Amazon may deserve most of the credit for popularizing the basic concept of accessing storage as a cloud computing resource, but the battle over intelligent storage cloud computing services is just beginning. And no less than three companies - a relative upstart, a unit of Seagate and IBM, are all looking to pioneer the next generation of storage-as-a-service.
Most existing online storage services are pretty rudimentary. But as time goes on, it's clear that fairly sophisticated data management tools will soon be part of the mix. That means that IT organizations should expect to see the equivalent of hierarchical storage management (HSM) systems being made available via the cloud. And once that happens, the ability to intelligently scale storage management services based on the value, rather than volume, of the data should be close at hand. The concept of information lifecycle management (ILM) as it applies to storage has been around for quite some time. What's new is that in addition to letting customers store data in the cloud, vendors are starting to couple services to their cloud offerings that help customers dynamically manage data both locally and in the cloud.
Fro example, IBM has launched what amounts to a private cloud computing service that allows corporations to dynamically outsource storage management to IBM. The IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud and the IBM Information Archive are two cloud computing services that IBM will manage on behalf of corporate customers either in its own data centers or on the premises of the customer.
Like Amazon, IBM plans to charge customers a flat rate based on the number of gigabytes stored, but unlike Amazon, won't ask for a separate fee on top of that to access and use the data.
Longer term, IBM will also roll out a Smart Business Storage on the IBM Cloud, which is public cloud implementation of the same service. Customers will be able to integrate their private cloud service into the IBM public cloud service and vice versa.
Also looking to play a more active role in helping customers manage their data is i365, a unit of disk drive manufacturer Seagate. I365 already offers an eVault service that allows customers to archive data. The company has now added a replication capability that makes it simpler to keep a mirror copy of locally stored data in the cloud.
Long term, i365 aspires to offer a complete range of data management capabilities that will allow it to remotely manage data stored on any number of local storage systems from diverse vendors, regardless of the management software used on those systems. Those services will be orchestrated through a NAS appliance that i365 will deploy on the customer's site.
Finally, CTera Networks, in partnership with Rackspace, announced a "cloud-attached" storage system that relies on a local network-attached storage (NAS) appliance to transparently move files back and forth as needed between local storage and a cloud computing service hosted by Rackspace.
That service, primarily aimed at small-to-medium businesses, starts at $199 to $499.
These three offerings are only a few of a host of services that will all be competing to become primary destinations for storing data in the cloud. As the amount of data that needs to be managed continues to double every year, while the number of people available to manage it declines, storage vendors of all stripes are offering online services to fill the gap.