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11 Things I Learned in Migrating Off StorSimple

I lead IT Innovation at URBN, the parent company of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie Group, Free People & Nuuly. A few years ago we made the decision to migrate 400 TBs off StorSimple and I’d like to share what I learned from that experience.

First, a little background on URBN. We have two sides to our business – corporate operations and retail. Each of our retail brands has different personalities, challenges, and goals. My job is to find technology solutions that bridge the gaps between all these different worlds.

Our corporate headquarters are in Philadelphia, PA, but we have offices around the globe. Our file storage needs are always growing. Our creative and media teams are working with larger and more complex files – 3D renderings of new clothes, high-resolution stills from photo shoots, 4K video. We originally deployed StorSimple because our traditional file storage and data protection solutions were too limited. Short of physically attaching more storage it was impossible to grow, and we were performing multiple backups a day to tape. Something had to give.

We deployed two StorSimple 8000 series appliances in our main office and divided the workload between them. While this worked well for a period of time, we started to outgrow StorSimple.

Microsoft suggested we consider Nasuni with Azure blob storage, and after evaluating the platform, we decided to make the switch. Here are 11 things I learned in migrating off StorSimple. 

1. There’s no reason to wait for 2022.

As Karl Rautenstrauch, Principal Program Manager, Storage Partners, at Microsoft explained in our recent webinar, Microsoft is officially ending support for StorSimple on December 31, 2022. Why wait for 2022 though? We didn’t, and I’m glad we migrated when we did, because there is so much more you can do with a complete cloud file services solution like the one from Nasuni – easy global collaboration, fast file synchronization, better management, and cost savings.

2. If you’re reading this, Azure Files probably isn’t right for you.

Whether you choose to move from StorSimple to Azure Files or Nasuni and Azure blob storage really depends on how large and interconnected your organization is. We considered Azure Files and the Azure File Sync option, and we did use it to a limited degree, but in my opinion it’s not as enterprise ready as StorSimple or Nasuni. It’s a great product, but it does have limitations that make it more appropriate for smaller businesses.

3. StorSimple migrations don’t have to be painful.

When we migrated from StorSimple to Nasuni, we migrated 95% of the data within Azure. We took a snapshot of all our volumes from StorSimple, then restored them to a virtual StorSimple appliance running in Azure. All of our file data was now available in the cloud. We spun up a Nasuni Edge Appliance VM in Azure and robocopied the files between the two. We also engaged the Nasuni Professional Services team to make sure we were catching everything and doing it as efficiently as possible.

If you’re robocopying millions of small files from one virtual machine to another, it’s going to take a little while, but you can let this process run in the background. The final delta – switching from working off the live copy on your StorSimple appliance to Nasuni – is surprisingly fast. We could get through 64 TBs with robocopy in a matter of minutes.

In the end we received the ultimate IT compliment: No complaints, just users who appreciated the speed of Nasuni compared to StorSimple.

4. You don’t have to pay egress charges to move files.

The beauty of moving data between your StorSimple blob and your future-state Nasuni blob is that you don’t pay any egress charges. Normally you pay when data comes out of Azure or any other cloud. With our Nasuni migration, the data never left Azure, so we didn’t pay egress costs.

5. Nasuni makes the whole process easier.

Part of the reason the migration works is because Nasuni automatically keeps files in sync between the different edge appliances at each of your sites. Whether you’re initially loading your data like we did through a Nasuni VM in Azure or creating new files on a Nasuni VM on-prem, it’s available within minutes to all these other sites. There’s no specific action you have to take to make this happen. Whenever Nasuni takes a snapshot, it becomes available to the other appliances as well. The point of the snapshots is to eliminate the need for backup, but it really makes this migration cutover easy, too.

6. You’re probably not using cloud as much as you could.

We deployed StorSimple to tap into capacity and simplify backup. For the most part we were focused on creative files. Once we migrated to Nasuni, however, we started to find other workloads that would be more efficient to manage on the platform. At the end of the first year we had already migrated 400 TBs, and now we’ve far exceeded that.

7. You’re probably paying for 10-30% more cloud storage than you need to.

After we moved the initial 400 TB data set over from StorSimple, we actually ended up with around 350 TBs, thanks to Nasuni’s compression and deduplication. We saved 50 TBs from day one. Of course, we ended up putting more on it…but this was still a marked improvement, and it’s great to have this kind of visibility to be able to see what you’re saving and where.

8. There’s a difference between cloud-native and cloud-backed.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between all the different cloud solutions on the market. StorSimple cached files locally, and allowed them to tier to the cloud, but there were real limitations around the appliances. There’s a difference between cloud-backed technologies like StorSimple and cloud-native solutions like Nasuni. Getting rid of volume limits alone has been a relief. But Nasuni adds additional cloud capabilities. Our business is constantly expanding. With Nasuni, we can easily spin up a new site, and all of our data is immediately available there. We’ve become much more agile because of Nasuni.

9. Access for remote offices and workers doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

Our creative teams produce content around the world, and we need to efficiently and securely move the data back to our home office. StorSimple didn’t effectively solve for this, and we had to rely on other systems to share such large amounts of data.

Nasuni makes this whole process more efficient and cost-effective. Every remote site has access to your data, and through the snapshot process it’s available within minutes.

10. Cloud can be much faster than you think.

The specifics of our global collaboration workflow varies, but to give you an example, we’re doing more 3D product design. Our creative teams produce 3D renderings of our products, which are eventually turned into animations. Each of these files lives on Nasuni and Azure blob. The files need to be viewed and edited in multiple regions.

I won’t get into the specifics of how it all works, but Nasuni keeps up infinitely better than StorSimple ever did. We did substantial throughput testing – we have 10GB going back to the Nasuni Edge Appliances – and we determined that Nasuni writes and reads as fast as the underlying SSDs. This is a point of differentiation between Nasuni and StorSimple, which was frequently sluggish during peak usage.

11. Talk to people who specialize in these migrations.

You don’t have to be in this alone. It’s a problem worth socializing. We found out about Nasuni because we discussed our StorSimple challenges with our Microsoft representatives. Now we’re in a much better place because of it.

Talk to Microsoft about what they think. Discuss your migration with the team at Nasuni – they’re helping with more of these upgrades all the time.

To hear more from Perry Golia on his experience migrating off StorSimple and to Microsoft Azure and Nasuni, check out our on-demand webinar.

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