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8 Scenarios for Using NetApp Cloud Tiering

NetApp Cloud Tiering is a service that enables automated, secure, and simple tiering of inactive (cold) data from your on-premises All-Flash FAS (AFF) or SSD-backed FAS ONTAP clusters into cost-efficient object storage in the cloud. Built on NetApp FabricPool technology, Cloud Tiering supports tiering cold data to NetApp StorageGRID, Amazon S3, Azure Blob and Google Cloud Storage.

How can Cloud Tiering help your data center operations? In this post we’ll look at eight specific use cases for NetApp Cloud Tiering and the associated benefits that each of these can provide AFF or SSD-backed FAS users.

1. Purchasing New NetApp AFF Systems

AFFs are highly performant systems, but that doesn’t mean they last forever: eventually it will be time for a data center refresh. Procuring a new storage solution could often be a challenging process for many customers mainly due to not knowing the total capacity requirements upfront. Will two disk shelves be enough for all the data or should you buy three, just in case? What if storage needs never increase enough to require that third shelf? It’s all wasted expenditure.

There’s also the question of the type of data that will be in storage and how it’s used. Typically, most of this capacity would be consumed by infrequently accessed data (aka, cold data) such as dormant files or snapshot data. Storing such data on a high performance, all-flash storage solution such as a NetApp AFF can potentially lead to complex storage sizing upfront plus high CAPEX investments. At the same time that level of high performance may not be a constant requirement throughout the entire data lifecycle.

NetApp Cloud Tiering provides a great solution to this problem by reducing the upfront procurement complexity and easing capacity requirements. By tiering data to a cloud object store such as Amazon S3 or Azure Blob storage users can reduce the overall size of the on-premises storage footprint by up to 80%, providing immediate cost savings and shorter procurement cycles. This will also help reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of storage by up to 30% as well as reduce Time to Market for new business initiatives, enabling customers to address their business challenges quickly and more efficiently.

2. Adding New SSD Shelves to Existing AFFs

Another option for growing data center capacity without rolling in an entirely new AFF system would be to add capacity to an existing AFF. However, this is also subject to similar challenges as those with buying new storage solutions, namely capacity sizing, interoperability and compatibility verification (controllers, firmwares, etc.), as well as the high procurement costs. In addition to that, delivery lead time and operational delays due to installation can add delay before the extra capacity is available to be utilized. 

Cloud Tiering can provide an immediate and easy solution to address these challenges by reducing, or, in some cases, completely removing the total additional capacity you need by offloading unused data to the cloud.

3. An Existing AFF Running Out of Space

Many organizations are embarking on various digital initiatives today, and as an unanticipated by product, that is increasing the data consumption of their on-premises storage solutions. Reaching capacity limits will often result in unnecessary delays on fully realizing the value of such digital initiatives, pending additional shelf expansions or procurement of new storage solutions all together.

The Cloud Tiering service can provide a quick fix solution to this problem by immediately tiering off existing cold data to a cloud platform with ease. In just a few clicks, users can free up additional space from existing ONTAP clusters to be used for critical, high performance workloads. Cloud Tiering is estimated to provide up to 50X more space on an existing storage cluster in some cases, providing capacity and use for more workloads, enabling customers to do more with less.

4. Reducing Data Center Costs

Physical storage solutions typically consume a significant amount of the space, power, and cooling requirements of a typical data center. Many IT departments that do not own their own data centers often pay a premium for these through additional power and cooling costs from their CoLo providers in order to support their organization’s business growth. These data center expansion costs can increase the TCO for IT infrastructure and eventually affect the cost of the services they aim to provide to their customers, potentially making the company less competitive.

Cloud Tiering can also help reduce or maintain data center expenditures by decreasing physical space footprint required within the data center through intelligently moving cold data out to public cloud storage. Similar to the previous use cases, through avoiding the need to procure additional storage systems or disk shelves, customers can significantly reduce the need to expand their physical data center or CoLo footprint and in some cases, even reduce the existing data center footprint, achieving significant cost benefits that can easily translate into valuable business benefits for the organization.

