Inside the Hybrid Cloud Storage Wars

Michael Vizard
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When it comes to cloud computing, storage is usually the first thing that most IT organizations think about. While the idea that an external service provider could be used to store massive amounts of data can be appealing, the management of that process across hybrid cloud computing scenarios can be more complex than most IT organizations tend to realize.

In fact, the ability to support hybrid cloud computing within the context of a storage environment is rapidly becoming a major bone of contention within the storage vendor community. Both EMC and NetApp, for example, have committed themselves to sell storage systems that can be used to build either private or public cloud computing platforms, but neither company plans to deliver a cloud computing service. Instead, they will rely on service partners to deliver cloud computing services based on their core technology.

But some cloud computing providers such as Nirvanix are arguing that this will put customers in an untenable situation. They will either have to find ways to bridge private cloud storage deployments that might rely on EMC storage with public cloud storage providers such as Amazon that don't use EMC storage, or limit their options to cloud service providers that have the same storage architecture in place as the customer uses within their private cloud computing platform.

Steve Zivanic, Nirvanix vice president of marketing, says that makes no sense when cloud computing is supposed to be all about giving customers flexibility. Nirvanix, claims Zivanic, is the only cloud storage service that supports hybrid cloud deployments across storage architectures from multiple vendors, which means customers can leverage Nirvanix software to manage storage deployed in a local private cloud, in a private cloud deployed on Nirvanix systems or in the Nirvanix public cloud service.

Zivanic says rival vendors are engaging in a lot of double speak when it comes to cloud computing. On the one hand, they want to be the preferred storage vendor for private clouds, and then ask customers to work with specific service providers that are aligned with those vendors. Zivanic says customers should have the option to deploy storage in any type of cloud architecture they want regardless of the storage hardware vendors involved. At the same time, Zivanic says cloud computing providers such as Amazon leave customers to their own devices when it comes to private cloud computing within the four walls of the enterprise, which is not particularly useful when hybrid cloud computing will most likely be the dominant form of cloud computing.

To further exemplify this issue, Nirvanix today announced a partnership with American Internet Services (AIS) under which AIS plans to allow customers to use its archiving software across private clouds, its own data centers and the Nirvanix public cloud, which is something Zivanic says can only be done via Nirvanix.

At the end of the day, Nirvanix is trying to highlight the potential complexities of data and storage management in hybrid cloud computing environments. In fact, you could argue that it's all that complexity that has been inhibiting the adoption of cloud computing in the enterprise. How IT organizations ultimately resolve this issue remains to be seen, but the one thing that is for certain is that much more sophisticated approaches to data management are going to be required in the era of the cloud.

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Jun 2, 2011 12:21 PM mhardi01 mhardi01  says:

Nice story, and hits upon a valid concern for IT organizations: how to invest in an infrastructure today that will enable the mixing of internal and externally-hosted services.  Also, what can you believe from vendors.  A couple things to note: EMC does have a service, Mozy, (http://mozy.com/emc/) so they are beginning to cut out their channel service 'partners'.   Yet some vendors are working to remove the conflict of own vs. rent, with innovative 'on-demand' financing that allows end-customers or service providers to buy storage but only pay for what they use (http://bit.ly/mzwbBs).  A basic first step, but it helps take dollars out of the equation for organizations to evolve to cloud infrastructures.

Jun 2, 2011 3:23 PM James O'Reilly James O'Reilly  says:

This article points up the lack of crisp definition in the cloud space. To me, the confusion hinges around blocks versus objects. Block storage approaches require an understanding of the hardware structure, and so are vendor dependent, while Object or NAS systems elevate addressing to a virtual level. Nirvanix is attacking the problem by masking the hardware via a gateway, and that's not a bad approach, but I think we really need to rethink block IO into a NAS/Object framework to overcome this sensitivity.

Performance tuning will need to be relearned, but, realistically, that has to happen anyway on migrating apps to the cloud.

Jun 3, 2011 10:22 AM Steve Zivanic Steve Zivanic  says:

@mhardi01 EMC's Mozy service is not an enterprise-grade cloud. I highly doubt EMC would sell an Atmos enterprise-class private cloud storage solution and then federate that with a consumer grade cloud-not sure what customer would be interested in such an arrangement. @James O'Reilly Nirvanix actually enables customers to move data into private/hybrid/public clouds with options beyond a gateway; customers can integrate our API into their application stack and move data directly into the cloud that way; they can connect a direct 1GbE or 10GbE link to our data centers; or they can access our clouds via Symantec, CommVault or Front Porch Digital, who have integrated Nirvanix as a cloud back-end for their applications.

Jun 21, 2011 11:15 AM Joshua Konkle Joshua Konkle  says:

Ideally we will bridge the gap between the private and public cloud using a standard wire protocol vs. chasing after S3, Azure objects, Google GDATA, RackFiles, etc.  In 2012 the protocol that best services the private public cloud federation is cloud data management interface.

In addition, CDMI is a great way to link SOA/BPM oriented applications that produce to content to private cloud storage that also expands into the public cloud.  CDMI supports user metadata, so bizApps can write functional metadata that allows or limits federations internally or externally.

the best part about CDMI is that it is something that can easily be managed by Layer 7m, IBM Data Power etc SOA/BPM gateways.

Warm regards

Joshua Konkle

Sr. Strategist

Big Data and Cloud Storage, NetApp


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