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Hybrid Cloud Management

Hybrid Cloud Storage Solutions for AWS Compared: Storage Gateway vs Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Hybrid cloud storage solutions offer a number of benefits—mainly that the data can be used across an existing on-prem system while taking advantage of cloud storage’s flexibility, scale, and attractive pricing. For enterprises, this makes hybrid cloud management an extremely useful model to adopt.

However, there are still challenges with hybrid cloud storage solutions. These challenges can include an increased amount of operational complexity, difficulties in seamlessly managing and protecting applications and data spread across the cloud and data center, and increased overhead costs.

To help hybrid storage users solve these concerns, both AWS and NetApp offer hybrid cloud storage solutions. This post will take a side-by-side look at two options for hybrid cloud deployment: AWS Storage Gateway and NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

Storage Gateway Vs. Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Storage Gateway is a hybrid solution that connects on-prem storage and applications directly to Amazon S3 cloud storage resources. It does this by acting as an intermediary that faces all your on-prem apps as NFS, CIFS /SMB, or iSCSI volumes but that in the background seamlessly stores everything in S3, all while enabling a local cache which uses your on-prem storage for fast read and write operations. The Amazon solution connects on-prem storage systems to the AWS cloud, giving your on-prem system access to the entire suite of AWS cloud services.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP is a data management platform for hybrid and multicloud architectures, providing a comprehensive set of data management capabilities.

While the platform on Cloud Volumes ONTAP serves many more use cases and offers more benefits, the common ground that both of these services cover includes data multi-protocol access, and backups and recovery capabilities for cloud-native and hybrid cloud storage deployments. You can also deploy both solutions entirely in the cloud or in hybrid designs, though it should be pointed out Storage Gateway’s main use case is for hybridity.

In the sections below we’ll look at how each of these features and solutions stack up, plus the additional benefits that Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides.

Hybrid Cloud Storage Solutions Management

As hybrid storage management solutions, both Storage Gateway and Cloud Volumes ONTAP can manage to bridge workloads in data centers with cloud services.

But Cloud Volumes ONTAP is different in two ways. Firstly, it simplifies management processes through a single interface called Cloud Manager, which is accessible through a GUI or API calls. Secondly, it is available for use with all three major cloud providers—AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. There’s also the advantage of working with existing on-prem ONTAP-based NetApp equipment; these systems can be discovered and configured through Cloud Manager and connected to cloud-based ONTAP nodes quickly and easily.

This on-prem integration with the cloud is part of the NetApp approach to provide a holistic view on how you manage and treat all the data that is at the heart of your organization. This concept, applied with Cloud Manager, means that you can quickly establish replication and synchronization relationships between your ONTAP on-prem nodes and your Cloud Volumes ONTAP nodes on any public cloud.

The Amazon solution works differently. The way you integrate on-prem with cloud-based storage depends on the type of Gateway being deployed and where you deploy it. In general, you need to attach available on-prem storage to your Gateway first, and then use AWS Management Console separately to configure it.

You can serve cloud-based data to on-prem apps using NFS or iSCSI, but the Storage Gateway Management pane will only be able to discover on-prem storage systems produced by Amazon, not by other third-party systems, or NetApp.

Existing on-prem storage systems are integrated with the Storage Gateway by attaching them as locally-attached storage for read and write caches. From there, you can go to the configuration menus and apply configurations. However, as mentioned above, you won’t be able to manage the on-prem system from the Management Console, as the two systems are not integrated. You will have to use the management tool for your specific on-prem storage equipment, which essentially means you need to use multiple management interfaces.


Storage Gateway uses Amazon S3 as its backend storage. This can be a performance challenge because latency times to and from S3 buckets are generally in the three-digit millisecond range. Improving latency times in S3 to a single-digit millisecond range requires the use of additional AWS caching services, an added cost on top of the charges for Storage Gateway and Amazon S3.

Unlike the Amazon solution, Cloud Volumes ONTAP is based on AWS EBS storage, which is well suited for a wide range of workloads, including low-latency apps. Average latency times when using EBS storage are in the single-digit millisecond range.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP in AWS allows you to choose from the four different EBS disk types. Depending on the EBS disk type chosen, either IOPS or throughput become the dominant factor:

  • General Purpose SSD (gp2): The gp2 disk type offers the perfect balance between price and performance. They are well suited for workloads such as VDI deployments or for dev/test environments.
  • Provisioned IOPS SSD (io1): The io1 disk type is designed for extremely intensive I/O applications, such as transactional Oracle and SQL databases and workloads such as HBase or Cassandra. Provisioned IOPS combines the best of both IOPS and throughput into one disk type.
  • Throughput Optimized HDD (st1): The st1 type are lower-cost HDD disks in which throughput for frequently accessed data becomes the key factor. Workloads such as big data and log processing fit well with this option.
  • Cold HDD (sc1): The sc1 type disks are the lowest cost HDD. Throughput here is also the main driver, but for less-frequently accessed data pools. This disk type is ideal for data warehouses not accessed that frequently which need to keep storage costs low.

If you require to go even a step further to minimize latency times, you can reach sub-millisecond latency by using NetApp NVMe caching. You can attach an NVMe cache to an EBS volume and take advantage of the ultra-low latency times this technology brings.

