Seeing Storage Through the Clouds

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    Software-Defined Storage: Driving a New Era of the Cloud

    The more that enterprises of all stripes start to employ cloud storage for their daily operational needs, the more one has to wonder what the impact on the wider storage industry will be.

    Cloud storage is most commonly utilized for backup, recovery and other lower tier applications, but increasingly users are starting to port their production-level workloads to public resources. Aside from the obvious concerns regarding security and availability, longer term consequences to the storage industry itself could eventually come back and bite the enterprise.

    Enterprise Storage Forum’s Paul Rubens, for one, points out that even though the rising tide of cloud providers offers an expanding market for storage vendors at the moment, high resource utilization will produce a steadily diminishing demand for storage hardware and software. This could leave the enterprise with an uncomfortable choice: Either push more data onto third-party infrastructure or pay more for high-density solutions for their own data centers.

    But lower costs are not the only factor when it comes to adopting public cloud storage. The promise of higher flexibility and the development of file-sharing services and other collaborative environments also should be considered. Market leader Amazon has been aggressively wooing the enterprise community of late, most recently with the introduction of the Zocalo service, which provides a secure data storage and sharing service coupled with advanced admin and productivity tools to provide a fully manageable data environment. Not only does the service work across multiple devices, but it can integrate directly with existing personnel directories to establish enterprise-wide sharing rules, audits and data management.

    Cloud functionality works both ways, of course, which is why top storage vendors are working feverishly to add cloud capabilities to their legacy platforms, ostensibly in support of hybrid environments. For example, EMC recently bought out storage gateway firm TwinStrata, in a bid to provide an enhanced data services platform for the new VMAX3 system. The idea is to incorporate automated tiering, data protection and disaster recovery across internal and external data infrastructure, giving users and administrators the look and feel of a single, integrated data environment. (Full disclosure: I have provided writing and content development services to TwinStrata in the past.)

    At the same time, some cloud providers are expanding into hardware markets themselves as a means to enhance their own service capabilities. Microsoft is a prime example. In late 2012, the company bought out hybrid storage array developer StorSimple, which is now being used to augment the Azure Cloud’s backup and dev/ops capabilities. The StorSimple 8000 array scales up to 500TB, comes with twin 10GbE interfaces, and is augmented with Azure Binary Large Objects (BLOB) features to enable universal access to large, unstructured data files.

    Far from being a staid, steady industry, storage is emerging as a highly dynamic growth market for both hardware and software solutions. The enterprise will surely benefit from this dynamism, but only if it can come to grips with the fact that data cannot be locked safely behind the corporate firewall forever.

    If the name of the game today is speed and agility, then reliance on third-party data stores is a must.

    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, Carpathia and NetMagic.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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