Zadara Blog

News, information, opinion and commentary on issues affecting enterprise data storage and management.

Bring Cold Object Storage to Your Private Cloud

In today’s computing environment, more and more companies are beginning to work with massive datasets, ranging into the hundreds of petabytes and beyond. Whether it’s big data analytics, high-definition video, or internet-of-things applications, the necessity for companies to handle large amounts of data in their daily operations continues to grow.

Historically, enterprises have managed their data as a hierarchy of files. But this approach is simply inadequate for efficiently handling the huge datasets that are becoming more and more common today. For example, public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, that must service many thousands of users simultaneously, would quickly become intolerably unresponsive if every user data request meant having to traverse the folders and subfolders of multiple directory trees to find and collect the information needed for a response.

That’s why modern public cloud platforms, and other users of big data, use object storage in place of older file systems. And as the use of private clouds grows, they too are employing object storage to meet the challenges of efficiently handling large amounts of data.

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What Is Object Storage?

With object storage, there is no directory tree or folders. Instead, there is a flat global namespace that allows each unit of stored data, called an object, to be directly addressed.

Each object contains not only data, but also metadata that describes the data, and a global ID number that uniquely identifies that object. This allows every object in the storage system, no matter where it might be physically stored, to be quickly retrieved simply by providing its unique identifier.

Why Object Storage is Well Suited To Private Clouds

When it comes to handling massive datasets in a cloud environment, object storage has a number of unique advantages. Let’s take a look at some of these:

  • It’s infinitely scalable. Because of its flat namespace, an object storage system can theoretically be scaled without limitation simply by adding objects, each with its own unique ID.
  • Metadata makes searching easy. The metadata that accompanies each object provides critical information about the object’s data, making it easy to search for and retrieve needed data quickly and efficiently without having to analyze the data itself.
  • It’s highly robust and reliable. The VPSA Object Storage differs from a traditional RAID redundant storage using a distributed “Ring” topology policy under the hood.  Zadara Object store allows for a 2-way or 3-way replication as options which the customers can choose at creation time. By the use of erasure coding (instead of RAID) to achieve continuous and efficient replication of data across multiple nodes, an object storage system automatically backs data up, and can quickly rebuild data that is destroyed or corrupted. Nodes can be added or removed at will, and the system uses Swift’s underlying Ring replication to ensure that new objects are incorporated, or removed ones are rebuilt, automatically and transparently.
  • It simplifies storage management. The metadata of an object can contain as much (or as little) information about the data as desired. For example, it could specify where the object is to be stored, which applications will use it, the date when it should be deleted, or what level of data security is required. Having this degree of detail available for every object allows much of the data management task to be automated in software.
  • It lowers costs. Object storage systems don’t require expensive specialized storage appliances, but are designed for use with low-cost commodity disk drives.

storage arrays in cloud

Zadara VPSA Object Storage

Zadara offers an object storage solution that incorporates all the advantages discussed above, and then some. VPSA Object Storage is specifically designed for use with private as well as public clouds. It is especially suited to storing relatively static data such as big data or multimedia files, or for archiving data of any type. VPSA Object Storage provides anytime, anywhere, any-device remote access (with appropriate access controls) via HTTP.

The VPSA Object Storage solution, which is Amazon S3 and OpenStack Swift compatible, features frequent, incremental, snapshot-based, automatic data backup to object-based storage, eliminating the need to have separate backup software running on the host.

If you would like to explore how Zadara VPSA Object Storage can help boost your company’s private cloud, please contact us.

October 10, 2017

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Why Companies Adopt Both Public and Private Clouds

More and more companies are basing significant portions of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey of IT professionals, a full 95 percent of respondents said that their companies have adopted the cloud as an integral part of their IT operations. For some of those companies, the focus is on the public cloud; for others it’s on an in-house private cloud. The majority make use of both public and private clouds.

What is it about public and private clouds that causes so many companies to be drawn to them? Let’s take a look at the benefits each of these cloud models offer to businesses today.

The Benefits of the Cloud

It was not that long ago that the standard approach to IT in most companies was to build and maintain their own in-house datacenters. But the cloud computing model has brought about a fundamental shift in the way businesses seek to meet their IT needs. No longer must companies devote scarce capital (CapEx) funds to the purchase of their own servers, storage, and networking hardware. Instead, the cloud model encourages them to purchase IT services on a pay-as-you-go basis for a monthly fee.

Customers pay only for the services that they actually use. The cloud platform provider is responsible to acquire, support, and upgrade the required hardware and software as necessary, and to ensure that a sufficient amount of these resources is always available to allow on-demand provisioning and scaling. The result is that the cloud model offers companies lower overall costs, greater flexibility and agility, rapid deployment of applications, and a substantial reduction in the amount of expert staff required to manage the organization’s IT infrastructure.

How Public and Private Clouds Differ From One Another

public and private clouds cross streets

Public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are, as the name implies, open to everyone. They operate on a multi-tenancy model in which hardware and software resources are shared among a number of different customers. This allows the public cloud to realize economies of scale that drive down costs for all users.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are built on a single-tenancy model. That means they are devoted exclusively to one customer, and there is no sharing of resources. Private clouds can be implemented either in a company’s on-premises datacenter using its own hardware, in an external facility run by a trusted partner such as a managed services provider (MSP), or even, in some cases, with dedicated resources in the facilities of a public cloud provider. The key is that a private cloud is isolated to a single customer, and there is no intermingling of that customer’s hardware/software resources or data with those of other customers.

Advantages of the Public Cloud

Because of its large multi-tenant user base, a public cloud platform can normally provide IT services at a lower cost than a private cloud could achieve. Costs are also reduced by the fact that customers have no responsibility for purchasing, housing, supporting, or managing hardware. The result is that workloads can be deployed on a public cloud platform more quickly and inexpensively than would be the case with a private cloud.

Advantages of a Private Cloud

cloud in chains protected for data protection

The main driver in the decision of many companies to make use of a private cloud is the desire to retain maximum control over business-critical data. Although public clouds now provide the highest levels of data protection, the multi-tenant nature of such platforms, and the fact that they are designed to allow access by users around the world, presents a level of perceived vulnerability that many companies are not comfortable with. Plus, businesses in certain industries face strict regulatory compliance obligations, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). With a private cloud, all of a company’s data can remain safely hidden behind the organization’s own firewall, totally inaccessible to outsiders.

The ability to tailor a private cloud to the exact requirements of a company’s specific workloads may also provide performance advantages over what could be achieved with a public cloud platform.

The Zadara Storage Solution Spans Both Public and Private Cloud Platforms

The Zadara Storage Cloud provides a common storage solution for both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays support each of the major public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). They also form the basis of many private cloud implementations. The Zadara Storage architecture also provides resource isolation, so users gain the benefits of multi-tenant public clouds, but with the security and predictable performance of a private cloud. Whether they use the public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two, Zadara customers receive all the benefits of the cloud model, including paying a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use. And Zadara takes on the responsibility to monitor and support the customer’s storage, whether on-site or in the public cloud.

If you would like to know more about how Zadara can help you develop a comprehensive cloud solution for your company, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 13, 2017

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How MSPs Can Offer Managed Private Clouds To Customers

MSPs have built their businesses on offering a suite of standard IT services to their customers. But now many of those customers have begun migrating to the cloud, and taking advantage of the unique services the cloud model offers. That should be a warning flag for traditional MSPs. With much of their customer base moving to the cloud, those MSPs that don’t offer their own set of cloud-based services in a managed private cloud risk being left behind.

Still, although companies are moving to the cloud in large numbers, many are not yet ready to totally commit their applications and data to public cloud platforms. Some are concerned about the security of their data in a multi-tenant environment. Others have performance requirements that, due to inherent latency effects, the public cloud has difficulty meeting. Whatever the cause may be, these companies desire to keep at least a portion of their workloads under their direct control.

