When building your cloud practice, there are three major resource components you need to consider: Compute, Networking, and Storage. Green Cloud has historically focused on robust, modern Compute and Networking resources. With the most recent addition to our product portfolio, Object Storage, we will also bring cutting-edge Storage options to our cloud partners.

Object Storage is a new, somewhat mysterious concept for many cloud providers; they likely know it exists, but may not be familiar with how it compares to other legacy data storage models. In this article we will compare Object Storage to Block Storage in order to illustrate why Object Storage excels in modern Cloud-Native architectures. We will look at the differences in design philosophy between these storage solutions, then how those design changes impact usability, and finally how those usability differences affect the use cases for which Object and Block storage are best suited.

First, what is Block Storage?

Block Storage is the data storage model with which most users are familiar. It is the easiest model to immediately grasp: your Microsoft Word documents, enterprise databases, and cat photos are all stored as files on a disk or array. These files have a beginning and end somewhere on one or more hard disks, and are chopped up into discrete units called Blocks. Each Block has an address that the Operating System knows, and that address is the only way to access that specific file (or piece of a file).

When a file transaction happens on local storage, blocks are a very effective and low-latency way to store and access those files. However, what happens when we need to access files remotely, for instance from an API call inside an application? We need to know a few things to make that happen:

  • The exact location of the file

  • The format to expect when receiving that file

  • The protocol of the server that serves us the file

If any of those parameters are incorrect, this could cause issues in our application. We could design our application around this storage paradigm to mitigate these issues… but what if we didn’t have to? With more and more workloads shifting to Cloud-Native designs that require remote data access, an opportunity appeared to redefine storage altogether.

How is Object Storage Different?

Let’s revisit our API file access example above. If we were to design data storage specifically around the needs of software engineers, we would want to solve these problems by providing:

  • Alternate ways to address and locate files (i.e., metadata)

  • Format-agnostic file delivery

  • Location-agnostic access

With these design tenets in mind, in 2006 Amazon’s AWS division defined a new API Standard called S3 (Simple Storage Service). S3 introduced a single storage unit, aptly named a “Bucket”. Buckets hold S3’s only data unit, the “Object”. To access Objects, the user needs only the following information:

  • The Bucket URL

  • The Access Keys for the Bucket

  • Metadata that applies to the Object, such as:

    • Name

    • File Format

    • Custom Metadata Tags

To illustrate this difference, let’s look at an example.

Example: Storing Dogs

Imagine we are tasked with running a dog kennel. We need a way to track where the dogs end up. If we designed our dog storage around Blocks, we would need to start with a large number of crates, and then create a list of the dogs that are contained in each crate. Were someone to spill coffee on the list, or try to find a dog without knowing its crate number, we would immediately run into trouble.

An Object Storage bucket-kennel would work a bit differently. Upon arrival, each dog would receive its own electronic tag with information like Name, Owner, Breed, Color, and so on. These tags are all entered into a database. Then, when the owner arrives, they would have many ways to locate and retrieve their dog.

To apply this example: rather than having to know the specific server, protocol, and location for a File, the software engineer only needs to know in which Bucket it is located, and what metadata is associated with the Object. Since the engineer can also define this metadata when they first store the Object, they can design the data access portion of their application to be extremely simple and easy-to-maintain.

Compare & Contrast: Object vs. Block Storage

Now that we have seen the design differences between these two storage architectures, the next question for cloud solution designers then becomes: “How do these differences affect usability?” As infrastructure providers at Green Cloud, we want to examine solutions based on their Reliability, Performance, and Scalability.

Reliability

Object Storage uses complex data protection algorithms such as Erasure Coding to abstract away the underlying Storage infrastructure. This allows Cloud providers to focus on drive integrity, which greatly improves reliability.

Performance

Block Storage will out-perform Object Storage when an application makes many individual data transactions per second, such as with large databases. For distributed data and streaming, however, Object Storage reduces the latency to retrieve data by delivering from geo-redundant locations.

Scalability

Since Block Storage is addressed, there is an automatic limitation built-in to how much data can be addressed. On the other hand, Object Storage buckets can scale quickly and infinitely through metadata tagging. For large amounts of unstructured data, Object Storage handily outperforms Block.

