Microsoft To Launch StorSimple Azure Storage in August

Microsoft announced this week a new line of its StorSimple appliances that link on-premises datacenters to the Azure cloud.

Due for release on Aug. 1, the new StorSimple Azure 8000 Series can scale up to 500TB using the array's combination of storage tiers consisting of disk drives, flash-based solid-state drives and the Azure public cloud storage. Microsoft has not disclosed pricing details, but the per-GB cost will be more than the cost of the Azure BLOB storage offering, taking into account bandwidth and transaction costs.

Acquired in 2012, the new StorSimple release represents Microsoft's most ambitious effort yet to offer SAN infrastructure via a hybrid cloud architecture. While Microsoft's StorSimple appliances always offered links to the public cloud, the new Azure StorSimple boxes combine traditional SANs on premises with virtual SANs in the cloud. Using the cloud architecture, customers can allocate more capacity as needed. It's also suited for backup and recovery, and disaster recovery.

Partners will be able to implement the new offering, said Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Channel, in a blog post on Wednesday.

"The new offering gives system integration partners great opportunity to help their customers deploy the solution for all types of storage," Sorgen said. "Azure StorSimple simplifies disaster recovery, consolidates management and brings on-premises data to the cloud for development and testing of new apps. As customers begin the move to cloud, storage is often the place they start, because the agility and cost benefits are so clear."

Sorgen noted Microsoft will be highlighting the new hybrid cloud storage offering at its annual Wordwide Partner Conference next week in Washington, D.C.

"The thing that's very unique about Microsoft Azure StorSimple is the integration of cloud services with on premises storage," said Marc Farley, Microsoft's senior product marketing manager for StorSimple, during a press briefing this week to outline the new offering. "The union of the two delivers a great deal of economic and agility benefits to customers."

Farley explained that what makes the new offering unique are two new integrated services: the Microsoft Azure StorSimple Manager in the Azure portal and the Azure StorSimple Virtual Appliance. "It's the implementation of StorSimple technology as a service in the cloud that allows applications in the cloud, to access the data that has been uploaded from the enterprise datacenters by StorSimple arrays," Farley explained.

The StorSimple 8000 Series lets customers run applications in Azure that access snapshot virtual volumes that match the VMs on the arrays on premises. It supports Windows Server and Hyper-V, as well as Linux and VMware-based virtual machines. However, unlike earlier StorSimple appliances, the new offering only connects to Azure, not other cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services. Farley didn't rule out future releases enabling virtual appliances in other clouds in the future.

The aforementioned new StorSimple Manager consolidates the management and views of the entire storage infrastructure consisting of the new arrays and the Azure Virtual Appliances. Administrators can also generate reports from the console's dashboard, letting them re-allocate storage infrastructure as conditions require.

Farley emphasized the new offering is suited for disaster recovery, noting that they offer "thin recoveries." Data stored on the arrays in the datacenter can be recovered from copies of the data stored in the Azure Virtual Appliances.

The arrays support iSCSI connectivity, as well as 10 Gbps Ethernet and in-line deduplication. When using the virtual appliance, administrators can see file servers and create a virtual SAN in the Azure cloud. "If you can administer a SAN on premises, you can administer the virtual SAN in Azure," Farley said.

Microsoft is releasing two new arrays: the StorSimple 8100, which has 15TB to 40TB of capacity, depending on the level of compression and deduplication implemented, and the StorSimple 8600, which ranges from 40TB to 100TB, with a total capacity of 500TB when using Azure Virtual Appliances.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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