Amazon bridges enterprise IT with cloud backup
Official at last: book-seller goes corporate
Amazon has become an official supplier of enterprise IT by turning its cloudy Simple Storage Service (S3) into a back-up option for earth-bound data.
It's a smart move on Amazon's part as it means the cloud pioneer is staking a claim on data centre SANs by abstracting them behind an iSCSI volume layer, which then ships data up to Amazon's S3 cloud for protection.
Amazon uncloaked the AWS Storage Gateway beta  today. It promised the service would securely hook on-premises software appliances into its cloud.
Amazon promised its gateway would let you upload data to its cloud securely and also provide them with cost effective and low-latency back up and rapid disaster recovery. The cloud storage gateway comes hot on the heels of Amazon's cloud NoSQL  database service.
The gateway is designed to be installed with a minimum of fuss, via the AWS Management Console, and to work with your existing DAS and SANs and apps.
As an added incentive, Amazon is also offering the beta under a free, 60-day trial. Thereafter pricing is $125 per gateway each month and there's a PB and TB-based monthly charge for data stored. Volumes over 524TB are charged on a custom basis with a call to Amazon.
Filers don't appear to be included. Amazon will offer Gateway Cached volumes later this year, with a cache of recently accessed data stored in your data centre and the rest up in S3, where it will take longer to access. So you can stick old data up in the cloud and don't have to have so much local storage.
The AWS storage gateway doesn't include WAN optimisation technology or deduplication, but it is a beta offering and is bound to be developed. It is proprietary and only works with Amazon's cloud but it provides a thumping great big competitive problem to other cloud storage and storage gateway suppliers, looking to be a great fit for low-cost backup and disaster recovery.
The 451 group's Simon Robinson lists some of the players who could be affected. On his count, these include Ctera, Nasuni, Panzura, StorSimple, and TwinStrata. The Reg could add Nirvanix, Google, Riverbed, Symantec and every other cloud storage and gateway supplier. They'll have to start working on performance, service level agreements and pricing to avoid getting stomped on by Amazon's typically low-cost solutions.
Enterprise clients – but now it's official
Once you've got them by the data, of course, their hearts and minds will follow, and Amazon's using the AWS Storage Gateway beta as a sampler for the rest of its compute cloud.
According to Amazon, AWS Storage Gateway uploads your data in the form of EBS snapshots that can be turned into EBS volumes  using the AWS Management Console or Amazon EC2's APIs and attached to Amazon EC2 compute instances. Once attached, instances will have access to this data to do any processing or computation desired, Amazon said.
Announcing the service, Amazon explained the subtle compute hook-up: "The AWS Storage Gateway also makes it easy to leverage the on-demand compute capacity of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for additional capacity during peak periods, for new projects, or as a more cost-effective way to run normal enterprise workloads."
Amazon has, thanks to its cloud, been an unofficial supplier of enterprise IT for years now. Developers have been testing apps on EC2 and then either puling them in house or uploading. Companies such as Heroku - now owned by Salesforce - have even built businesses hosting companies' apps on Amazon written using Ruby.
Amazon, however, has largely been a developer story. The AWS Storage Gateway promises to target sys admins and - down the line - CIO. Taking the data off site has ramifications in terms of security, privacy, and regulatory compliance in ways running an app doesn't - the kind of ramifications that will by necessity come to the attention of CIO types.
By becoming a repository for enterprise data, Amazon's also going up against the kinds of customers that have used suppliers like Microsoft and VMware on storage and cloud. Also IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle in terms of back-up and storage devices and services.
These are tough considerations and companies that set a high bar for success. As such, Amazon's promised to deliver low-latency so customers don't notice the service running: AWS Storage Gateway does this, Amazon said, by maintaining data on your existing DAS or SAN hardware while asynchronously uploading it to S3, where it is encrypted and stored. ®