The last few days have been eventful in the cloud gateway space and should provide I&O organizations more incentive to start evaluating gateways.  Yesterday, EMC announced its acquisition of cloud gateway startup TwinStrata which will allow EMC customers to move on-premise data from EMC arrays to public cloud storage providers.  Today, Panzura launched a free cloud gateway and their partner Google is adding 2TB of free cloud storage for a year to entice companies to kick the tires on a gateway.  Innovation and investment in this area does not appear to be slowing down.  CTERA locked in an additional $25 million in VC funding last week to accelerate the sales and marketing efforts to support its cloud gateway and file sync & share products.
Though the cloud gateway market has grown slowly so far, this technology category is about to become mainstream.  Cloud Gateways are disruptive since they can facilitate data migration from on-premises to a public cloud storage service to create a true hybrid cloud storage environment.  Basically, a cloud gateway is a virtual or physical storage appliance which looks like a NAS or block storage device to users and applications on-premises, but can write data back to a public cloud storage service using the native APIs of that cloud.  
A number of use cases have emerged for cloud gateways including:
  • NAS replacement.  Cloud gateways are a viable alternative for NAS and file servers, especially in highly distributed environments where I&O teams are looking to consolidate data.  For example, Electronic Arts replaced its enterprise NAS systems with Panzura’s Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controllers and centralized their data on Amazon cloud storage, to reduce their storage footprint and eliminate point-to-point array replication.
  • Backup target.  Cloud gateways such as Riverbed’s SteelStore (formally known as Whitewater) can act as a local backup target for funneling data to a storage cloud for offsite storage.  Besides providing WAN optimization and deduplication to accelerate data transfers, gateways can also provide a cache for local data restoration to minimize the need to pull data back from a cloud.  SteelStore customer Ricoh was able to use Riverbed's deduplication capabilities to reduce backup data by 90% to lower costs and reduce the amount of data travelling across their network. A cloud gateway deployment could also used as a replacement for offsite tape storage when paired with a low cost archive service such as Amazon's Glacier.
  • Primary storage.  While most cloud gateway deployments are in the backup and file storage areas, primary storage replacement is a use case that will expand in the near future.  Microsoft’s StorSimple cloud gateways functions as an iSCSI storage system to on-premises applications and clients, while writing data back to the Azure storage cloud.  Microsoft is pushing this use case for Sharepoint and Exchange Online Archive data, though it is not recommending StorSimple for database storage.

Hybrid cloud storage is the future for infrastructure, and cloud gateways are the easiest way for I&O pros to branch out beyond their on-premises resources.