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How Tiering Data Benefits Retailers

The retail industry is one of the most demanding verticals when it comes to storage. Maintaining customer-facing applications without downtime or data loss, huge internal inventory system requirements, and we only begin to scratch the surface of why systems like NetApp AFFs are the choice for enterprise-level retailer IT deployments.

And yet, on-prem systems do come with their own challenges: namely, the cost and their capacity limits. Luckily, NetApp now has a solution: tiering infrequently-used data to object storage on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.

What do retailers gain from tiering their cold data to the cloud? Find out in this post, and how Cloud Tiering for NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS storage systems can change everything about retail data storage.

Data Demands for Retail Workloads

There are some specific data demands on retailers that makes this vertical particularly dependent of both highly performant and massive storage systems.

Online Shopping Applications
These applications need to be highly performant since demand can spike at different intervals of the day, week, or year. That demand requires systems as performant as NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS. This kind of performance is unmatched by the cloud, which is a big reason why the data center still rules when it comes to high performance. However, the usage demanded by those systems can come into conflict with the next big demand that retailers face...

Inventory Data
Fueling the online applications discussed above are massive amounts of online store inventory. For major retailers, this data represents the total inventory that the business offers—whether or not it happens to be on sale at any given time. Consider that, for a clothing retailer, stock that is seasonal may not be in demand all year round. This data can be cold, and if it is kept stored on the same performant system that houses the businesses online application, space can become a concern. 

Inventory isn’t the only type of data that can clog up a performant storage system though. There are also...

Customer Records
For every transaction that a business makes, it has to store that data, but that is just the beginning of the data that businesses retain about their users. Retailers keep data on more than just their customer credit card numbers and purchase history. Data analytics may track site visitors from the moment they log in along every choice that they make on a shopping trip, and where they go when they are done.

All of this data needs to be stored somewhere. Housing it on a highly performant storage system can be convenient if you’re performing analytics jobs, but once those jobs are done, that data should be stored somewhere else more optimal, or else the performant system risks filling up. 

Availability Concerns and More. The large number of credit card information makes retailers particularly attractive target for hackers who might want to gain access to the business’ customer databases. Likewise, there is also the ever-present threat of a ransomware attack, the number of which lately has been on the rise.

With all of these industry-specific demands, retailers find themselves in a tight spot when it comes to their IT budgets. The requirement to keep their data centers on performant storage can come with a hefty price tag, and if data growth rates are not properly predicted, those budgets may not be used optimally. Finding a balance between the storage space for applications and the space for the application data can be a time consuming and inefficient process.

What can retailers do to offset the costs of rolling in new storage systems when space appears to be running out? NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS system users can activate the new Cloud Tiering service, sending their infrequently used inactive data to the cloud on AWS, Azure, or GCP.

How Retailers Can Cut On-Prem Storage Consumption and Costs

Cloud Tiering can be used to extend the lifecycle of storage systems and their capacity limits, cut storage consumption on AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems, and begin to leverage the cloud as part of a hybrid architecture. Cloud Tiering allows on-prem storage users to:

  • Put off costly new storage box investments.
  • Benefit from the cloud without the costly migration.
  • Avoid refactoring or rearchitecting existing applications.
  • Pay only for the storage that you use.
  • Automatically tier data after the initial setup. See how it can be configured on AWS and on Azure.

Plus, Cloud Tiering offers several different policies to best meet specific retail business needs. Cloud Tiering can be set up to tier any type of inactive data that is located in your storage volume, or it can be restricted to just your snapshot's inactive data. Tiering all infrequently used data can be helpful due to seasonal changes in demand, as this data will automatically be brought back up to the on-prem performance tier when needed again. Snapshot-only tiering ensures that inactive copies of system states that help protect against data loss will be stored cost efficiently. 

In either case you free up valuable storage disk space that can be reallocated to other applications that need performant disk space. An additional tiering policy to tier the entire volume’s data can provide a handy way to archive projects that may be needed for future reference without the costs and hassle of dealing with tape archiving. You can find out more about Cloud Tiering policies here.


Cloud Tiering for AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems combines the reliability of the on-prem data center with cloud affordability. For retailers, the advantages are clear: keep serving the data that your customers need without expanding your storage footprint or going over budget.

Read more about retail success stories on-prem and in the cloud. Try it out for your retail operation: sign up for a free trial of Cloud Tiering today.

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Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist