Wouldn’t it be great if you could optimize your local storage with a high performance SSD- and SAS-tiered SAN and then automatically back up all your data to the cloud? Wouldn’t you like to be able to download that data from the cloud to your data centers for disaster recovery? And wouldn’t it be great if all that data was secured using AES-256 encryption? Even better, what if you could store files that you aren’t actively using to the cloud? This scenario might sound like an impossible pipe dream, but it’s exactly what StorSimple does.

Microsoft acquired StorSimple back in November 2012. Now, the product is one of Microsoft’s best hidden cloud gems and provides a new generation of hybrid cloud-integrated storage. StorSimple systems are a new kind of enterprise storage device. StorSimple uses SSDs and hard disks on-premise, like other hybrid storage systems, but also uses cloud storage services for online capacity expansion. StorSimple is an innovative, enterprise-level SSD and SAS SAN that provides high-performance local storage and enables seamless and simple cloud integration.

A solution such as StorSimple would really have saved the day for one of the remote branches of the Fortune 100 Company that I used to work for. This particular location, in southern California, installed its own site generator, which was intended to compensate for the occasional brownouts that hit the Compton area. Unfortunately, the company never tested this solution. When the next power outage hit, the untested generator blew out all the on-premise computer equipment. It took several days to repair the equipment and bring everything back online. A solution like StorSimple could have reduced this window to hours or even minutes.

Although you probably think of Microsoft as a software provider, StorSimple is an integrated hardware and software solution. The four device models range from the 2U 5020 model, which supports a local capacity of 2TB and a maximum capacity of 100TB, to the 4U 7520 model, which supports a local capacity of 20TB and a maximum of 500TB. All the StorSimple systems support the types of features that you would expect to see in an enterprise SAN device:

  • Dual redundant hot-swappable power supplies
  • Hot-swappable drives
  • iSCSI multipath I/O
  • Thin provisioning
  • Data deduplication
  • Local snapshots
  • Automated storage tiering
  • Microsoft VSS
  • HTTPS/SLL for in-motion data protection
  • AES-256-CBC for at-rest data protection


You can see the StorSimple system in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The StorSimple System

Although StorSimple has many features of an enterprise SAN, the device is more than just a local storage system. StorSimple’s multi-tier, cloud-integrated approach enables much higher levels of automation for management tasks that are time consuming and error-prone—and does so in a small 2U or 4U form factor. StorSimple is best suited for Tier 2 type workloads such as file serving and Microsoft SharePoint; it isn’t really designed to support I/O-intensive enterprise servers such as Microsoft SQL Server or Exchange.

StorSimple automated data-tiering spans from the device to the cloud, giving you the elastic flexibility of the cloud combined with high-performance local storage. StorSimple provides and automatically manages four data tiers:

  • Tier 1 stores very active data located on SSDs; not deduplicated or compressed
  • Tier 2 stores frequently accessed data on SSDs; deduplicated
  • Tier 3 stores less frequently accessed on HDDs; deduplicated and compressed
  • Tier 4 stores inactive data in the cloud


Automated tiering, combined with cloud integration, gives you massive scalability for the cost of a little more latency for lesser-used data. The working set stays on-premise, and inactive data goes to the cloud, where it can be accessed quickly if it is needed.

You can learn more about StorSimple and hybrid cloud at http://www.microsoft.com/storsimple. To find out more about Microsoft’s cloud storage solutions, visit the Cloud Storage page at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/solutions/storage.aspx#fbid=-2s7iNZnD88.