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5. Offloading Data to Tape, SATA, or Other Less Expensive Storage

Given the large-scale economics of the cloud storage platforms, the cost of using cloud storage tiers can provide vastly superior savings when compared to various tiering solutions held on cheaper SATA and tape-backed storage tiers.

This enables customers with Tier 3 storage requirements such as backup or snapshot data, test and development data, or infrequently accessed files to automatically tier off to the cloud, at a significantly lower price. It also avoids situations where tape copies are physically shipped to secondary sites, and all the costs involved in this. Cloud Tiering also removes the need for expensive cloud data migrations projects or the need for complex third-party technology solutions to provide a seamless abstraction between various on-premises storage tiers.

6. Embracing a Cloud Strategy

Cloud technologies, powered by a global scale and increased software-driven innovation, provide many benefits to organizations of all sizes. However, in reality, many organizations with existing key business applications that are typically monolithic in nature and can encounter various challenges in embracing the cloud. These challenges can be complex replatforming requirements, prohibitive migration costs, and other running-cost concerns.

NetApp Cloud Tiering provides a perfect solution that addresses all of these challenges by enabling the departmental heads and LOB owners to embrace the cloud easily. With Cloud Tiering, the lifting of the data from on-premises to the cloud is fully automated based on defined access policies, eliminating the need for expensive migrations to take place before embracing the cloud initiatives.

Cloud Tiering also removes the need to replatform applications to make them cloud ready. Applications can continue to serve business needs in their current form, while also benefiting from the scale and cost efficiency of cloud for a large part of its storage requirements. This can be a great intermediary step that enables customers to embrace cloud quickly, while the long-term replatforming activities take place behind the scenes.

7. Disaster Recovery / Backup Site Costs

An effective Disaster Recovery (DR) / Backup strategy backed by a credible DR / Backup solution is a regulatory requirement for many organizations today. However, achieving DR / Backup for all of the critical business data can force customers to invest in and maintain multiple data centers, essentially doubling their operating costs. NetApp customers typically have the flexibility to use different storage controllers or cheaper SAS or SATA disks in the secondary data center, but in the event of invoking DR, there is a risk of not being able to maintain Service Level Agreements.

NetApp Cloud Tiering provides a convenient component of a DR / Backup solution by providing effective tiering to all the data stored on secondary data copies, thus reducing the capacity requirements in the secondary data center. Given most of the replicated data in the secondary data center will rarely be accessed unless there’s a disaster or a need to restore archived data, customers can design their secondary storage units to have reduced on-premises footprints, with a view to storing the majority of the secondary data copies on a much less-expensive cloud platform. This approach significantly reduces the CAPEX requirements and the TCO in having a DR solution in place for many NetApp customers.

8. Snapshots and Backups

Many NetApp customers are intimately familiar with the value add provided by NetApp Snapshot™ copies and the significant role they provide in a data protection strategy. While Snapshot technology provides a way to create effective, read-only restore points of data on the same storage system for frequent recovery purposes, NetApp SnapVault® enables the movement of these snapshot copies from the source array to another, typically an offsite array for the purpose of external backup.

While the Snapshot copies and SnapVault backup copies provide an efficient data recovery solution, one of the challenges faced by the customers is the increased space utilization due to increasing number of snapshots retained on the source array, or on the SnapVault destination array during long term offsite storage. On the source arrays, the data protected by the older Snapshots are typically not accessed frequently and therefore make a great candidate for tiering off to the cloud via NetApp Cloud Tiering. This works similarly for NetApp arrays configured as SnapVault destinations, where the backup data is only rarely accessed unless a remote restore is required.

Lots of Use Cases for Lots of Data

In summary, NetApp Cloud Tiering can help customers consume up to 50x more space without additional spend on hardware, with up to 80% capacity savings on All Flash FAS solutions, paving the way to achieve TCO savings up to 30% in their data center. 

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Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist