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

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

Seagate is the primary manufacturer of the StorSimple physical array; its pricing is shown here (PDF). Microsoft says you should reach out to your channel or sales manager if you are interested in buying StorSimple, which leaves open the possibility that these prices are not terribly firm. But getting into StorSimple even at a discount evidently requires a substantial investment.

While there is a significant amount of local storage in these arrays, which does come at a cost, I wonder if a StorSimple "4500" that has a third or a fourth of the local storage but still works with the Azure Virtual Storage Appliance might be an easier sell and a better fit for a wider swath of businesses. As it stands, only a large enterprise can swallow the full-boat Azure StorSimple price tag.

Even when you get past the price and the positioning, there is another serious drawback: The device can migrate storage only to Microsoft Azure. While this is somewhat to be expected given that Microsoft owns the business now, a device this expensive could reasonably be expected to service other public cloud providers as well. Microsoft provides differentiated pricing for the cloud storage capacity used by StorSimple devices, and one would expect it is cheaper than the standard Azure "blob" storage you would get just signing up for the Azure service as a retail customer. But a discount is small dispensation when you've spent $100,000+ on a device tied to a single service that is at that service's mercy.

This is particularly worrying when you consider the fact that the previous version of these arrays supported connections to the Amazon S3 service as well as Windows Azure. Removing capability on a device with a price tag this big limits the utility of these devices; a significant feature will disable itself if you decide to move from Azure to another cloud provider. I am not sure how this can be anything other than a significant drawback.

Final thoughts
I struggled with formulating my opinion of the new StorSimple 8000 series. It's the first release of the StorSimple hardware after Microsoft bought the business a couple of years ago; much of the work the company has done in that interim period was to bring StorSimple closer to Azure and make it a cloud-friendly solution.

That effort is to be applauded, because the idea of a device essentially "failing over" storage capacity into the cloud is great. You have up to 500 terabytes of storage capacity over the three tiers (local SSD, local spinning media and cloud) with the 8600 array. That capability is great. It is versatile and solves the problem of data growth and protection for most enterprises.


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