Multi-Protocol Access

Both Cloud Volumes ONTAP and Storage Gateway deliver data access over three different protocols: NFS, SMB, and block data access with iSCSI. You can create and export both NFS and SMB shares like you would normally do on a NAS file server while keeping all the file permissions, access restrictions, and file system hierarchical structure. On-prem applications can then read and write to those cloud-based shares with the option to keep important frequently accessed data on low-latency cache.

Both solutions also offer iSCSI access for applications that work with this protocol. They do this differently though: Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS has real access to block storage from Amazon EBS storage volumes which you can present as LUNs to your apps. Storage Gateway presents volumes as targets so you can still access them using iSCSI, but any time data is moved to the cloud it is stored in Amazon S3. Therefore, any read request that’s no longer in the local cache must come from object storage, not EBS. This could be a challenge for latency-sensitive apps which rely better on faster storage performance.

For NAS workloads, another advantage to Cloud Volumes ONTAP is that it allows multi-protocol access for the same volume, meaning that clients from both Unix- and Windows-based environments are able to access the same data volume while keeping important aspects such as file permissions, authentication, and file locking uniform across an heterogeneous environment.

As Backup and Recovery Solutions

Both Storage Gateway and Cloud Volumes ONTAP can serve as backup and recovery solutions.

For example, you could have an ONTAP system on site and replicate all its data through NetApp SnapMirror® replication technology and have a Cloud Volumes ONTAP instance hosted in AWS as its replication destination. It would then be possible to perform a disaster recovery failover and failback between on-site physical ONTAP servers or a Cloud Volumes ONTAP node in the cloud.

The added benefits Cloud Volumes ONTAP presents in the backup and recovery context:

  • Data tiering for backup or DR volumes, allows the secondary data copy to be stored on a cost-effective capacity tier and seamlessly move back to the performance storage tier when needed. Tiering between Amazon EBS and Amazon S3 is not possible natively in AWS.
  • All the data is stored with NetApp storage efficiency features such as data compression and deduplication.
  • Cost savings due to the combined features mentioned above can lower cloud data storage costs by as much as 70%. 

Now let’s look at AWS. Backup is possible in a few different forms:

  • Deploying a File Gateway (Storage Gateway for files) and using it as a file backup repository on Amazon S3.
  • Deploying as a Volume Gateway (Storage Gateway for volumes) with stored volumes that have Amazon EBS snapshots. These volumes can use the snapshots to recover to the gateway or to an EC2 instance.
  • Deploying as a Tape Gateway (Storage Gateway for tapes) and archive all the virtual tapes in Amazon S3.


When deploying Storage Gateway as a Volume Gateway you have the option to set it with Stored Volumes. Using Stored Volumes means that all the block storage is provisioned locally (i.e., on-prem), and backed up by Amazon EBS snapshots stored in Amazon S3, which can be created based on a schedule. Recovery from one of these point-in-time images can be done directly back to the Volume Gateway or mounted as EBS volumes that can then be associated with an EC2 instance. In the case of a File Gateway, all data is stored directly in Amazon S3. You can use Amazon S3 versioning as a point-in-time recovery option.

In the case of Cloud Volumes ONTAP, NetApp Snapshot™ technology lets you take snapshots at the volume level upon a schedule or whenever needed and use them for recovery, replication or cloning. Using NetApp WAFL technology, these copies are created much faster and with less storage space than other snapshot technologies. 

Scheduling snapshots in Cloud Volumes ONTAP is also much easier and repeatable thanks to the user-friendly Cloud Manager GUI system.

Data Protection and Security

Storage Gateway doesn't move the data permissions to Amazon S3. That means, should the gateway fail, the data in the S3 buckets will not be protected. Cloud Volumes ONTAP moves the data in blocks, so data remains protected at the block-level and can’t be accessed through Amazon S3. 

Cloud Volumes ONTAP offers the option of deploying an AWS high availability pair residing in a different Availability Zone. This configuration provides an extra level of protection that guarantees that the storage remains available and ensures RPO=0 and RTO<60 seconds.

Both platforms offer native encryption methods. With Cloud Volumes ONTAP you can encrypt the volumes using NetApp Volume Encryption (NVE) or AWS encryption, while with Storage Gateway everything can be encrypted with Amazon KMS.

The Added Value to Hybrid Deployment with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Both solutions, share main functions for data access, cloud file sharing, backup and data protection. Now let's go over some added values Cloud Volumes ONTAP enterprise cloud storage can give you:

  • Automatic data tiering between AWS storage tiers on Amazon EBS and Amazon S3 object storage according to data access usage frequency.
  • Advanced storage efficiencies such as thin provisioning, data compression and deduplication to lower cloud data storage costs.
  • NetApp Cloud Manager is a cohesive centralized platform to manage both existing on-prem ONTAP systems and Cloud Volumes ONTAP instances on all public clouds. Using the Cloud Manager UI or API you can instantly establish replication relationships between ONTAP systems, define Snapshot schedules, clone volumes, and more.


Both solutions provide organizations with hybrid cloud storage solutions that enhance on-prem applications and also serve as backup and recovery repositories. Both hybrid cloud solutions are manageable through cohesive graphic UI's that allow easy and fast click-and-go configurations, through CLI or programmatically through API's.

If you’re planning on running a hybrid approach or backing up your data in the cloud we recommend you checking NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP. The value extends not only to existing NetApp storage users, but to those who wish to extend into more than one cloud.

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Yuval Kalderon, Cloud Solution Architect

Cloud Solution Architect