A hybrid storage system refers to a data storage infrastructure that uses multiple storage technologies together to optimize performance, capacity, and cost (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352152X23017048). This combines the strengths of different storage media like hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), and cloud storage in a single architecture.
The goal of a hybrid storage system is to balance trade-offs and take advantage of the strengths of each storage type. For example, SSDs offer faster access times and better performance than HDDs, but have lower capacities and higher costs per gigabyte. Meanwhile, HDDs provide much higher densities for storing large amounts of data at a lower cost point. By combining these technologies, hybrid storage aims to deliver an optimal overall solution.
One of the main benefits of hybrid cloud storage is potential cost savings compared to relying solely on public cloud or private cloud storage options. As Trevor Norcross from InformationWeek notes, hybrid cloud allows organizations to optimize spending by determining the most cost-effective locations to store data based on access frequency, security and compliance requirements. Less active data can be stored in lower cost object storage services, while performance-sensitive data is kept on premises.
In addition to cost savings, hybrid cloud storage can provide performance benefits by keeping frequently accessed data in local, low latency storage while still providing the ability to scale capacity and redundancy using public cloud. The local storage tier provides faster access to active operational data.
Hybrid cloud also offers more flexibility compared to a single storage architecture. Organizations can move data between on-premises, private cloud and public cloud storage as needs change over time. Hybrid provides the ability to scale storage on demand while maintaining control over sensitive data stored on premises as pointed out by WEKA.
One of the key benefits of a hybrid storage system is the potential for significant cost savings compared to a traditional on-premises storage architecture. By leveraging lower cost storage tiers, whether in the public cloud or on secondary on-premises storage, organizations can optimize spending based on access patterns, retention policies, and data value.
For example, cold data that is infrequently accessed can be moved to a low-cost object storage tier, either on-premises or in the cloud. This allows expensive primary storage to be reserved for hot data that requires high performance. According to The Economics of Hybrid Cloud Storage, storing 80% of data in the cloud can lead to 46% savings depending on the vendor.
In addition, built-in data lifecycle management in hybrid storage systems automatically migrates data between tiers based on policy. This eliminates manual data management and leverages the economics of each storage tier dynamically as data ages and access patterns change. Overall, the flexibility to leverage both on-premises and cloud resources optimally can lead to significant cost reductions compared to legacy storage platforms.
A key benefit of hybrid storage is improved performance compared to traditional HDD arrays, while still being more cost-effective than pure SSD storage. Hybrid systems leverage SSDs as a cache or tier to accelerate access to frequently accessed “hot” data (according to https://www.techtarget.com/searchstorage/definition/hybrid-flash-array).
SSDs can provide performance up to 100x faster than HDDs, with latency in microseconds rather than milliseconds. However, SSDs are still significantly more expensive per GB than HDDs. By intelligently caching hot data on SSDs, while colder data resides on HDDs, hybrid arrays deliver substantially better performance than HDD-only arrays, at a lower cost than pure SSD storage.
Tiering or caching algorithms identify hot data through analyzing access patterns. Frequently accessed data is promoted to the SSD cache. This provides faster access compared to retrieving from HDDs each time. SSDs in hybrid arrays typically make up 10-20% of the overall raw capacity, while boosting performance manifold (according to https://www.purestorage.com/knowledge/what-is-hybrid-storage.html).
One of the key benefits of a hybrid storage system is flexibility. A hybrid storage system allows organizations to mix and match different types of storage media like SSD, HDD, and cloud storage to meet their changing needs (1). This provides the ability to adjust storage resources in real-time and scale up or down as requirements change. For example, businesses may start with lower cost HDD storage for archival data but add SSD for performance-sensitive workloads, and leverage cloud storage for backup, disaster recovery, or seasonal capacity bursts.
The hybrid model offers excellent scalability to expand storage on-premises or in the cloud to accommodate growth and new applications (2). Rather than having to overprovision on-premises storage upfront to allow for future growth, organizations can start with a smaller footprint and scale incrementally. Similarly, if storage needs decrease, capacity can be reduced to optimize costs. This agility and ability to align storage closely with business needs makes hybrid storage highly flexible.