Yet, the benefits of the cloud model are too compelling to forego. That’s what is leading a growing number of companies to implement private clouds, which can provide most of the benefits of the cloud model in an exclusive, single-tenant environment.

However, managing a sophisticated cloud platform is not a trivial task. Doing so requires a level of expertise that many companies lack. And that’s where opportunity lies for forward-looking MSPs.

Most companies contemplating use of a private cloud simply lack the internal resources necessary to set up, manage, and support an in-house cloud environment. MSPs that can supply that kind of expertise and take the cloud management load off their customers’ backs can carve out an important and secure role for themselves. In other words, MSPs that offer their customers managed private clouds can keep themselves on track to survive and even thrive as the corporate IT environment becomes more and more cloud-centric.

What Is a Managed Private Cloud?

A managed private cloud is, first of all, a private cloud – that is, a fully functional cloud platform that is implemented in a completely private environment with a single tenant rather than the multiple tenants that characterize the public cloud. Although they are entirely dedicated to a single customer, these clouds are managed by third parties, and their physical resources, such as servers, storage, and networking devices, may reside either on the customer’s premises, or in the facilities of the cloud manager.

How MSPs Can Implement Managed Private Clouds

A cloud is really just a wide array of computing services delivered to customers through internet connections. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines it this way:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud services are made available through what is called a “stack,” which is simply a broad range of resources that are conceptually built on top of one another.

managed private cloud data storage

The capabilities of a cloud platform are defined by its stack. In fact, a cloud’s stack is often referred to as its operating system. That’s the way the OpenStack Foundation views its own free offering, which is probably the stack most widely used to implement private clouds today:

“OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface.”

OpenStack is one of several open source products available to MSPs for building managed private clouds for their customers. Others include CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and OpenNebula. In addition, some of the major public clouds are beginning to make their proprietary stacks available to private cloud builders. For example, Microsoft is offering its Azure Stack, providing access to the same APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and tool sets that characterize the Azure public cloud.

Because these stacks and their APIs are well documented, MSPs that desire to do so should be able to develop in-depth familiarity with one or more of these offerings. By combining that expertise with their traditional strengths in areas such as 24/7/365 monitoring and support, and enterprise-level backup/restore/disaster recovery, MSPs will be well positioned to provide critically important services for customers who need a managed private cloud.

MSPs Should Work With Knowledgeable Partners

chalkboard writing about partner

One way for an MSP to reduce the level of cloud-specific knowledge required of its own staff is to work with partners that already possess that kind of expertise. For example, Zadara Storage is well familiar with the intricacies of both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), among others. The same technology is available for use with on-premises private clouds at customer sites.

When its VPSA Storage Arrays are used in private clouds, Zadara takes on the responsibility to remotely operate, monitor, maintain, and upgrade storage hardware and software as necessary. By working with a partner such as Zadara, an MSP can substantially reduce the amount of time and dedicated expert staff required to support its customers, while still providing the highest levels of service.

If you’d like to know more about how Zadara can help you provide managed private clouds to your customers, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 22, 2017

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Developing Your Multi-Cloud Strategy

 

laptop on desk cloud

If your company is like most, sooner or later you are going to be involved with multi-cloud computing. The RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey reveals that 85 percent of enterprises already have a multi-cloud strategy, and the percentage is increasing every year. According to Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, the future of corporate IT is clear: “All enterprises will use multiple cloud providers, and they must plan for how they will operate in a multi-cloud environment.”

If your business doesn’t yet have a thoroughly thought out multi-cloud strategy, it’s time to start developing one.

Why You Need a Multi-cloud Strategy

Although all the major public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offer a full range of cloud services, they still differ from one another in significant ways. As Navica’s Bernard Golden puts it, “Each cloud provider implements core computing functionality quite differently, and each offers quite different services within each category.” For example, Microsoft’s Azure is a natural for deploying Windows client apps, while when it comes to data storage, AWS offers a breadth of services the other platforms don’t yet match.

