NetApp creates storage systems and software that help customers around the world store, manage, protect, and retain one of their most precious corporate assets: their data. NetApp storage area networks, flash storage solutions, cloud-based storage solutions, and other storage products are found in enterprises around the world. The company is based in Sunnyvale, California, is a member of the NASDAQ-100 and the Fortune 500, and employs more than 12,000 people.
NetApp has made cloud-connected storage solutions since the advent of cloud computing. Through its NetApp Microsoft Private Cloud solution, NetApp provides storage for private cloud environments based on the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. NetApp also offers the industry-leading FlexPod Datacenter solution for customers that want to accelerate deployment with a Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track validated solution.
Many Microsoft and NetApp customers wanted to incorporate public cloud resources into their cloud landscapes but sought more control over their storage for security and compliance reasons. They specifically wanted to expand into Microsoft Azure, a public cloud environment that provides virtual compute, networking, storage, and other resources for developing and hosting applications in Microsoft datacenters.
“Many of our customers want to take advantage of public cloud efficiencies but are under regulatory pressures to keep data secure,” says John Fullbright, Principal Technical Architect in the NetApp Cloud Solutions Group. “They are also concerned about migration—how to get data in and out of the cloud—and of course data latency. We wanted to create a way to extend customer data into Azure while addressing these concerns.”
NetApp extended its Microsoft cloud solution portfolio to include Azure with a solution called NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure. For security reasons, Microsoft does not allow third-party organizations to deploy their hardware inside Azure datacenters. Instead, NetApp hosts its storage systems in “clearinghouse” datacenters owned by Equinix, a Microsoft-selected third-party Internet exchange provider that provides interconnection services. Equinix datacenters are located in the same building as, or in close proximity to, Azure datacenters to minimize network latency.
“We have worked closely with Equinix in developing cloud storage solutions and really valued what Equinix provided: access to a large number of network providers, service neutrality so that customers can choose the best solution, the flexibility to quickly scale to meet new demands and new markets, and the large number of enterprises who build their enterprise IT solutions in Equinix datacenters,” says Calvin Nieh, Microsoft Solutions Manager at NetApp. “As a global partner, we rely on Equinix to provide the highly reliable and well-connected environment where our customers already have deployed their services.”
Because its storage systems would not be hosted inside Azure, NetApp needed a very fast, highly secure connection between Equinix and Azure datacenters. NetApp found that connection in Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, an Azure service used to create private, direct connections between Azure datacenters and either corporate on-premises datacenters or a colocation environment. Because ExpressRoute connections travel over a direct fiber connection rather than the public Internet, they offer more reliability, faster speeds, lower latencies, and higher security.
NetApp tested this solution by deploying its storage systems in Equinix datacenters located in Ashburn, Virginia, and Silicon Valley, California, to connect to Microsoft US East and West Coast Azure environments.
Target use cases for NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure include enterprise workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases, disaster recovery, bursting to the cloud to accommodate peak workloads, and big data analytics. For example, a Microsoft SQL Server database might reside on-premises with a replica stored in a NetApp FAS storage system in Equinix and connected via ExpressRoute to Azure for testing, disaster recovery, or ad hoc computation requiring massive scalability.
With NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure, NetApp is able to help customers utilize Microsoft Azure with improved security and control, easy data portability and performance, and multiregional disaster protection.
Enhanced Data Control, Security, and Regulatory Compliance
By putting their data “next to” rather than “into” Azure, NetApp customers are able to take advantage of public cloud scalability and savings while satisfying compliance and control requirements. “Locating data next to Azure within an ExpressRoute-enabled colocation facility keeps data under customer control while offering performance similar to an on-premises infrastructure,” says Mark Beaupre, Public Cloud Architect at NetApp.
Improved Data Portability with Outstanding Performance
By using Equinix and ExpressRoute, NetApp customers can easily move data between their NetApp-based storage infrastructure components that include private, public, and hybrid clouds. “Because our solution sits in Equinix datacenters that are very close to Azure, rather than several hundred miles away in a customer-premises datacenter, customers can very easily move data between different Azure datacenters and between Azure and their own datacenters,” Fullbright says.
And because NetApp uses an ExpressRoute connection, that data moves very quickly. “By using Azure ExpressRoute, NetApp customers realize 36 percent faster performance compared to accessing Azure over a virtual private network. This kind of performance improvement enables us to address enterprise workloads such as SQL Server, Oracle, and SAP that customers want to run in Azure,” says Nieh.
Multiregional Disaster Protection
The NetApp storage system provides nondisruptive operation during routine maintenance procedures, but NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure extends this high availability to regional disaster protection. For example, customers can replicate data between Azure datacenters in different regions so that, in the event of a disaster in one Azure region, customers can bring up their enterprise applications in an Azure datacenter in a different region.
“We want to provide storage solutions that help our customers use any cloud deployment model,” Nieh says. “Our cloud vision is about providing data control, management, and portability between all cloud elements. By connecting to Azure through ExpressRoute, we can fulfill this vision.”