Shifting SANs: Cloud Storage and the Lightweight Infrastructure

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

Ensure that IT has the flexibility to build and efficiently run a shared infrastructure.

Server infrastructure got an efficiency makeover in the virtualization era. Now it appears that storage is next in line as virtual architectures give way to the cloud.

This time, however, the disruption could be much more severe, both for the enterprise and for the vendor community that serves it.

So far, the vast majority of cloud-based storage resources are devoted to backup and recovery operations, but that is likely to change as the comfort level with cloud architectures increases. Ultimately, according to Nasuni CEO Andres Rodriguez, primary storage will exist mainly on local Flash infrastructure, while nearline and cold storage will off-load to the cloud. At best, traditional SAN infrastructure will devolve into upper-level software stacks that manage cloud resources the way they manage traditional arrays today. Not only will this arrangement be cheaper to implement and maintain, but it will provide greater access to data to the broadening array of user devices hitting the market.

Forbes has already started calling these new entities "lightweight companies" due to the fact that they can get up and running with minimal capital investment and have a higher degree of flexibility than traditional organizations encumbered by expensive and complicated IT infrastructure. This is particularly desirable in the new "App Economy" where development, marketing, distribution, revenue management and virtually every other business function can exist entirely in the cloud.

It's no surprise, then, that the race is on to see who will be the first to devise a fully functional cloud storage platform - the "Dropbox of the enterprise" as GigaOm's Barb Darrow puts it. Everyone from Microsoft, Google and Apple down to Egnyte and SurDoc are looking for that magic formula of storage, file-sharing and synchronization that is robust enough for enterprise data environments, but simple enough to foster user creativity.

With the cloud capable of scaling resources into the, well, stratosphere, services will likely differentiate themselves through data management. That provides an opening for small management firms like M-Files, which recently upgraded its Cloud Vault enterprise content management (ECM) platform to include hybrid cloud support and tighter integration with Active Directory and the Azure platform. The system strives to provide broad access and data availability while maintaining traditional management capabilities like rich metadata control, secure access and workflow management.

So are the enterprise SAN's days really numbered? Probably, but it is likely to be a long count. There is still tremendous value in traditional storage infrastructure that only a fool would dismiss on a whim.

However, when it comes to future deployments, effectiveness and efficiency will be the order of the day going forward. And the traditional SAN will likely have trouble competing on both fronts.

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