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AWS storage gateway adds local volumes, tiering

Cloud titan kindly offers to reduce burden on in-house arrays

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Amazon Web Services' Cloud Storage Gateway has added another feature that will raise eyebrows among storage hardware vendors: tiering.

The cloudy concern recently let it be known that the Gateway, a virtual appliance that shunts data into and out of its simple storage service (S3), can now provision a local volume that servers and applications see as just another source of storage. The Gateway can also make S3 buckets appear as just another volume.

Local volumes aren't the appliance's only new trick, as AWS says the appliance can now also create “a cache of recently written and recently read data stored locally on your on-premises storage hardware.”

The effect of that innovation is to give business a chance to store lots of data in S3 at the low, low, prices on offer in Uncle Jeff's Crazy Bargain Cloud, but keep some data on the premises to reduce user-grumpiness-inducing latency.

Storage vendors have been spruiking a similar vision for a decade or more, starting with information lifecycle management's insistence that not all data deserves to live on fast disk forever, given the cost of such storage.

These days storage shoppers hear more or less the same message described as “tiering”, a technique that talks up the idea of data users clearly want now being offered the chance to cruise in comfort on solid state disks, while last year's emails get a bumpy ride on 7.2k disks that reside inside the same storage array. While users can set rules for which data ends up in which tier, automation is an integral part of the process as it ensures that data reaches the tier demand for it deserves.

AWS has confirmed to The Reg that the caching it has implemented competes with tiering, telling us through a spokesperson that “The process for managing the Gateway-Cached volume is automated and does not require manual action or management. The processes or algorithms to cache the most frequently accessed data is an inherent part of this Gateway-Cached volume feature.”

Amazon's entry to the tiering makes a hot market even more contested. All major array vendors have, of late, tuned their kit to do tiering well and are busy promoting niggardly differences between their efforts in the area. All-flash players like Whiptail, FusionIO and Violin assert separate flashy devices do the job even more efficiently, by simply putting everything into flash, either in an all-flash array or by giving servers a big flash injection to remove the need for data to traverse the network quite so often.

The release of the Gateway will therefore put added pressure on those vendors that charge for tiering, as they face competition from storage rivals who give it away and AWS' &US125/month Gateway. ®

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