Comparing Use Cases

After seeing the usability differences above, it should seem clear that Object Storage shows some material improvements over Block Storage. In this section we break down several real-world use cases and draw connections to why Object Storage’s strengths make it a better fit in certain areas.

Bulk Storage Offload

Offloading NAS and Backup data to Object Storage is an obvious use case. When backup data reaches a certain age, applications like Veeam can automatically transfer data from locally-accessible Block Storage to remote Object Storage. This reduces cost and frees up space for more recent backups. Retention can also be automatically enforced on the Object Storage side through metadata tagging.

Media Assets

Media Asset Management applications organize and manage large amounts of raw media files. Because raw video takes up so much disk space, Block Storage will quickly fill up and become difficult to maintain. This becomes yet more impactful when dealing with Video Surveillance and Security, since the surveillance data must be closely tracked and maintained for long periods of time. Through high scalability and metadata tagging, Object Storage greatly improves usability for media-based applications.

Big Data

Machine Learning and Data Analysis techniques are growing and changing at an explosive rate. Algorithms built for these purposes require access to an extraordinary amount of data, both for training and processing purposes. Object Storage is the only reasonable way to provide petabytes or exabytes of contiguous storage to these Big Data applications.

Infrastructure-as-Code

Finally, modern cloud-native applications utilize an “Infrastructure-as-Code” approach. Object Storage is built to facilitate IaC by defining storage endpoints by URL and access key, which are very simple to implement programmatically. The S3 API provides a standard format by which orchestration platforms such as Kubernetes can access and manage Object Storage buckets.

Takeaways for Cloud MSPs

Object Storage represents a movement away from traditional local architecture towards distributed, infrastructure-agnostic computing. In a sense, Block Storage is never going away. Large transactional databases will likely always perform best with quick, local data storage. However, the improvements in Performance, Reliability, and Scalability that Object Storage offers cannot be overlooked, and some use-cases are a very obvious immediate fit. Green Cloud is excited to offer Object Storage to our partners as an extension of their cloud practice. If you would like to know more about Green Cloud’s new storage offerings, feel free to contact your Account Manager, or visit https://greenclouddefense.com/contact-us/.

Green Cloud Technologies (“Green Cloud”), a cloud technology solutions provider, has been awarded a “Top Workplace 2019” honor in South Carolina for the third year in a row. “Top Workplaces” is an annual survey conducted by Energage, a leading provider of technology-based employee engagement tools. The anonymous employee survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, such as alignment, execution and connection.

“Top Workplaces is more than just recognition,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage. “Our research shows organizations that earn the award attract better talent, experience lower turnover and are better equipped to deliver bottom-line results. Their leaders prioritize and carefully craft a healthy workplace culture that supports employee engagement.”

Cloud computing is now an integral part of doing business.  Demand for solution providers who can deliver sophisticated, cloud-based technologies and services is at an all-time high.

Green Cloud offers its channel partners an uncommon level of support with world-class servers, backup and recovery solutions. The company culture is committed to innovation, teamwork and collaboration.

“Green Cloud’s people are the primary differentiator, and we are laser-focused on transforming the cloud infrastructure market,” said Keith Coker, founder and CEO of Green Cloud. “We have grown into one of the largest independent channel-only cloud IaaS providers in the country within a few short years because our talented and dedicated employees share the company’s values and embrace our mission.”

Every Green Cloud team member is fully vested in the company. Therefore, sixty dedicated employees are committed to ensuring Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Value-Added Resellers (VARs) transition their customers to the cloud with turn-key, cloud-based infrastructure solutions.

“Becoming a Top Workplace isn’t something organizations can buy,” Claffey said. “It’s an achievement organizations have worked for and a distinction that gives them a competitive advantage. It’s a big deal.”

Green Cloud’s company culture stands out from the rest. No stuffy offices, no staring-over-your-shoulder supervisors, no inflexible hours. Our workplace is filled with laughs, lunches, beers and trivia; our company balances work life and play time like no other.

