Understanding AWS Storage Gateway

The trend of cloud migration is still in full swing, with many enterprises relocating their entire environments to the AWS cloud, but there are companies who still rely heavily on legacy on-premise data centers. Whether they are locked down due to existing licensing, or they have some strict compliances that are forcing them to keep working with the on-site bare metal hardware, these businesses have only one option when it comes to utilizing AWS—a hybrid cloud solution.

Maintaining these hybrid clouds can be time consuming and they are also costly—there is work to do on each of them, and you have capital and operational expenses to consider. But, they do come with some advantages—like the ability to quickly adapt and change direction when business requires it. This is what makes hybrid clouds an interesting choice, as you are actually getting the best of both worlds.

In this article we’ll talk about one of the AWS services that many hybrid clouds can utilize to great benefits—AWS Storage Gateway. We will take a look at what it is, what it can offer your business, and how best to use it.

AWS Storage Gateway

Storage Gateway is a hybrid cloud storage solution that is deployed on premise, and allows your applications to utilize AWS cloud storage services like S3, Glacier, EBS, etc. It is deployed as a virtual machine or a hardware gateway appliance, and by using storage protocols like NFS, iSCSI, and SMB it provides a very optimized data transfer capabilities, along with various other features.

There are lots of benefits when it comes to utilizing Storage Gateway. Thanks to its local caching it offers very low latency network and disk performance, and it also supports encryption, data protection, and bandwidth management.

Storage Gateway is natively integrated with many other AWS services, so you can have your data utilized by various analytics, machine learning, logging, monitoring, and other products. Your data will also benefit from all the cloud services it utilizes, from security, scalability, availability, and durability (Amazon S3 and Glacier are designed for 99.999999999% durability).

Using Storage Gateway reduces the overhead of maintaining your on-premise storage solution, which in turn has huge benefits for your business overall. By removing the huge upfront cost of hardware and moving to an operational expenses model, your business can become more flexible, and rely more easily on the global infrastructure and products provided by AWS.

AWS Gateway Storage Types

AWS Storage Gateway comes in three different types, as a File Gateway, Volume Gateway, and a Tape Gateway, each designed to suit specific needs and requirements.

File Gateway

A File Gateway is a type of Storage Gateway used to integrate your existing on-premise application with the Amazon S3. It provides NFS (Network File System) and SMB (Server Message Block) access to data in S3 for any workloads that require working with objects.

By relying on AWS S3, File Gateway provides you with not only multiple S3 storage classes to choose from, but also the ability to implement various policies on your data, or even replicate it around the world within other available regions.

Use Cases

File Gateway is a great choice for various hybrid cloud workloads. For example if your company does a lot of big data analytics, but relies on both on-premise and the AWS cloud, File Gateway makes it easy for you to move the data to S3 and ingest it to something like EMR or Athena.

The resulting data can be stored in S3 as well, which allows it to be visible to your on-premise applications—something which can be utilized further for business intelligence etc.

Machine learning is another use case for this service, especially if you rely on AWS services like SageMaker, Forecast, or Rekognition.

File Gateway can also be used for simple backups to the cloud, thanks to NFS and SMB interfaces. Your existing backup jobs can start offloading data directly to S3, and depending on the requirements, retention policies can be used to transition the data to different storage classes to reduce the cost.

Volume Gateway

Unlike File Gateways which are used for accessing objects, Volume Gateways present your on-premise application with the iSCSI block storage instead. Volume Gateways allow you to have point-in-time backups of your volumes stored as EBS snapshots, and come in two different operational modes: stored and cached.

Stored volumes make your entire data available locally on the gateway, while maintaining an asynchronous copy in the S3 bucket.

Cached volumes store the full volume in the S3 bucket, while only keeping the recently used data in local cache.

Use Cases

Volume Gateways are often used to back up local data, as well as for disaster recovery. By having a snapshot of your data on AWS, you can easily recreate an EBS volume and attach it to a running EC2 instance, allowing you to quickly recover from an event that affected your on-premise data center. Volume Gateways are also integrated with the AWS Backup service, which help you simplify backup management.

In the case of migrating application data to the cloud, Volume Gateways are also a great choice. Thanks to snapshots, you can move your on-premise data to EBS volumes and run it in the cloud in no time.

Tape Gateway

Tape Gateway acts as an industry-standard iSCSI-based Virtual Tape Library (VTL). Deployed on-premise, it consist of virtual media changer and virtual tape drives, and allows you to continue to rely on your existing backup workflows. At the same time your data is written to virtual tapes which are stored in durable S3 buckets, and is ready to be archived to Glacier (further reducing the storage cost) when frequent access is no longer needed.

Tape Gateway is compatible with many common backup applications, such as Veeam Backup & Replication, Dell EMC NetWorker, Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, and many others.

Use Cases

Tape Gateways are primarily used as a replacement for old tape backup systems, without the need to make any significant changes to your existing backup process. Physical tape backup systems involved very costly hardware, and the tape management process was a serious issue. Shipping tapes to an off-site storage required time and money, and also made your offline data inaccessible. Durability was also a concern—something which changes completely when using S3 and Glacier.

AWS Storage Gateway Pricing

All three types will be charged for data written to AWS storage by your gateway, costing you $0.01 per GB of data (up to a maximum of $125.00 per gateway per month). On top of that, each type will have some specific costs related to it.

File Gateways will produce cost for all data stored in S3 buckets—you will be charged both for storage and requests based on S3 pricing.

Volume Gateways will cost you $0.023 per GB of data stored in volumes, but you will also pay for snapshots (stored and billed as EBS snapshots—$0.05 per GB of data stored).

Tape Gateways will cost you $0.023 per GB for virtual tape storage, and $0.004 per GB for archived virtual tape storage (these prices reflect S3 and Glacier cost). And if you need to retrieve your data, you will pay $0.01 per GB. Archiving data is free of charge.

Summary

AWS Storage Gateway is a service that allows you to connect your on-premise applications to the cloud storage services, and to take full advantage of them. With three different types to choose from, each designed to suit a specific requirement, it is a very versatile product that can cover a wide variety of use cases—from simple backups and disaster recovery, to full data migrations or utilizing cloud resources for various different workloads. So if your company is using a hybrid cloud solution, involving both an on-premise data center as well as the AWS, Storage Gateway is a service you should look into.

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