Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

Storage service provider makes use of Amazon S3 features

ClearSky Data takes advantage of the scalability, redundancy and price of Simple Storage Service with its newly launched storage as a service platform.

A new cloud service provider is presenting a lesson in how to make good use of the cloud: Take advantage of its strengths and engineer around its weaknesses.

ClearSky Data launched a new storage as a service last week based on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) that piggybacks on the object store's low-cost and pay-as-you-go scalability, but without the poor performance that often afflicts cloud storage services.

"We use the cloud for what it's good for," said Lazarus Vekiarides, ClearSky co-founder and CTO.

Unlike other cloud-based storage services, access to ClearSky's S3 data stores isn't over the slow and unpredictable Internet. Instead, customers connect to the ClearSky service running at a local point of presence (POP) that is directly connected to AWS. In addition, ClearSky places an all-flash caching appliance at the customer data center, where it places hot, frequently accessed data.

"The insight we had was that the actual amount of data you need to access is much smaller than the actual data footprint," Vekiarides explained. ClearSky guarantees under two-millisecond latency to its customers.

In addition, ClearSky also throws in other enterprise storage goodies -- encryption, snapshots, block access and support for VMware vVols. However, it doesn't provide its own replication. For that, ClearSky turns to one of several Amazon S3 features, taking advantage of the multiple copies it creates by default.

"Cloud [object storage systems] are great because they already make five to seven copies of data," for both local and geographic availability, said Vekiarides. "It already provides a better resiliency store than the enterprise can."

That multi-region availability is exciting to Xtium, a cloud managed service provider in King of Prussia, Penn., that has been beta testing the ClearSky service at its Philadelphia-area point of presence. Next month, ClearSky will launch a new metro POP in Las Vegas, which Xtium plans to use as a disaster recovery (DR) location for its customers, said Tim Vogel, Xtium CTO.

With existing approaches, "providing DR for our customers through replication is time-consuming, expensive and bandwidth-intensive," Vogel said. Once the ClearSky data is live in Las Vegas, "we'll be able to shut down a workload in Philly, and quickly bring it back up in Vegas without having to think about it, because all data copies are handled by their service -- it takes that burden off of us."

Even if that never came to pass, being able to get high-performance out of Amazon S3 features is a game changer for Xtium. Going the local storage route is human- and capital-intensive, especially for a service provider. "We would build out the infrastructure and then pray for the customers to come," Vogel said.

With ClearSky and cloud storage, it only pays for what it uses, and is saving upwards of 60% to 70% less than with an on-premises array. "I look at our old EMC and Dell and NetApp gear, and think 'How did we ever pay for this?'"

Next Steps

Amazon DynamoDB helps IT shop track S3 objects

AWS storage services and application requirements

More companies turn to cloud storage service providers

Dig Deeper on Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) and backup