Using Cloud Storage for Backup

The cloud is already known for high scalability and availability. So why settle for a generic cloud solution when you can get something much more flexible and economical at the same time?

Now you can get all the benefits of cloud storage for backup without actually subscribing to a public cloud. You can do so by implementing a cloud storage solution on premises that’s using the same approach the cloud vendor uses to manage its own storage resources.

How Cloud Backup Works

So why would you want that? Because cloud storage offers virtually unlimited scalability and availability. You don’t have to go out and buy, install, and configure a whole new NAS storage array every time you want to add capacity. (No more “fork lift” upgrades.) Instead of expensive and proprietary arrays, you add commodity x86 Linux storage servers as you need them. They’re a lot cheaper — so if you only need a little more, you only spend a little more.

You also don’t have to worry about losing data if one of those arrays (or even an entire data center) goes down. Cloud storage can be configured to automatically back itself up to duplicate servers (or even duplicate sites) so that ongoing operations can continue uninterrupted. Sounds great — but how is this all possible?

The secret sauce is what’s referred to as software-defined storage (SDS). With SDS, the intelligence needed to allocate and manage storage resources is provided by software, not hardware. In a typical NAS array, that intelligence is provided by dedicated controller hardware and software integrated with the array itself. That’s why cloud scale-out is much less disruptive and costly — you don’t have to add an expensive controller every time you add capacity. Furthermore, as storage scales out, so does compute capacity, so you gain I/O performance, too.

Why Not Public Cloud for Backup?

Okay, great, but if cloud storage is so much better, why not just back up everything on the public cloud? Why put cloud storage onsite?

For starters, once you give all your data to a public cloud, the costs of hosting and then transferring or downloading it all can be very expensive. Another reason is that many companies need to keep their backup data where they can control it. Finally, public cloud storage may not be flexible enough — for example, mixing and matching objects (e.g., Amazon S3 native) with files (e.g., NFS and Windows SMB).

So unless you’ve decided to move your whole environment to a public cloud — or you still believe tape is a viable backup alternative for your on-demand distributed enterprise — your backup choice is generally between an SDS-based private cloud and conventional network attached storage (NAS) arrays. Here’s why SDS has the advantage when it comes to issues like cost, disruption, flexibility and data accessibility.

Private Cloud Backup Advantages

Cost. As I’ve already mentioned, private cloud scale-out is highly incremental — more “pay as you go” — because you’re just adding storage nodes to an existing infrastructure. You’re not adding NAS and you’re only buying commodity servers, so you can pick and choose based on price and values like the quality of vendor support. TCO is also lower because SDS can store many more objects in a single namespace than traditional storage, so there’s less data migration going on. What’s more, system administration is easier.

Disruption. Forklift array replacements or add-ons are not only more expensive, they are also more disruptive because they typically require downtime while new equipment is installed and data migrated. In a private cloud, you simply attach the new node and the storage infrastructure is rebalanced automatically to take advantage of the newly available resource. Commodity products are also typically faster to deploy than proprietary ones — further reducing disruption — because there are a lot more people trained to do it. SDS infrastructures can also self-heal so individual nodes or even an entire data center can go offline and your data will still be available if there are enough other nodes available.

Flexibility. Something else you can’t do with conventional NAS, but can with SDS, is to dynamically configure the storage to suit your specific requirements. SDS provides many options in areas such as technology (SSD vs. disk), data (S3, SMB, NFS), authentication (Active Directory, LDAP), connectivity, power load, and more.

Data Accessibility. This is why you back up in the first place. Having the data presented how and where you want it, on the hardware you want. And by protecting it in a self-healing environment that is properly scaled and configured for the organization’s workload means that the backup is highly accessible at all times.

So Choose Wisely
Many organizations today would like their IT environments to become as cloud-like as possible — which, of course, is why many are moving to the public cloud in the first place. But making the public cloud your backup solution can actually make backup less cloud-like. That is also true if you pick the wrong private cloud solution — because not all SDS vendors can enable a true private cloud.

Cloud Backup Solution

Unlike Scality, most providers don’t offer all the benefits listed above. They don’t all allow the ability to mix and match standard hardware, or to mix and match object types (so you can run Amazon S3 workloads interchangeably with conventional file formats). Nor does software-defined storage always mean (as it does with Scality) policy-based software-defined storage — so, for example, different durability requirements and overhead ratios are enforced automatically. Nor do they offer Scality’s robust ecosystem, including a select group of ISVs that can work with you to ensure proper configuration, tuning and performance of workloads. Then, of course, there’s the whole issue of support — as in which providers are recognized by industry analysts, like Gartner Group and IDC, as leaders in customer service.

That is why so many organizations not only want the benefits of cloud backup; they want those cloud benefits delivered onsite; and they choose Scality to provide them.

If you’re interested in upgrading your backup storage capabilities and haven’t been convinced yet, check out the modern Backup eBook and see for yourself.

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