azure where it should live on the network and also what storage "subaccount" it should use -- and you are off to the races.

The downsides
I'll tell you what I find to be the most troubling aspect of the StorSimple 8000 series: It is oriented to large, well-heeled enterprises only. The arrays start over the six-figure mark, which puts them out of reach for small and even medium-sized businesses. The lower-capacity 8100 array will set you back over $100,000 and the 8600 model sells for up to $170,000.

 

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