Trends in Cloud Storage

Coraid recently announced that it had released support for SanDisk Optimus 1.6 TB, serial-attached SCSI (SAS), solid-state drives (SSDs) on the Coraid EtherDrive SRX6000 storage appliances. Targeting these storage appliances at datacenters and cloud storage applications, Coraid claims that they now offer five times the IOPS compared to previous-generation products (delivering more than 700,000 IOPS per enclosure).

It took a little while, but I was finally able to catch up with Coraid’s senior director of product marketing, Suda Srinivasan, to discuss the new developments on this product, and what brought them about.

When I asked about the ongoing and upcoming trends in cloud storage, Srinivasan reflected on the infrastructure being used to build out solutions. He sees a shift away from traditional, controller-based, scale-up architectures and a move towards a building-block approach to storage. “The cloud environment is inherently dynamic and less predictable because customers want to be able to run different workloads on shared infrastructure and grow on demand,” he told me. “Traditional storage architectures are not suited for this.”

He notes a growing trend for cloud builders to use storage solutions that are based on commodity hardware and intelligent software instead of proprietary hardware solutions. Srinivasan reports that open-source storage software technologies, such as Swift and Ceph, that use direct-attached storage, are also growing in popularity because of their capital expense advantages.

To support these trends, cloud service providers are offering more options and flexible configurations for storage, ranging from the inexpensive to high-performance (with IOPS guarantees). “Over time, we will see offerings across the spectrum of price-performance, resilience, and quality of service,” predicts Srinivasan.

In Coraid’s EtherDrive press materials, the company explains that its customers can mix SATA and SAS SSDs in each array, putting this product firmly in the “flexible” category. Srinivasan says that the thinking behind this is to provide a single storage solution that can address a company’s different storage needs, instead of configuring a storage array for each application. For example, for backup applications, the need is for capacity, while for financial trading, the need is for high-performance, high-availability storage. Now, instead of having two separate servers, these can be handled with a single array that mixes SSD and SATA drives, thus avoiding the use of high-performance storage for tasks that don’t require it.

The EtherDrive SRX6000 series with Optimus 1.6 TB SAS SSDs delivers more than 700,000 IOPS, sustained transfer rates in excess of 4,800 MByte/s, and 38.4 TB flash capacity in a 2U form factor.

Coraid claims a cost savings for its customers, so I asked Srinivasan to be more specific about that. In terms of capital expenses, he says that the storage is built using off-the shelf hardware, commodity drives, and standard Layer-2 Ethernet connectivity, enabling a cost savings for the customers. He also claims that Coraid’s storage is easier to deploy and manage at scale, compared to Fibre Channel or iSCSI solutions, thus saving in operating expenses, and he notes that the flexible configuration can reduce the footprint of the datacenter.

Does Suda Srinivasan’s opinion agree with what you are seeing in cloud storage? Use the comments section to let us know your predictions.