Rethink your DC – Overcome big data storage hurdles with StorSimple

storsimpleMicrosoft offers several solutions to this problem, including StorSimple Cloud-integrated Storage system and the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution. As the Microsoft Windows Server Team blog post The Hybrid Cloud Storage Transformation points out, the company offers hybrid cloud storage that integrates a StorSimple on-premises Cloud-integrated Storage (CiS) system with Windows Azure Storage:The StorSimple part of the solution is an enterprise iSCSI SAN storage system with internal SSDs and hard disks to store data, along with software for data deduplication, compression and tiering that reduces capacity consumption and places data on resources that are optimized to reduce cost or deliver performance. Above and beyond these features, the StorSimple system automatically accesses Windows Azure Storage to transparently extend usable capacity, and protect and archive data.The Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution provides uninterrupted, pay-as-you-grow capacity expansion in Windows Azure. Data is protected automatically by being copied to the cloud, where it can be kept for as long as needed, without the high cost of replication or the complications of working with tape backups.The StorSimple system manages capacity by relocating dormant, unused data to Windows Azure Storage. When end users need data that has been relocated to the cloud, it is transparently accessed and reloaded back onto the StorSimple system. Storage admins don’t need to worry about unexpectedly running out of capacity: Windows Azure Storage can be instantly allocated whenever necessary.Do you need to comply with government regulations or corporate legal requirements around data storage? You can use the solution to set and implement data-retention policies. Worried about data integrity? Windows Azure Storage makes three copies of data and puts them in three fault domains, with an option for three additional copies in a remote Windows Azure data center. Is security a concern? Data that the solution writes to the cloud is encrypted before being uploaded, using encryption keys that you create and manage. And the solution can simultaneously support multiple storage functions:

  • Backup
  • Disaster recovery
  • Archiving
  • Capacity expansion

The Microsoft hybrid cloud storage solution addresses the problems of unstructured data growth. Corporate file sharing, large SharePoint installations, document management applications, data archiving, virtual server storage, and other environments that have sizable amounts of dormant, inactive or irregularly accessed data. To find out more about Microsoft cloud storage solutions, visit or theMicrosoft Enterprise Storage page.

Q: Is my StorSimple device a good target for my organization’s backups?

A. The StorSimple device is a great appliance that has a certain amount of in-box storage and also levages Windows Azure Storage to expand what it can store to pretty much a limitless extent. You need to understand that your organization will then have to pay for whatever is stored in Windows Azure Storage at standard Windows Azure rates.

The benefit of StorSimple is it has very powerful algorithms to decide what data should be kept locally on its local storage and what should be stored in Windows Azure Storage to provide the best performance.

Typically the StorSimple device will use up to 85 percent of its local storage and all other data will be stored only in Windows Azure. The process of moving data to Windows Azure Storage is known as tiering.

Consider a 4TB StorSimple appliance. After it’s been running for a while and has reached the 85 percent local limit, that leaves only 15 percent (or around 600GB) local space available for its temporary storage and tiering to Windows Azure.

This means if StorSimple was used as a backup target, as soon as that 600GB was consumed, all additional data would have to wait as the data was sent to Windows Azure. This would likely cause a huge drop in backup throughput, even if you had a fast Internet connection.

A typical StorSimple appliance could support between 100-250MB/s depending on your exact configuration, whereas even with a 100Mb/s Internet connection, that would only be around 12.5MB/s, which is around a tenth of the previous throughput.

It’s for this reason that StorSimple is really not suited to be the target for backups and is instead aimed at workloads that can really benefit from its tiering capabilities, such as file servers, Exchange archives, low IO Hyper-V workloads, and more.

Some Microsoft partners also leverage Windows Azure Storage for long term retention and tiering that might be better suited as backup targets.

Microsoft acquired StorSimple in 2012 and is suddenly showing renewed interest in promoting and improving the datacenter appliances. In July, Microsoft announced a name change to Azure StorSimple and in August began delivering updated versions of the hardware. The new 8000 series appliances bring new features and better hardware.

Continuing its improvements and function additions, a new tool has been released to help centralize management of backups and to better tie Azure StorSimple with common administrator tools.

The StorSimple Snapshot Manager is a snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). The MMC, of course, was first delivered in Windows 2000 and has become a mainstay for administrators since.

StorSimple Snapshot Manager is used to configure backup schedules and retention policies, generate on-demand backups, and clone or restore volumes.

The tool only supports the StorSimple 8000 series storage array.

You can download the snap-in from here: StorSimple Snapshot Manager

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