IT organizations are increasingly moving towards true hybrid cloud environments in which both on and off premises data storage solutions are being leveraged. As IT organizations look to make this transition from a traditional environment to a more fluid, hybrid cloud approach, many vendors have sought out the opportunity to expand their product portfolios to be inclusive of this trend.
Evaluator Group has recently reviewed the competitive product offerings across SAN, NAS, and Data Protection areas to evaluate their offerings with hybrid cloud trends in mind.
The ability for an organization to tier data to the cloud has become a key functionality in a hybrid cloud strategy. Evaluator Group has found that around half of vendors are now offering cloud tiering functionality without the use of an external gateway in their products*. This functionality is achieved through LUNs or snapshots for block storage, and files or filesystems for NAS storage. Cloud tiering functionality appears to have been prioritized for high-end and mid-range systems, with almost no cloud tiering support found in entry-level products.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon Web Services was found to be the most common public cloud with close to all of the cloud tiering functions offering it as a target. Microsoft Azure is also available as a supported public cloud option for a majority of offerings. Google Cloud Platform appears as an option as well for some vendors, often as a more recent update, however it is not as prevalent as its Amazon and Microsoft competitors. A few products offer support to other clouds such as Oracle and Alibaba, and most products offer support for on-premises object storage. These trends mirror what has been seen in the overarching competition in cloud offerings, with AWS and Azure dominating the market. A more detailed view of supported clouds by product can be seen in Evaluator Group’s Comparison Matrices.
As it is with all data storage, data security is an important piece to the cloud tiering puzzle. As noted the Evaluator Group Research Study: Hybrid Cloud Storage for the Enterprise, security is a top concern for IT organizations who are considering using cloud storage, and vendors have made sure to address this in their cloud tiering functions. In virtually all of the supported offerings, encryption is supported both for data in-flight and at-rest, with many of the vendors using AES-256 as their preferred encryption algorithm. Although almost all data is encrypted, under half of the vendors offer support for external key managers, while the rest only support internal key management.
With increasingly virtualized workloads and growing interest into container technologies such as Docker, the storage world has found itself looking for answers to support persistent storage for containers. While containers have been a growing trend in the IT industry, many storage vendors have yet to adapt. Container support is limited from most vendors, and few are readily providing information on their approach to containerization. Vendors who were found to offer container support include: IBM, NetApp, Pure Storage, Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi, and Tintri.
For those products that do offer container support, FlexVolumes or CSI (Container Storage Interface) are the leading options to enable persistent storage. As a newer solution, CSI intends to be a less complicated approach to FlexVolumes and will likely be the preferred option going forward. Currently, vendors are mostly split between the two options, with slightly more utilization of CSI in high-end systems, and a more even split between CSI and FlexVolumes distributed across mid-range systems.
Hybrid cloud environments are a growing trend in the industry and will likely see continued adoption. This has created a competitive issue for vendors to provide cloud tiering capabilities. Evaluator Group expects that nearly all vendors will offer support for cloud tiering by the end of the year. AWS and Azure will continue to be the most commonly supported clouds; however, it is likely that more vendors will continue to add GCP and other cloud platforms to create a more competitive offering.
Currently support for containers is not highly available, nor highly mentioned by storage vendors, however an increased push to utilize Docker and other container technologies will eventually push container support into being regarded as a critical feature. As demand for container support grows, more vendors will likely be addressing this. Evaluator Group sees CSI as the superior option for providing container support and expects most vendors to move towards a CSI solution in the future.
*Vendors include: IBM, NetApp, Pure Storage, Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi, Cohesity, Tintri, WekaIO, FalconStor, Commvault, Igneous Systems, and Rubrik