To say that the concept of “cloud storage” has come out of nowhere to capture the fancy of organizations and individuals is a bit of understatement. Probably nothing better illustrates the heightened interest in this topic than a Google trends report that shows how searches for “cloud storage” took off on Google in late 2007 and have only increased since.
In the last two years cloud storage has progressed to the point where it has become a corporate initiative in many organizations. Now they want to implement it but, before they do, they need to break down the key components of “cloud storage” and how to best to take advantage of cloud storage without assuming its risks.
The term “cloud storage” is already defined by a large number of websites but, of the ones I reviewed, they still seem fairly narrow in their definition. Many still position cloud storage as an offering that only makes storage available over the web that is primarily useful for storing archived or inactive data. The primary role it plays from a business perspective is to remove the need for organizations to build their own storage infrastructure while only paying for the storage they use.
This definition certainly still applies and is the way cloud storage is probably most often utilized. But as one looks ahead, there are other equally meaningful ways to define and implement cloud storage that dictate the need to expand that definition.
For example, creating a virtualized storage infrastructure is a key tenet to delivering on the ideal of cloud storage. The virtualized storage infrastructure upon which a cloud storage offering is based abstracts the complexity and overhead associated with common storage managements tasks that includes data migrations, storage provisioning and hardware upgrades. While these features enable cloud storage implementations that are accessible via the web, they also are features that many organizations desire to implement in their own production storage environments.
This is where a breakdown in cloud storage is occurring as it starts to fall into two distinct camps: private storage clouds and public storage clouds.
A public storage cloud is what generally comes to people’s minds when the term “cloud storage” is used and I will talk more about that in subsequent blogs. However for the remainder of this blog, I wanted to focus in why a private storage cloud does not satisfy the commonly accepted definition of “cloud storage” in four (4) important ways.
- The storage is not accessible via the web.
- There is an upfront investment in storage infrastructure – usually both hardware and software
- It can store more frequently accessed data
- It may offer the option to store data using either block or file protocols
What a private cloud storage offering does provide, however, is those cloud storage attributes that organizations do want to introduce into their storage infrastructure. Specifically, a private cloud gives them a mechanism to virtualize their storage infrastructure. This gives them the flexibility to start out with a fairly low price point, scale it for future growth, easily migrate data between storage nodes, upgrade hardware non-disruptively, use different types of storage hardware and store more data types (block or file, active or inactive) to this storage platform.
A private storage cloud also has some upsides that a public storage cloud does not possess. Most notably, it eliminate the uncertainties of not knowing exactly where your data is hosted; the unpredictable performance that can result from sending data over an Internet connection; and, concerns regarding the availability, integrity and recoverability of the data should the provider have an outage or even go out of business.
So how many storage cloud providers exist that can deliver on the requirements of a private storage cloud? As of right now, there are not many. There are a fair number that say that they can deliver this type of private storage cloud infrastructure but many only offer certain components of a private storage cloud offering. In this respect, the new Symantec FileStore offering goes a long way to delivering on the promise of what a private storage cloud should offer.
Companies are searching for answers to their storage problems and it is obvious that when the term “cloud storage” first surfaced a couple of years ago that it resonated with users. Fast forward to today and users are ready to start moving ahead with their adoption of real private cloud storage offerings that they can bring in-house, have the confidence it will work and will scale and evolve to meet their future needs. In this respect, Symantec FileStore is one of a few that already fits these emerging corporate requirements.