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It is Too Soon to Proclaim Cloud Storage Ready for the Main Stream

Weekly I try to do a recap of what was on my mind this during the past week and this week cloud storage garnered my attention. Deduplication may be the BIG thing in storage right now but cloud storage is rapidly gaining momentum and looks to be the next big thing in storage sooner rather than later. Recent blog entries by individuals like George Crump (Byte & Switch) and Stephen Foskett have commented on this topic which indicates it is gaining mindshare among analysts, editors and journalists. But when I speak to cloud storage providers that are virtualizing cloud storage offerings from other providers, it tells me that cloud storage has a ways to go before it can be officially proclaimed ready for the main stream.

The reason for my heightened interest in cloud storage was prompted by a current assignment I am working on for that is tentatively slated for publication sometime in August or September. That article will provide some tips for users that are considering moving and storing their archival data in public or private cloud so my thoughts and suggestions around that topic will be reserved for that article. However my research for that piece took me down an unexpected path as to how cloud storage is still maturing.

This last week I was speaking to Mike Ivanov, Permabit’s VP of Marketing, about this topic and he mentioned how Permabit was working with a company called Mezeo that just recently came out of stealth mode. Mezeo was cooperating with Permabit so Permabit could compete more effectively among public cloud storage providers like telcos and other managed service providers (MSPs).

However that statement confused me. I’ve covered Permabit in many other blogs so I know it can scale into the petabytes, uses a NAS interface and stores all files as objects. So I was unclear what Permabit hoped to gain by partnering with Mezeo?

To answer that question, I spoke to Mezeo to get an understanding of how its technology works. In brief, Mezeo produces software that is intended for telcos and MSPs that wish to provide their own public cloud storage offering so they can compete against the likes of Amazon S3 and Nirvanix. To do this, Mezeo leverages an object oriented file system that is specifically tuned for delivering secure file storage over the Internet using HTTP and REST APIs. (This is an API that cloud storage products intended for private and even public storage clouds may not support.)

While that was interesting, that still did not explain how Mezeo was leveraging Permabit’s technology on the backend. Mezeo went on to explain that Permabit’s clustering architecture provided these cloud storage providers with improved levels of availability and reliability versus just using commodity storage or without needing to spend lots of money on Tier 1 or 2 storage systems.

OK, that made sense, but that still failed to explain how Mezeo virtualized Permabit’s cloud storage solution. So I asked if it works in a manner similar to F5’s Acopia Networks offering? The answer is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Mezeo’s cloud storage software virtualizes the Permabit CIFS/NFS file system interface which Mezeo then in turn presents to the Internet for secure file access and sharing files over the Internet using HTTP.

However it does not do true file virtualization in the sense that Mezeo will not discover any existing objects or metadata stored on the Permabit cloud storage offering (or any other cloud storage offering). Rather Mezeo assumes all storage it virtualizes is an empty storage system ready for population of data that Mezeo sends to it. If data is already stored on an existing cloud storage product and an organization wishes to virtualize that solution using Mezeo’s software, it will first have to migrate the data into the Mezeo solution so it is then aware of it and can manage it.

So what does this tell me about cloud storage? Two things – first, cloud storage is maturing because deficiencies and shortcomings are being found in current products. As these problems are identified, new solutions are being introduced that compensate for these problems and even tip their hat to them, as Mezeo does by seeking to compliment rather than compete with current cloud storage offerings.

Second, it demonstrates that cloud storage is moving from bleeding edge to leading edge. Companies with tech savvy people can probably now successfully implement the current generation of cloud storage technology. But as this mish-mash of technologies indicates, it is certainly not ready for the main stream as most organizations need turnkey solutions that they can rely upon the storage vendor to deliver and support.


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