Guiding Principles for a Good Multi-Cloud Strategy

writing in clouds principles

Perhaps the most vital principle for managing a multi-cloud environment is that the entire system must be managed as a single entity. Although each cloud platform has its own native management console, users should never be required to use different procedures for each cloud – and they certainly shouldn’t be expected to log into different clouds depending on the application they may be running. Administrators should be able to manage the functionality of the system through a “single pane of glass” interface that doesn’t change depending on which cloud platform is providing a particular set of services or applications.

Assess Your Environment

The core of a good multi-cloud strategy is matching workloads with the platforms best able to run them efficiently and cost effectively. That means having a good understanding of the operational characteristics of the workloads you currently run. So, in developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll want to start by doing a comprehensive assessment of your current environment, taking note of factors such as data protection needs, performance demands, and the particular services required by each workload.

Prepare Your Organization

In developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll need to assess not just your workloads, but your IT organization as well. Although users may not need to be aware of which cloud is actually servicing their applications, your IT staff will need to know. In fact, they’ll need to have the platform-specific expertise required to develop, install and manage workloads in each cloud. As Mary McCoy, Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum puts it, “IT organizations need to develop deep skills in each of the cloud providers they will use.”

That means your multi-cloud strategy should include provisions for either training your own staff, or for partnering with a third party services provider that can provide the required expertise.

Develop Your Data Protection Strategy

data protection in the cloud

One of the most vital components of your multi-cloud strategy will be defining how data protection will be enacted across clouds and for the system as a whole. While each cloud platform may have its own approach to data protection, it is absolutely critical that your organization’s data access, backup/restore, security, and regulatory compliance policies be uniformly applied across the system. Take extreme care that in attempting to mesh the security approaches of different clouds you don’t open unforeseen holes that aggressive intruders can take advantage of.

Develop Policies

A major foundation for implementing a viable multi-cloud approach is the use of software-defined storage. Only with SDS can the environment be managed through software from a single point of control. The SDS software, in turn, is guided by a set of policy directives developed by administrators that define how the system as a whole, as well as each individual component, should function. Your multi-cloud plan should specify the overall guidelines that will be applied when your policies are developed in detail.

Simplify Your Multi-Cloud Environment

The key to a successful multi-cloud implementation is being able to manage a complex system encompassing different cloud platforms, each with its own distinct characteristics, as a single entity. That can only be accomplished by instituting a software-defined environment that is guided by well thought out policy directives.

The Zadara Storage Cloud is a good example of an SDS solution that facilitates that kind of unified control. With Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays installed both at customer sites and in the facilities of major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP, intercommunication and data transfer between clouds can be managed automatically and transparently through software. Functions such as remote replication, mirroring, and application failover between clouds can be applied system-wide without users having to be concerned with the specific protocols of each platform.

If you’d like to know more about how the multi-cloud capabilities of the Zadara Storage Cloud can work for you, please download our Getting Great Performance in the Cloud white paper.

August 16, 2017

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5 Tips for Preventing a Cyber Attack at Your Enterprise

Preventing a cyber attack should be one of, if not the main goal of your IT department. Your press releases need to focus on things like your outstanding awards, exciting new product lines, and the addition of stellar new industry talent to your roster. You don’t want to be issuing press releases trying to explain how you leaked 1,500 customer identities or allowed other sensitive data to be exposed to the deep recesses of the Dark Web (like the much feared and dreaded Panama Papers) — or worse, published on the searchable Internet at large (Sony and Ashley Madison ring any bells?).

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June 29, 2016

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4 Steps to Securing Your Hybrid Cloud Solution & Business Cloud Storage

Of all the business cloud storage configurations possible, the hybrid cloud has gained popularity more rapidly than either private or public clouds. The private cloud can be costlier, not just in terms of acquiring the hardware and such, but also in terms of the time and effort it takes to manage and maintain. The public cloud is typically the cheaper and easier option, but may come with questions regarding whether these options comply with industry and/or federal and state regulations and how secure and transparent these cloud services are. That drives businesses to opt for the hybrid cloud solution, which gives you the power to keep your most sensitive and closely-guarded data under your own roof, while taking advantage of the low-cost and convenience of the public cloud for less sensitive and unregulated data. What are some ways to securing your hybrid cloud solution?

