Microsoft Azure StorSimple Gets Virtual Array To Do Big Data In Cloud

Microsoft has updated its StorSimple appliance-based data protection service for its Azure public cloud with a virtual appliance that can be used to add value to data in the cloud, as well as a higher-capacity, on-premise appliance with standby virtual machines for disaster recovery.

The expansion of the Microsoft StorSimple offering, based on technology Microsoft got with its 2012 acquisition of StorSimple, makes it easier for users of Microsoft's Azure public cloud to do big data analytics and other value-added solutions, said Mike Schutz, Microsoft general manager for cloud platform products marketing.

"It aligns extremely well with our vision of how cloud computing will be used for many years," Schutz told CRN. "That vision is the hybrid cloud. A SAN on premise tiered to Azure for snapshots and archiving."

[Related: Microsoft To Acquire StorSimple, Brings Competitive Edge To Cloud Storage Business]

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The new offering, termed Microsoft Azure StorSimple, features an on-premise hardware appliance for handling backups and restores locally at high speed while integrating with the Azure public cloud for cloud-based primary, archive, backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

Microsoft's acquisition of StorSimple led to a boom in the number of customers implementing the technology, said Jeff Eiben, executive vice president of business development at River Port Technology. The Pittsburg-based solution provider is a Microsoft partner that also counted StorSimple as a vendor before it was acquired.

"We saw a lot more activity but not a lot of change in the StorSimple solution after the acquisition," Eiben told CRN. "A lot of people came to the StorSimple table because of Microsoft. Unit volume rose significantly. It worked out well."

Microsoft this week unveiled the StorSimple Virtual Appliance, a version of the StorSimple appliance that runs as a virtual machine in the Azure cloud.

"Customers can use the StorSimple Virtual Appliance to get to data without using the hardware appliance for things like test-dev and data analysis," Schutz said. "They can also use it for disaster recovery."

The StorSimple Virtual Appliance is an option to the Microsoft Azure StorSimple solution. Customers pay for the option as needed, with pricing based on the use of the data and the amount of data accessed, Schutz said.

Eiben called the StorSimple Virtual Appliance a significant addition to the StorSimple solution.

NEXT: Using The Microsoft StorSimple Virtual Appliance For Big Data In The Cloud

"I've been waiting for it for a couple years," he said. "It completes the data analytics part of the solution. Customers can push big data through StorSimple to Azure and analyze it there via Microsoft HDInsight Hadoop technology. The virtual appliance lets the app run in the cloud to lower the cost."

The StorSimple Virtual Appliance adds the flexibility to handle big data in the cloud, Eiben said.

"With big data, you never know how big the data set is," he said. "You may need 10 nodes or 1,000 nodes. Virtual appliances provide flexibility. Without them, you'd have to pull the data back down from the cloud and run analytics on premise."

The virtual appliance adds significant value to Azure, Eiben said. "Azure is not just for backups," he said. "It lets customers leverage the fact that their data is on the cloud."

Microsoft also unveiled a new line of hardware appliances, the Azure StorSimple 8000 series hybrid storage arrays, to improve access to the Azure cloud.

The new appliances come in two versions.

The StorSimple 8100 features 15 TBs of local storage capacity and up to 75 TBs of effective local capacity after compression and deduplication. They also include 800 GBs of flash storage capacity. Customers can use them with the Azure cloud to access up to 200 TBs of capacity.

The StorSimple 8600 features a local storage capacity of 40 TBs, or up to 200 TBs after compression and deduplication, along with 2 TBs of flash storage capacity. With the cloud, they can be used to access up to 500 TBs of capacity.

Specifications for the StorSimple appliances can be found at Seagate's Website, where it is noted that they are built and distributed by Xyratex, which in December was acquired by Seagate.

The new Microsoft Azure StorSimple solution is slated to be available on August 1.