The implications of cloud computing on the data center are certainly huge, but to be realistic, many of the more esoteric applications are still a few years out.
Most enterprises will tread very carefully into the cloud at first, making sure it can provide the needed scalability and security. That's why initial applications tend to focus on the more familiar functions, such as storage, which already enjoys a healthy existence courtesy of online and SaaS providers.
More specifically, it appears that most cloud deployments are focusing on the backup and recovery aspect of storage. After all, what better way to keep a virtual carbon copy of a data center than the cloud?
Still, there are some issues to overcome. One of them is extending a single backup regime over multiple platforms. For heterogeneous environments, universal backup usually means a separate backup component for each platform, which adds a significant cost to an application that will rarely be used.
A multi-platform, cloud-based recovery system is at the heart of a partnership between Microsoft and Seagate, the first fruits of which were recently unveiled in the form of a union between the System Center Data Protection Management 2010 module and the i365 EVault system. EVault had made a name for itself in multi-platform protection before it was acquired by Seagate, so adding it to the DPM 2010 brings instant connectivity to such non-Windows platforms as UNIX, Linux, Novel, Netware, VMware, IBM and Oracle. Cloud support will come in the form EVault's series of SAS 70 Type II tier 3 and 4 host centers, as well as forthcoming WAN optimization technology.
Hosting companies like RackSpace are also placing a premium on multi-platform recovery. The company's Jungle Disk subsidiary is targeting small and medium-sized businesses with a new Server Edition that will support Windows, Mac and Linux environments, adding in tools such as remote management and block-level data dedupe for good measure. The system has been in beta since last month and should see a general release by the end of the year.
Besides multi-platform support, what other types of features should users expect from cloud backup? FalconStor's Fadi Albatal, spelled out a number of basic requirements for his ideal model on IT Business Edge earlier this month, calling for things like full replication through automated backup and snapshots, full-site system, disk and file recovery, WAN optimization and automated data validation. It's just a hunch, but I suspect these are exactly the kinds of features you'll see on Falconstor's HyperFS system when it launches next year.
Cloud-based backup and recovery has put a lot of minds to rest at data centers that simply could not afford the hardware duplication efforts of the top-tier enterprises. It's still a big job no matter how you look at it, but at least with a specialized recovery service, much of the heavy financial burden can be shared among multiple users, with only a remote chance that two or more will have to stumble past each other to access their data in the event of an emergency.
And now that multi-platform support is taking hold, recovery efforts can be streamlined even further.