Backup, Cloud Storage Gateways, and the AWS Storage Gateway

Sometimes I get asked about cloud storage gateway vendors and backup. Typically, this is approached in a casual kind of way – primarily because the claims that the vendors make that they can “replace backup” are pretty transparently false to network administrators. That doesn’t mean that cloud gateways aren’t useful – they can be extremely useful in terms of providing a file server with some type of cloud-based replication. But typically the expense makes it a difficult proposition – coupled with limitations in SMB with respect to WAN speed. But what drives the nail in the heart of the credibility of storage vendors – and by that I mean not only cloud-based vendors but SAN and NAS vendors – is what I like to call the “we consume the universe” theory. No single technology 100% dominants any environment.

With that as the backdrop, I thought that the AWS Storage Gateway announcement by Amazon was fascinating. It’s a VMware-based virtual machine installed locally and then accessed locally via iSCSI (note: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5), Windows 7, and Windows 2008 iSCSI initiators are supported).

Much like a SAN (and some NASs), you can perform a snapshot of your data. Snapshots aren’t backup, but they are useful when used with backup in order to reduce your RPO (Recovery Point Objective.) We have a ton of customers who use snapshots with backup, and there’s no reason you can’t do this here as well.

One of the cooler things about this is that you can migrate your data to an EBS (Elastic Block Storage for you folks not familiar with Amazon, which is a layer of storage built upon Amazon’s REST-based S3 – or Simple Storage Service.) This has all sorts of cloudbursting potential applications.

Pricing is $125/month for the gateway and then data transfer fees on top of that range from $12 per 100GB (if you do up to 10TB a month) to $5 (if you do over 350TB a month), which is more reasonable than most. The gateway itself requires some non-trivial hardware – VMware on 4 virtual processors and 7.5GB of dedicated RAM to the VM .


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