Storage remains the primary application for the enterprise cloud, but its days as simply a low-cost warehouse for bulk data are coming to an end. Going forward, the enterprise should see a widening array (sorry) of storage options in the cloud, most of them geared toward highly targeted workloads.
According to 451 Research, overall pricing for cloud storage will continue to fall as providers shift the competitive playing field from virtual machines to object storage. Over the past year, object pricing has dropped by 14 percent compared to a 5 percent cut in VM costs. The trend is being driven by a number of factors, including the increased prevalence of cloud-native storage solutions and the fact that object storage itself is quickly emerging as a mainstream enterprise option. As well, top cloud providers are keen on maintaining competitive advantages in both compute and storage, and are likely to take the pricing war to relational database services next.
Data migration to the cloud continues to center largely on storage-related applications like disaster recovery and archiving, according to recent research by backup specialist Zetta. In a survey of 385 IT professionals, DR came in as the number one application for 36 percent of respondents, while file sharing, backup and general storage were in a statistical dead heat for second at around 30 percent. And while lower cost is still the most common reason for employing cloud storage, other factors like speed and management simplicity are emerging as key factors as well.
Cloud storage is also making its way onto leading enterprise systems and platforms, offering users an integrated solution combining low costs, high scale and broad data availability. Oracle recently linked its own storage cloud to the ZFS Storage Appliance, giving organizations a way to converge on-premises and cloud-facing data without expensive gateways or cloud-access licenses. In this way, users pay pennies per GB per month for inbound and outbound data movement while gaining advanced features like intelligent automation, all-Flash storage pools and cloud-scale data protection.
Recent developments are also making it easier for the enterprise to establish integrated storage solutions across multiple third-party clouds. Open-source storage management firm NextCloud recently added a blockchain solution from a company called Sia that allows organizations to build encrypted, distributed storage pools using virtually any provider. While blockchain is typically used as an online ledger for digital currency, it also has broad applications in non-financial settings in which data veracity is still a top priority. Sia maintains it can cut cloud storage costs by a factor of 10 compared to leading solutions like Amazon S3.
Clearly, the cloud will prove to be a valuable asset as the enterprise transitions to a digital services model through initiatives like the Internet of Things and Big Data analytics. Even if only a fraction of the data generated in the coming years is worth saving, it still represents a substantial increase in volume that can only be realistically accommodated by low-cost, cloud-based solutions.
But it’s important to note that storing data is only part of the equation. Enterprises will also need increasingly sophisticated means of locating, transferring and sharing all of this information.
Even in the cloud, there is a great discrepancy between the value of data at rest and data in motion.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.