Don Magee, systems architect at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC), looked at storage systems from Compellent (now part of Dell), EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems before settling on a StorSimple Enterprise Cloud Storage Appliance to host the college's VMware environment.
“We were able to do an on-site demo of the StorSimple appliance, which really gave us a chance to try it out and really talk about it,” Magee explained. The new appliance is managing the college’s entire VMware environment for primary, archive, backup and offsite disaster recovery (DR) for both of its campuses. SMC educates 3,000 students at two campuses in Dowagiac and Niles.
That VMware environment is currently at 80 virtual machines (VMs), which Magee said hold everything from user data files to home directories to department files.
StorSimple is an iSCSI SAN gateway that includes DRAM-based write cache, flash solid-state drives (SSDs) and SATA hard disk drives. It stores most frequently accessed primary data on-premises and moves other data off to the cloud.
Magee said the StorSimple gateway gives the college access to more storage cheaper than if it purchased an on-site storage array; in addition SMC improved performance because of its SSDs.
“Because of the cost of local disks, we weren’t able to buy 20 or 30 terabytes of storage in the past,” he said. “Because of the way the appliance prioritizes what data stays local and what data goes to the cloud, we're now able to give the departments much larger volumes. The stuff that they put up there once and never deal with goes out to the cloud and it costs us a tiny amount per month compared to maintaining all those disks and having to worry about them. That’s the biggest thing for us.”
Previously, Magee’s team was using a Xiotech Magnitude Fibre Channel SAN and Sun 7110 and 7210 storage devices. He said he wasn’t worried about making the switch to the cloud, but some of his colleagues were.
“They were mostly worried about security, worried about our data,” Magee said, explaining that student data is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines (the equivalent of HIPAA medical record protection) and putting that information on a cloud was seen as risky by those at SMC.
His team was given a whitepaper on StorSimple’s security approach, and because they were able to do an on-site demo, the college could see what the system would do for them.
“We were able to put files up there and show them that without the device, without the decryption . . . there was no way to get to that information,” Magee said. “That pretty much satisfied them.”
Magee conducted an ROI estimation prior to deployment, and though he’s not exactly sure in the long term how his cloud storage costs will play out, he believes he’s saving a significant amount of money on the support side, as appliance support for the first three years is rolled into his StorSimple purchase.
Currently, the college is using Amazon S3 cloud services, but they're in the process of switching to the Microsoft Windows Azure platform, which has recently partnered with StorSimple. Magee hopes this switch will reduce his costs.
Aside from some support issues, which he said were resolved relatively quickly, Magee said he doesn’t have any current complaints about the product.
“I can’t think of any outright issues, like ‘I wish we could do X,’” he noted. He said for companies and organizations that are the same size as SMC, he believes a cloud appliance is a better alternative to a traditional SAN -- at least from a maintenance and usability standpoint.
“Most SANs have a big control interface and it’s a little daunting for companies that may not have people on full-time to manage their SAN,” Magee said. “This [StorSimple’s Management Console] is just a web page, making a volume is a pretty easy procedure in here. Managing [the volumes], scheduling the cloud backups, auto-snapshotting -- all those things are really abstract, but it’s easy to do now. That alone, I think, is a big advantage even if it didn’t have the cloud side of the house.”
And in other cloud storage news:
Gladinet Cloud for Teams offers cloud and on-premises storage
Gladinet Inc. has introduced Gladinet Cloud for Teams, which provides unified, managed access to cloud and on-premises storage. The new service’s primary features include central management of cloud and on-premises storage, shared workspace creation with access controls, and the ability to access cloud and on-premises storage from any location or device. Within this service, admins can centrally manage their users, cloud and on-premise storage, team folders and access controls from a web browser interface.
Veeam PSP program reaches 1,000 providers
Veeam Software announced that more than 1,000 cloud and service providers have joined the Veeam ProPartner Service Provider (PSP) program since it began 18 months ago. Veeam’s PSP program offers flexible licensing, support and rewards designed specifically for each provider.
Nirvanix to resell Panzura enterprise-class cloud storage controller
Nirvanix Inc. has entered into a strategic reseller partnership with Panzura Inc. The Panzura Alto controller is available from Nirvanix, bringing storage services from customer data centers to the Nirvanix Cloud Storage Network. The joint solution is optimized for enterprise customers who want a higher level of performance, security and multisite file services.
Nimbula upgrades IaaS offering, expands cloud partnerships
Nimbula Inc. announced the availability of Nimbula Director 1.5, an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for managing compute and storage resources from a single view. The software helps enterprises and service providers build private, public and hybrid clouds. The new version includes policy-based automation that makes it easier to request resources; persistent block store that provides a self-service interface; and a customizable installer for packaging operating system, drivers and management software. Nimbula announced partnerships with Atalanta Systems, Electric Cloud and Standing Cloud to provide a platform for developers to build and deploy apps.
RIZ IT-Motion selects Dot Hill AssuredSAN
Dot Hill Systems Corp. said RIZ IT-Motion GmbH has selected the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3000 Series as the storage foundation for its cloud computing solution. RIZ IT-Motion provides data center hosting and cloud-based enterprise IT computing services to firms operating across all German speaking countries within Europe. RIZ IT-Motion has standardized on the Dot Hill storage architecture to enable management across server installations and to expand cloud-based services within its data center.