Cloud Storage: More than Just Capacity


Despite some of the more breathless predictions for cloud computing in the coming year (2009: The Year of the Cloud!), I suspect that most enterprises will stay largely on the sidelines, experimenting with only the most basic functions and using strictly non-critical data.


One of the first applications to hit the cloud, however, will be storage. There's certainly a lot to like about the idea of virtually unlimited capacity available on-demand and managed by a steady stream of the latest and greatest software stacks. Simplified back-up, disaster recovery and plain old cost-savings give the cloud a number of advantages to current, in-house storage architectures.


So it's no wonder that we're seeing a raft of new storage services pop up in the cloud. This week saw the introduction of CTERA Networks, developer of the CloudPlug, a nifty little appliance about the size of an AC power adapter that converts external UB flash drives into NAS devices. You simply plug the thing in and attached drives receive automatic online back-up and file sharing, with the cloud-based data appearing as another local shared drive that can be restored with a simple drag-and-drop process.


EMC also bolstered its Atmos storage system this week through the acquisition of key, yet undivulged, technologies from SourceLabs. The company specializes in open source diagnostics and automation systems, indicating that EMC is interested in smoothing over the bumps when transferring large amounts of data to and from the cloud.


A successful cloud storage strategy requires more than "cheap disk at the end of the Internet," according to storage analyst George Crump. To make it work, you need three crucial elements: dispersed storage, balanced modularity and optimized capacity utilization. Of these, dispersed storage is key because it gets to the heart of what the cloud has to offer: the ability to replicate data throughout a distributed storage infrastructure. But you can't have this without a robust automation platform that sidesteps the need to manipulate individual objects.


You also don't want to start taking your unlimited cloud capabilities for granted, says EMC's David Graham. Even though the cloud turns storage into a commodity, the more you use it, the more you'll need optimized storage layers and even hardware support to keep a handle on things. Many of the same factors that affect established storage networks apply to the cloud as well: the type of content, where and how it is allocated, performance tiers, SLA requirements and things like interoperability, portability, compliance and authentication.


It's funny that, no matter what new capabilities advanced technologies like cloud computing bring, storage is still storage, and it must abide by largely the same laws no matter where the actual data is located.


Le plus ca change le plus ca le meme chose.