1. Be Wise About What Data Goes Where


The hybrid cloud allows you to keep your most closely-guarded data in-house, while taking advantage of the low-cost and easy storage solutions provided by the public cloud for less sensitive data.

Before you think about securing your hybrid cloud solution, you need to know that all data is not created equally. Some data is regulated and other data may be closely guarded because it contains proprietary information. Decide what data goes where based on its type and your cloud storage strategy. To ensure the highest levels of protection in the public cloud, look for solutions that provide full-encryption (both at-rest and in-flight) as well as potentatially “resource isolation” to ensure your data is not stored on the same drives as other companies. Ideally, you will keep as much data as possible in the lower-cost public cloud, and leverage the in-house private cloud for the data sets that are required to be within your four walls and behind your own firewall.

2. Build in Redundancy

There are two types of hardware: the kind that has failed, and the kind that will eventually fail. Both your public and private cloud solutions must include hardware and data redundancies so that when those hardware failures do occur, the incidents don’t lead to data loss. While some of the redundancy can be achieved via backup, regular backups are often incomplete and don’t include things like archived or seldom-accessed data, system configurations, security settings, and such. Be sure that redundancies exist for all the data, multiple copies in fact, and that there is no single point of failure. Ideally, there won’t even be double points of failure that could cause complete, irrecoverable data loss.

3. Start With Compliance & Supplement with Smart Policy

Regulatory compliance is a good starting place to securing your hybrid cloud solution, but never stop there. On top of the layers of security you build for compliance, you will also want to add additional layers according to the priorities and goals of the business and the IT department. Be sure your redundancies, backups, and other points of vulnerability are kept to the same level of security protocols that your primary data stores are.

4. Look for a Transparent Public Cloud Partnership


Look for a public cloud partner that you can build an open, honest relationship with. Find one with an excellent track record in security who is 100% serious about keeping that good reputation.

It is essential to partner with a public cloud service provider that you can trust. How much visibility do you have into their side of the storage equation? How transparent are their processes, procedures, policies, and protocols? Also, how secure can you make the touchpoints between your public and private cloud environments? Partner with a business cloud storage provider that has a stellar record for security, offers top notch encryption, and is open and transparent about their end of securing your hybrid cloud solution.

In addition to storage security, you will also need to assure that your business cloud storage solution provides optimal performance. Learn how to achieve this when you download our free Getting Great Performance in the Cloud whitepaper.

June 28, 2016

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Secure Cloud Storage: How Secure is Your Cloud Data?

What is the most valuable asset of your company? Is it the office building, the chairs, the furniture, or perhaps the computers and laptops on employees’ desks? Is it the people? For most enterprises, none of these things are at the heart of the business. Instead, the value of a company is in the intellectual property (IP) it owns and that translates directly to information or data.

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November 9, 2015

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Tackling Enterprise Cloud Compliance and Security with…Storage

Following my presentation at Cloud Expo: The Cloud Needs to Look More Like the Data Center, I contributed the following article ‘Storage: You Once Were the Weakest Link’ to Cloud Computing Journal, describing why storage challenges in the cloud had arisen from critical business concerns and kept enterprises from migrating their applications to the cloud.

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January 7, 2014

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Zadara Cloud Block Storage security


Introduction

Surveys reveal time and again that cloud storage security and data protection concerns are the top barriers to adoption.

At Zadara™ Storage we take these concerns seriously and have made security an integral part of our storage offering. We have architected security into our system and software from the ground up.

With multiple layers of security, our customers can enjoy full, end-to-end data privacy and protection, from Zadara’s physical storage infrastructure all the way to customers’ Cloud Servers. Let me outline our cloud storage security integration at every level:

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October 2, 2012

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