A lot of people look askance at the idea of Big Data, wondering if it is more hype than substance. But consider this: Microsoft's most successful corporate acquisition to date is a company that does nothing but manage the huge growth of data for customers.

The data pressure, whether you buy into the hype or not, is most definitely on for companies, and StorSimple is one of the vendors seeking to alleviate that pressure.

This week marks the one-year anniversary since the crew in Redmond formally acquired StorSimple, and because of the phenomenal success the StorSimple acquisition has had, Microsoft is taking a little time to celebrate.

StorSimple, which was founded in 2010, is a hardware storage gateway vendor that specializes in tiered storage. Tiered storage is a way to organize storage needs in location or needs priorities. One common example of tiered-storage use is to store lesser-used archival "cold" data in a public cloud, while keeping more-used "hot" data stored locally for faster access.

Because the tiers are transparent to end users, the distribution of data is seamless. If the resources on the public cloud are large enough or use good, elastic policies to expand on demand, then users essentially get "a bottomless file server," according to Microsoft corporate VP Brad Anderson.

Anderson, who oversees Microsoft's Windows Server and "system center" products, isn't what you would call subdued about StorSimple's success to date.

"In the six months following to the Microsoft acquisition, versus the six months pre-acquisition, StorSimple did seven times the business," Anderson related in a recent interview.

Or put another way: in those six months after the acquisition, StorSimple was hitting numbers it wasn't expecting to hit until three years after it was bought.

Data Is Life

Numbers aren't usually a focus of the story, but they are important to mention in this instance, because they are a solid piece of evidence that suggests there is more to this data explosion than mere hype.

Anderson said that many of StorSimple's customers are seeing data growth rates of 40-50% per year, and that storage is the fastest growing line item for data center budgets. That feels pretty market-y, but it does match the ongoing conversations people have been having in the enterprise about data management and storage.

It is easy to see "data" and start thinking "big data"—with all the attendant analytics, application development and magic pixie-dust that big data hype will usually bring. But even regular data needs—the kind that just needs to be stored for business, backup or disaster recovery reasons—must be managed.

And, ideally, without breaking the budget. Anderson highlighted the City of Palo Alto, Calif., which jumped to StorSimple after reviewing storage area network options that would have run the city $250,000. The bill for StorSimple was closer to $60,000.

Cost is a big driver for StorSimple customers, and so is flexibility. The seamless approach described earlier is a boon not only to end users but to their IT managers as well. It also gets them exposure to using a public cloud-based platform.

That doesn't bother Anderson: 50% of new StorSimple customers are using Windows Azure for the first time. Data storage in the cloud could be the gateway drug for enterprises and small- to medium-sized businesses to more cloud computing use later.

As entire ecosystems continue to grow around big data and data analytics, companies are still very much seeking the less-flashy but still critically important, tools to manage everyday data. Businesses still have work, and now more than ever, even "ordinary" data is a company's life blood.

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