Some common use cases for hybrid storage systems include:
Virtualization – Hybrid storage can provide the right storage tiers for different virtual machine workloads. Hot VMs can use high performance flash storage, while cold VMs can leverage cheaper disk drives. This allows optimization of cost and performance (Hybrid cloud use cases).
Databases – A hybrid system allows primary databases to reside on premises for low latency access, while analytical databases can run in the cloud for scalability and cost savings. This provides the best of both worlds (Hybrid cloud examples, applications and use cases – IBM).
Archives – Older, infrequently accessed data can be tiered to cheaper object storage in the cloud. This reduces on-premises storage costs while still providing access when needed.
Backups – Hybrid storage enables using cloud storage for lower cost backups and archives, while retaining rapid restore capabilities from on-premises. This provides data protection with optimized spend (Pros and Cons of 10 Common Hybrid Cloud Use Cases).
Adopting a hybrid cloud storage approach can introduce complexity and new challenges that organizations need to be prepared for. One key challenge is managing the complexity of simultaneously operating and monitoring multiple storage systems across on-premises and cloud environments (The Benefits and Drawbacks of Hybrid Cloud Storage, 2023). This requires robust tiering policies to determine what data resides where, as well as processes to move data between tiers as needs change over time.
Organizations need the expertise to set policies to optimize costs while still meeting performance needs. Tiering data properly is crucial to maximize the strengths of both on-prem and cloud storage. Getting these policies wrong can negate many of the potential benefits of hybrid storage. Maintaining consistent compliance, security and data protection policies across hybrid environments is another complication organizations must address (Top 7 Hybrid Cloud Challenges, 2023). The increased complexity requires additional staff training and expertise compared to managing a single storage platform.
There are many vendors that offer hybrid cloud storage solutions. Some of the major players include:
NetApp – NetApp offers a range of hybrid cloud data services that work across on-premises environments and public clouds like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Their solutions help manage data across hybrid cloud architectures. (Gartner)
Dell EMC – Dell EMC provides storage arrays that can tier data between on-premises systems and public cloud object storage through its PowerStore, PowerMax, and Unity XT platforms. This helps optimize costs while maintaining high performance. (Data Centre Magazine)
HPE – HPE offers hybrid cloud data services like GreenLake that provide on-premises hardware with pay-as-you-go economics. HPE GreenLake supports hybrid cloud use cases across a wide range of HPE storage, compute, database, and virtualization products. (G2)
Pure Storage – Pure Storage’s subscription-based Evergreen architecture allows seamless scaling and non-disruptive upgrades between on-prem and cloud. Their solutions like Pure Storage Cloud Block Store and CloudSnap provide hybrid cloud data mobility.
IBM – IBM Cloud offers virtualized storage through IBM Spectrum Virtualize that can replicate on-prem data to IBM Cloud Object Storage. This enables seamless data migration and disaster recovery across hybrid environments.
The architecture of a hybrid storage system typically involves some centralized management and coordination hardware or software. Some options include:
- Hardware controllers – Dedicated appliances like AWS Storage Gateway that manage the connection between on-prem and cloud.
- Software-defined storage – Management software that provides abstraction between different storage systems like file, block, object storage. This allows centralized management.
Hardware-based solutions can offer performance benefits but less flexibility. Software-defined storage provides more flexibility to integrate different systems and clouds. Most vendors offer both hardware and software options for hybrid storage management.
In summary, a hybrid storage system can offer significant benefits over traditional storage architectures by combining the strengths of multiple storage mediums into a unified system. The main advantages of hybrid storage include cost savings, improved performance, and increased flexibility. By intelligently placing data across different tiers like SSD, HDD, and cloud storage, organizations can optimize storage costs while still meeting performance SLAs.
Looking ahead, we expect hybrid storage adoption to continue growing as data volumes explode and workloads become increasingly diverse. Cloud-based object storage will likely play a larger role in hybrid architectures as well. At the same time, storage vendors will continue enhancing their automated tiering algorithms and integration capabilities across on-prem and cloud resources. With careful planning and testing, organizations can craft hybrid storage solutions tailored to their specific needs and budget.