We get the job done, but we don’t overdo it. During work hours, we’re comfortable enough with each other to speak freely, allowing innovative ideas to flourish organically. But when the day ends, it’s cocktail hour with the co-workers. We offer criticism, but constructively; we laugh at jokes, but never at each other.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what some of our Green Cloud team members have to say.

“I would describe the culture as collaborative and eager to help others.” – Employee, 2 years 

“At its very core, Green Cloud’s culture emphasizes the importance of each individual’s role in the company’s success. I love the collaborative environment. Employees freely discuss questions, suggestions and solutions throughout the daily workflow. Instead of “You vs Me,” the focus is on “Us,” a team overcoming obstacles together. If you must spend 40 hours a week with people, spend it with those you enjoy being around. I truly enjoy my coworkers and feel challenged to become an ever-improving version of myself by being around them. I can’t think of a better place to work than Green Cloud.” – Employee, 4 years

“Green Cloud is a fun, laid back environment that fosters collaboration, hard work and team work. Every employee is given the opportunity to succeed and grow personally, which helps Green Cloud grow. It’s truly a great place to work.” – Employee, 1 year

“Our office environment is like a family that is full of life and energy that strives for excellence for our partners.” -Employee, 6 years

“Best work atmosphere I have ever worked in. It’s an environment that empowers employees to think and make decisions on their own for the betterment of the business and our partners.” – Employee, 1 year

“Great company culture isn’t something you can create, but something that happens when the great people at your company are given the space to be creative.” – Employee, 3 years

Our company is one like no other. Our culture fosters innovation and our solutions work. Our technology is great, and it gets better every day. That’s why we keep coming back; that’s why we put in the work day in, day out.

At Green Cloud, we treat ourselves to drinks and dinners with one another. We help one another when a grueling task requires an extra set of hands. We offer support to and inspire confidence in one another. We laugh together, work together, succeed together.

Our office is more than a cement building full of computers, desks and wires. It’s full of people who care about each other and the work they do.

Still don’t believe me? Ask us. Join our team.

We recently highlighted how Green Cloud was named one of SC’s Top Places to Work for the second year in a row, and — in an upcoming post — we described unconventional career paths some of our team members have taken. In putting together that career path post, we sat down with several Green Cloud staffers and got their perspectives on working here and building the careers they want for themselves.  

One team member we talked to has a story that truly exemplifies Green Cloud’s philosophy regarding what it means to work here. His story shows how anyone with the right attitude and work ethic can create a role for themselves within our company that transcends a mere job description.   

Jason Powell is a self-described “geek” who grew up with computers in his house, inspiring him to learn how to work on his own gear from an early age. After attending Virginia Commonwealth University, he worked for various ISPs in the Washington, DC area. This initial work experience energized his love of technology and instilled in him a service provider’s mindset, both critical elements that primed him for success at Green Cloud. 

After ten years of networking duties, Jason decided he wanted to learn more systems administration and platform skills. His desire to change things up and learn a new skillset led him to Green Cloud in 2013. He saw that Green Cloud was focused on cloud technologies and virtualization and was struck with a thought: throughout the world, virtualization is ever-expanding, so why not apply his service provider skills to learning the ins and outs of cloud infrastructure works? 

Jason started on the ground floor at Green Cloud and was willing to do so because of our company’s promise to prospective team members. At Green Cloud, anyone can quickly earn a promotion through hard work, a client-focused attitude, and the ability to bring new ideas to the table. Jason initially joined our Partner Support department as a Cloud Specialist, but quickly made himself a valuable part of the team and was promoted to Network Operations within six months.  

There, he gained in-depth admin experience with our entire technology stack as part of the engineering and monitoring team, keeping diligent watch over our infrastructure. In this role, Jason performed systems maintenance, deployed new infrastructure, and acted as the escalation point for support issues. It was this last responsibility, handling critical partner support, that created an opening for Jason to expand his duties and accelerate his career growth.  

At the time, Green Cloud’s Customer Operations department handled both provisioning of new orders and support of existing customers. This wide array of responsibilities led to some prioritization issues when it came to lengthy, complex provisioning projects, which required someone on the NOC team to assist in delivery. When the volume of those complex orders got to a certain point, our team at Green Cloud realized we needed to create a specific group to handle them so the NOC could continue to focus on their core responsibilities.  

Once the group was created, we needed a manager; Jason was an obvious choice, given his experience handling partner escalations and ability to handle high-stress, high impact situations. Faced with the choice to either continue developing his engineering skills as part of the NOC team or lead a brand-new Advanced Services Provisioning team, Jason opted to take the ASP path. His decision to increase his level of responsibility within the company, to learn new skills, and to help Green Cloud develop new capabilities put him on a completely different career track from the one he started, but one which he molded to fit his interests and ambitions. 

As manager of the ASP team, Jason led a small team of dedicated complex provisioning engineers who handled all difficult or lengthy onboarding projects at Green Cloud. In early 2017, we decided to create dedicated Partner Support and Service Delivery teams, and Jason began managing the Service Delivery team (which also had complex provisioning duties). Later that year, after proving himself time and again to be a strong and capable leader of a critical piece of Green Cloud’s partner-facing operations, Jason was promoted to Director of Partner Services over both Service Delivery and Partner Support teams. 

For Jason, there was not a “defining moment” in his career arc; he simply followed the path that led to the most interesting problems to work on. He recognized that Green Cloud rewards not just hard work, but good work, with the opportunity to advance.  For him, the path from entry-level staffer to upper management was paved with diligence and partner dedication.

As long as I’ve been at Green Cloud, it’s been very clear that anyone who was willing to work hard and take a leadership role would be rewarded with opportunity,” says Jason. “To a degree I’ve never seen at any other company, we genuinely do everything we can to promote from within and give our best teammates the ability to grow in all facets of their profession. From the top down, everyone’s door is open, and good ideas are always encouraged and rewarded. It was easy for me to chart a path at Green Cloud because my managers and other teammates were lighting the way for me; all I had to do was work hard. It has resulted in lots of interesting challenges over the years, which is what I value most highly in a position.” 

Jason Powell, Director of Partner Services

If you’re looking for a hands-on, customer-centric career path that is limited only by your desire to grow and expand your skills, then we’re looking for you. Contact us today to learn more about joining the Green Cloud team. 

In a previous post, I discussed how we compare with the hyper-scalers like Amazon and Microsoft. In this post I’d like to discuss how we compare with other mid-tier providers or datacenter providers with cloud offerings.

The answer is simple. Our focus. We focus on cloud infrastructure products and only sell those products through the channel. We do not compete with our partners. We do not have competing products and priorities in our portfolio. We have only one way to grow and that’s via the growth of our partners. This focus creates a different philosophy than the others. Making our channel partners successful and supporting them as an extension of their team is the driving force behind everything we do.

In fact, we are one of the only (if not the only) provider in the IaaS space that is channel-only. Others have channel programs or were channel-only at one point, but also have a direct sales force as well. Others are software companies, VoIP providers, colocation focused, DR focused, etc. We have never strayed from our focus of providing cloud products that our partners want and only providing them in a cooperative way. In fact, we dabbled in cloud VoIP in our early years, but realized it was a distraction to our focus on infrastructure and removed the product from our line up (even though our growth numbers were impressive.)

To sum it up: supporting our partners isn’t just part of what we do – it’s all that we do. This focus comes through in our sales process, our service delivery process, our support process, our product management process and basically every interaction our partners have with us. You won’t find another cloud provider that truly partners with its customers like Green Cloud does. Period. We don’t go away after the sell; we are always there, just like another member of your team, when you need us.

We are honest and transparent to the core. We will be right beside you when selling, but also when something goes wrong. We give you the facts so you can be there for your customers. Go to our status page. You will see the level of transparency. We share every maintenance, every bump in the night. We have nothing to hide, and everything to lose by not sharing the facts with our partners.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask around. You will hear this from our current partners. You probably already know one today amongst your peers. You will likely also find those that we are pursuing who say we are relentless in recruiting new partners. That’s true, and we don’t hide from that reputation. We won’t give up on you before or after the sell. We want and need your business, and we will work tirelessly to earn your trust and keep it. We don’t take that lightly.