March 16, 2023
With the increased adoption of public cloud platforms, cloud storage is one of the front-running technologies driving this increased adoption. Among the various storage technologies and the different capabilities and benefits they offer customers, block storage is of key relevance to enterprise organizations.
Enterprise applications such as corporate email and database systems mandate the need for enterprise-grade block storage management features, but those requirements aren’t always met by the native block storage solutions available on the cloud platform.
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP solves this issue by providing enterprise-grade, shared and multi-attached block storage for all the major public cloud platforms—AWS, Azure, and GCP. NetApp Cloud Manager is the default management platform for Cloud Volumes ONTAP and the entire NetApp Data Fabric, which provides a true single pane of management that can be leveraged to deploy and manage both file and block storage in your deployment.
This blog post will cover the key challenges and use cases for cloud block storage services, and show how NetApp block storage with Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables enterprise customers to solve these challenges.
Cloud Block Storage
Storage solutions available on public cloud platforms have grown significantly, both in their variety and sophistication. Starting from the first cloud storage use case built on object storage (most famously, the Amazon Simple Storage Service, Amazon S3), all major public cloud platforms now offer at least the below three storage options for their customers:
- Object storage: Designed for flexibility, high capacity, and lower cost, and specifically meant to store unstructured data at scale, in a highly available, geo-redundant basis.
- File storage: Designed for scalability and flexibility, and designed to have a globally unique namespace for storing unstructured file data, that can be directly accessed on the cloud or by the workloads running on premises.
- Block storage: The powerhouse of cloud storage options, designed for performance and workload-specific requirements.
Let's look into the block storage service options further.
Block storage typically provides direct access to the raw storage blocks to specific applications. The storage can be addressed directly via sub-storage level iSCSI commands without going through a file system (in the case of file storage) or via an object storage API. Many workloads and specific applications that require the highest performance from storage typically demand this level of access to the underlying storage.
Use Cases in the Cloud
The main use case for cloud block storage on all public cloud platforms is to provide an alternative to the data center, for storing Virtual Machines (VM).
In addition to storing VMs, block storage is also required for specific, mission-critical applications that are sensitive for storage performance: both throughput as well as latency. Email solutions such as Microsoft Exchange Server as well as typical database solutions such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, and other enterprise applications such SAP and Microsoft SharePoint require direct access to block storage volumes. These requirements are the same across both the data center and public cloud and therefore any enterprise customer looking to migrate these existing workloads on to the cloud or deploy new similar workloads on the cloud would need to ensure that the appropriate cloud block storage is available for these applications to use.
Furthermore, any cloud application that runs server-side processing such as Java, PHP, or .Net would require access to an underlying block storage solution, in order to ensure application managed consistent I/O performance and low latency storage connectivity.
Enterprise customers typically demand enterprise grade storage capabilities in the cloud to ensure flexibility and availability along with cost optimization. Not all of these capabilities are available on the native block storage solution offered by the cloud provider themselves.
For example, critical enterprise cloud block storage workloads require the availability of the block data across multiple availability zones for High Availability. They would also need to be available across multiple geographical cloud regions for Disaster Recovery purposes. This is often not provided by the native cloud block storage platform and instead, users are advised to ensure such availability and data protection is built into the application layer which can be a complex task to achieve.
Most native cloud block storage solutions available from the cloud platform providers are also not well known for their flexibility when it comes to shared access, multi-attach volumes, cloning, data protection, etc. Let’s take a closer look, for example, at attaching the same block storage volumes to multiple instances or applications. Without this capability, users can’t deploy clustering solutions in the cloud, such as the popular Microsoft failover clustering. That can reduce the level of flexibility available to enterprises when deploying solutions in the cloud.
There are other enterprise storage capabilities missing in the native block storage solutions, such as the ability to create space efficient clones of data volumes for dev/test and DevOps purposes, and limited support for built-in, automated data protection features such as snapshots. These requirements are key to enterprise block storage customers and their use cases.
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help enterprises address these enterprise block storage requirements in the Cloud.
How Cloud Volumes ONTAP Can Help
Cloud Volumes ONTAP is the leading enterprise grade storage management solution from NetApp that is available on all major public cloud platforms: Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. NetApp block storage solutions have been serving enterprises for decades and Cloud Volumes ONTAP extends those capabilities to the cloud. The platform provides a number of key benefits that aren’t always natively available from the public cloud providers.
The Cloud Volumes ONTAP architecture
Bringing NetApp Block Storage Benefits to the Cloud
- Cloud cost savings with storage efficiencies: Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help consumers save up to 90% on storage consumption due to built-in space efficiency features such as data deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshot copies, data tiering, and flexible cloning of data volumes.
- Unified cloud storage with multi-protocol access: Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides a single storage solution that can provide both file storage as well as cloud block storage from a single, unified solution. With NetApp Cloud Manager, users get a single-pane-of-glass data management platform to provision and manage all your file and block storage resources with ease, either through the GUI or programmatically through RESTful API calls.
- Cloud data protection and disaster recovery: Cloud Volume ONTAP provides a built-in, policy-driven storage snapshot technology that can provide quick data recovery from corruption or data loss to both file and block data. As an efficient disaster recovery solution, Cloud Volumes ONTAP copies your valuable file and block data across cloud regions as well as across cloud platform providers, with seamless failover and failback processes.
- High availability: Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides multi-AZ, dual-node, high availability solution, designed for zero data loss (RPO = 0) and under 60-second recovery.
- Cloning technology for developers: With Cloud Volumes ONTAP, customers can leverage FlexClone® data cloning to create writable copies of cloud data volumes instantly (both file and block) from snapshots without consuming any storage footprint. FlexClone data can then be shared via multiple organizations and regions for use cases such as dev/test and data mining.
Get More from the Cloud with NetApp Block Storage
There are additional benefits to using NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP to compliment the native storage solutions available in the public cloud.
To read more about how enterprise customers leverage block storage management capabilities with Cloud Volumes ONTAP, check out these Cloud Volumes ONTAP block storage case studies.