Cloud Storage Horror Stories Got You Spooked? Get Your Data Center Cloud Ready Now

Cloud computing helps companies hide, intelligently allocate and take control of their IT infrastructure while also supplying users with the appropriate levels of application availability and performance. But, with this flexibility comes the inherent risks. One of the most pronounced risks is protecting the application data stored in the cloud because if you don’t, cloud storage horror stories are sure to follow

This was brought clearly into focus a couple of weeks ago with the drama surrounding the status of the Sidekick data hosted by Microsoft. While the Sidekick data once thought to be permanently lost now appears to be on its way to recovery, the up to one million affected Sidekick users are not enjoying this drama as it plays out at all. If anything, it illustrates why data protection in the cloud should be a top priority for enterprises and service providers as outages create angry customers and result in lost revenue, current and future.

Yet protecting and recovering data in the cloud is problematic as the storage on which the data resides can be spread across multiple locations. This makes it difficult to keep the data in synch in the first place as synchronous mirroring (writing the data to both local and remote sites at the same time) is really not an option either as mirroring data over long distances can negatively impact application performance.

What are available are multi-site, multi-node options that offer zero I/O loss and enable fast recovery over long distances. But there is a catch. These multi-site, multi-node options are only available from high-end, monolithic storage arrays that come with high price tags, require substantial amounts of professional services to deploy and lengthy deployment windows. This often makes it impossible for cloud providers to consider these solutions when the costs and time are factored in.

In response to these new requirements, 3PAR today announced its new “Ready” technology that is geared towards helping data centers further bulletproof the data they store in the cloud. By using 3PAR InServ Storage Servers and its “Ready” technology as the backbone for their storage cloud, it can handle the workload and capacity associated with any applications that an organization chooses to host in the cloud as well as keep it fully protected and provide a disaster recovery strategy. Examples of the new capabilities that 3PAR’s “Ready” technology offers includes:

  • Extends 3PAR’s InServ Storage Server’s Remote Copy Capabilities. In addition to existing synchronous mode and asynchronous periodic mode in its Remote Copy software, 3PAR now offers a third remote copy mode that links these two modes and provides long distance remote copy functionality without any I/O loss in a disaster scenario. Using this mode, a volume can be mirrored synchronously and asynchronously at the same time.

Using 3PAR’s existing synch and asynch replication modes, Primary site A may synchronously copy to site B and asynchronously copy to site C. With this new mode, site B will keep track of the asynchronous snapshots occurring at site C. If there is a failure at the primary site A, site B will then push all the I/O since the last snapshot that occurred at site C. This allows site C to quickly catch up to the last acknowledged I/O of the primary site.

More impressively, this can working over distances of up to 3,000 miles without adding special extenders or converters to facilitate the long distance replication, deployment has been simplified to the point that professional services are an unnecessary expense, and organizations can mix and match 3PAR’s enterprise and midrange arrays. For instance, organizations could deploy an InServ T800 at the primary site and then a smaller InServ F400 at the secondary site. This provides businesses a multi-site DR at half the cost of other solutions in a fraction of the time.

  • Eliminates Write-through Mode during Controller Failures. A controller or cache board failure on a storage array will typically result in a loss of half of the computing resources as well as a loss of the write cache. On the application side, this can have up to a 70% performance impact on the storage system and drastically affect application service levels.

To keep this from occurring on 3PAR’s, 3PAR’s new persistent cache will re-mirror itself across the surviving nodes. The write cache (the dirty cache that has not been flushed to disk) then gets re-mirrored so the application servers can continue to drive I/O to the array without the array going into write-through mode or compromising service levels.

Persistent Cache, in combination with the Mesh-Active controller architecture, means greater assurance that application and virtual machine service levels can be cost-effectively maintained, no matter what the circumstances.  While the configuration does require four controllers, all of 3PAR’s T-Class arrays as well as its midrange F-Class F400 array support four controllers (or more).

  • RAID MP. 3PAR’s new RAID MP (Multi-Parity) is based on Fast RAID 6 and Rapid RAID Rebuild technology within its Gen 2 ASIC. Like traditional RAID 6, RAID MP protects against double disk failure but the cool thing about RAID MP is that its overhead is the same as RAID 5 3+1 in the 6+2 mode and it also gives users increased performance (it comes within about 15% of RAID 10), while removing some of the rebuild time concerns that come with large capacity SATA disk drives.

Once again 3PAR is extending the capabilities of its InServ Storage Servers into areas that are top of mind among data center architects moving into cloud computing with solution objectives aimed at avoiding Sidekick-like scenarios. These latest advances in 3PAR’s InServ Storage Servers effectively deliver more robust service level protection and DR for cloud storage providers that were unattainable and unaffordable for many enterprises and service providers. By making data protection and disaster recovery an integral part of their cloud storage solution as 3PAR now provides, enterprises and cloud storage providers are better able to address design objectives aimed at avoiding the potential for Sidekick horror stories of their own.

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