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Cloud Options When Upgrading Microsoft Server

CTERA gets called in for some big Microsoft Storage Server replacement projects. Like… 1,000s of sites big. Because of this, we’ve been spending some time thinking a lot about the upcoming end of support for Windows Server 2003 and customers who have expiring hardware support for 2008-based servers.


Customers often think that cloud storage gateways are the natural evolutionary alternative to their existing branch office strategy… however, data size and access patterns can mean all of the world when making these decisions, and caching gateways are not always a panacea. As I explained in my previous blog, there’s two flavors of cloud storage gateways in the marketplace.

  • Sync Gateways are often used to replace small-medium branch office storage. Sync gateways are lower-cost than caching gateways for small datasets and use the cloud as a disaster recovery target, where the authoritative namespace lives at the branch and snapshots are capacity-managed to the cloud.
  • Caching Gateways are often used to replace or accelerate enterprise NAS systems such as large scale monolithic or scale-out file systems. Caching gateways can present economic advantage for large, dormant datasets by managing infrequently used data back and forth from the cloud. Caching gateways are often built with higher-power storage technology than sync gateways, because Flash techology and high-powered processors are used to manage global locking and buffer data back and forth from the WAN.

So… you’re a Windows Storage Server user and wondering what to do next?
Here’s some factoids to help frame your decision:

1. Caching gateways ain’t cheap. Here’s the StorSimple pricelist as of October 5, 2014.

Appliances for StorSimple Solution

What drives this pricing is a reliance on high powered servers that require both expensive Flash technology as well as Microsoft storage software to deliver a robust gateway experience. So, as we think of traditional Windows Storage Server installations at the branch that were previously bought for $5,000-$20,000, it’s clear that caching gateways aren’t appropriate for users who don’t have large data volumes.

Here’s a comparison vs. CTERA products (which are priced more in-band with Windows Server, provided as a frame-of-reference example):

Store Simple Azure


As an FYI, Central management is available exclusively for the 8×00 model gateways. CTERA offers central management of all of our systems without the $100K ticket.

2. When gateways are too expensive, customers then look at refreshing Windows Server at the branch and consider Windows 2013 for their remote and branch offices. This is often a more appropriate a more appropriate evolution of a storage strategy if only because it doesn’t require an order-of-magnitude increase in the cost of branch storage as StorSimple would for small-medium sites. Some considerations:

(apologies to Satya, I know you’re CEO now,
you’re just not as fun…)


  • Shameless plug for CTERA… applicance vs. appliance, without the need to buy special operating system software or 3rd party branch office storage, CTERA appliances save customers over 50% vs. Windows Server storage appliances (cloud not included).
  • When it comes to the topic of cloud storage for DR, this is when things get really interesting. Cue the obligatory Microsoft blog gif.
Yes, you’re reading this right. Just this last week Microsoft reduced the cost of the Azure backup service for Windows Servers to $0.20 per GB per month:

Pricing details

CTERA, on the other hand, leverages private and virtual private cloud storage for DR and doesn’t charge anything for disaster recovery of it’s gateways.

Referencing very public cloud pricing like Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), you can see that CTERA can leverage cloud capacity that costs as little as $0.03 per GB per month, in other words… Microsoft can cost as much as 600% more than CTERA’s DR alternative(s). Now, this is not entirely apples to apples because we also need some small amount of resources for metadata management in the cloud, but metadata on block storage generally amounts to 1% of the entire snapshot space.


Now that you know the ins and outs of Microsoft pricing for DR-enabled branch storage, let’s review the TCO and capability benefits… with CTERA:

  • Beat the caching StorSimple cost-curve up to 100TB per branch
  • Enjoy always-on access to data even when the internet is offline
  • Save 50% over Microsoft Windows Server for ROBO NAS and Backup systems, and…
  • When it comes time to DR-enable your branch storage, increase your savings to over 80% in the first year alone with CTERA and our cloud and object storage partners vs. approaches that use Azure Backup Service @ $0.20/gb/mo

Want us to do a TCO analysis of your remote and branch office strategy? We saved the customer I referenced above over $50 million vs a Microsoft-based alternative… when it comes time to refresh your ROBO environment, call us… we’ll make it worth your while.

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