Microsoft Azure
StorSimple Goes Virtual

The Microsoft StorSimple Virtual Array

SoftwareONe Expert Henrik Motzkus spoke with SoftwareONE Newsroom not long ago to explain what makes Microsoft StorSimple such a great option to get started in the hybrid storage cloud . Companies with an Enterprise Agreement for Microsoft Azure have been able to access a virtual version since March: Microsoft StorSimple Virtual Array. It can also be operated on VMware or Hyper V. Henrik Motzkus takes us on a tour.

For whom is StorSimple Virtual Array a sensible option?

StorSimple Virtual Array by Microsoft is a good idea for companies operating a distributed IT infrastructure that need to remain agile. The IT departments in many companies want to control backup & recovery, also as a disaster scenario, from a central location. But frequently a long-term investment in hardware is not the ideal option, especially if the company is in a phase of dynamic growth. This is where StorSimple Virtual Array steps in.

The benefits are obvious. The solution is:

  • agile,
  • extremely cost-efficient,
  • very flexible,
  • easy to administrate, and
  • delivers a stack of features and application scenarios, combined with Microsoft Azure Cloud

What does the solution look like from a technical perspective?

First of all, it’s important to bear in mind that unlike its big brother – the hardware appliance StorSimple – StorSimple Virtual Array is not merely available in iSCSI protocol and it can also handle SMB protocol. This means it can slip seamlessly into the existing IT file services while still delivering exactly the same benefits as its larger sibling.

Any DFS concept the company operates can easily accommodate the StorSimple Virtual Array.
The StorSimple Virtual Array delivers additional oomph when thrown into the mix with the Microsoft Azure Cloud services:

  • The Backup Vault integrated in Azure enables backup and recovery of the data stored in StorSimple Virtual Array.
  • Failover to a reserve array can therefore be executed at the push of a button in the event of a disaster.
  • If necessary this can be handled automatically using the Azure Automation service, as required
  • The following functions provided by the big brother are also available in the virtual array:
    • Local pinned volumes
    • Authorization
    • Encryption
  • Connections are established exclusively from internal to external, which is bound to please the IT security officer.

Requirements

The StorSimple Virtual Array merely requires the following virtualization platforms:

  • Hyper-V (2008, 2012, 2012 R2) or
  • VMware (5.5 and onwards) 

In addition, the VM should have the following performance specs:

  • 8 GB RAM
  • 4 cores
  • 500 GB local disk storage for the operating system and the cache

Which architectures does this enable?

The Azure Blob storage is the most important element in the architecture. Users need to register a storage account in Azure in order to create the volume containers and the volumes there. The storage account adjusts the redundancy settings (e.g. GRS, LRS) to define Blob storage availability. The virtual array draws on this storage to deposit suitable data blocks.

The StorSimple manager is the central management tool used to administer all StorSimple installations; it is accessed exclusively via a web browser, and therefore does not require installation of any local management tools.

Microsoft Azure Cloud and StorSimple Manager

The Microsoft Azure cloud provides other high-performance services as well. This way the data currently located in the cloud will remain fully available. The data is kept in so-called cloud snapshots in Azure Cloud, which allows access to the data via the virtual appliance. This is a particularly handy feature if the data is to be processed in another application, for instance Hadoop. 

Possible use case

StorSimple Virtual Array is operated mainly as a file solution in branches that do not have their own IT staff on the ground. This environment cannot work without central management, which is provided by the StorSimple manager. There is no reason why an additional VM with virtual array cannot be used if a virtualized Branch server is already installed at the location.

Summary

I believe that the virtual array by Microsoft is yet another beautifully lean answer to a problem that vendors otherwise tend to address quite heavy-handedly with extremely complex solutions. What’s more, the StorSimple Virtual Array is a hybrid solution that is wonderfully suited as a bridgehead to the brave new world of the cloud.

  • Tuesday 10 May 2016

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