2009-02-17

Watch for Goats in the Cloud

George Crump, of Storage Switzerland posted an article titled, Cloud Storage Reality, where he talked about the emerging class of "Cloud Storage" solutions. His conclusion: That Cloud Storage is a reality and ready for prime time.

But is it? Or more specifically, is all that is called "Cloud Storage" ready for prime time.

George's listing of the key advantages of cloud storage when compared with traditional enterprise storage systems, in dispersion, nodes, scale, granular, ease and self-upgrading are dead-on.
"Say, What's that mountain goat doing clear up here in
this cloud bank?"

Similarly, we agree with his taxonomy of the three different deployment models, Service Only, Software Only and Pre-packaged Cloud.

But there is a key distinction between different ways that clouds can be deployed that can make the difference between a high-risk failure and a low-risk success:

Storage Just in the Cloud?

While cloud storage is a proven architecture, pure Internet-based storage remains risky. Before enterprises will be willing to trust their data and their business to a provider, they first look for industry maturity, stability and reliability. After all, the pure internet-based storage industry is still in early stages of adoption, and one can argue that it already failed once, during the "Storage Utility Provider" craze at the beginning of the decade. Heck, even Enron was getting into that business.

And enterprise uptime is only half the QoS battle — Even if the remote storage service provider has 100% uptime, access to the provider is limited by the reliability of the Internet networks, and access is restricted by the bandwidth to the Internet.

After all, despite all the talk of bandwidth being free, the costs of an OC-3 to the Internet still makes most CFO's reach for their chests.

Then, if you really want to kill pure Internet-based storage, get the lawyers involved...

What Really Works

Cloud Storage is production ready and widely deployed, but only in configurations that extend into the customer's data centre. I would wager that virtually all enterprise-class cloud storage deployments include data being stored in the customer's data centre. You see this with profiles of Amazon's S3 customers, and we see this with our customers. This is to be expected, of course, since all private cloud deployments exist primarily within the customer's data centre.

So, to summarize, where does internet-resident cloud storage work?

Cloud Storage providing off-site protection copies for data that is also held on-site.

Cloud Storage providing lower-cost storage for data where high levels of QoS are not required.

Cloud Storage facilitating data sharing across sites.

4 comments:

Georgec said...

David, Great post. It is important that enterprises understand not only that cloud storage is for real but also that they need to be realistic about what the goals for the solution are as I indicate in my latest blog on Information Week.

http://tinyurl.com/bkpqm

David Slik said...

Thank you — I'm glad you enjoyed the post. We both agree that there is much potential in clouds, and many goats to watch out for.

I think that tinyurl ate your link, so here's the full link for anyone wanting to read your followup blog post:

http://www.informationweek.com/cloud-computing/blog/archives/2009/02/why_cloud_at_al.html

andrew said...

I believe that the cloud only really makes sense when you combine the processing with the storage. I think there is minimal value in "holding" data but you can start to build value by the analysis of the data being held.

David Slik said...

Andrew,

There is much to be said for moving the processing to the data, as opposed to moving the data to the processing. Even in archival use cases, there is a continuous need to perform integrity verification, search and indexing, cryptographic refresh and format conversion over the lifecycle of the data.

I believe that we are seeing the beginning of the end of data storage as a passive process.

Having said that, in some business cases, even the passive storage of data in a "cloud" configuration can provide such compelling economics to make it an advantageous model for companies. This bodes well for the increased value as such models mature.