Data centers face an unprecedented challenge as the next decade approaches. New storage cloud offerings not only bring the upfront cost per GB of storage down to commodity pricing levels but they make it possible for companies to outsource this critical part of their IT infrastructure. This puts new pressure on data center managers to identify and implement appropriate storage cloud solutions because they are no longer competing with internal business units or historical third party providers but new leaner, more efficient cloud providers like Amazon and Google.
It used to be that enterprise data centers only faced competition from one of two sources. In the first scenario, individual lines of business that could not afford to host their applications with their main corporate data center would build their own mini-data center by buying their own servers and storage to host their applications and then hire their own IT staff to manage them.
In this circumstance, the corporate data center would as often as not look the other way since these applications were intended for test and development or, if production, were not classified as “mission critical”. As such, these mini-data centers did not pose much of a threat to the main corporate data center since its availability characteristics and the expertise of its IT staff far exceeded what these mini-data centers offered.
At the other end of the spectrum was the possibility of outsourcing all IT operations to a third party such as EDS (now HP) or IBM. While these companies are reputed to do an expert job of managing data centers, it was the rare organization that would see enough benefits to cost-justify outsourcing all of their IT operations to one of these third party providers. As a result, most corporate data centers were relatively immune from either internal or external competition.
That is all quickly changing as today’s combination of virtualization and cloud storage technology coupled with high bandwidth network connections make it possible for almost anyone anywhere to build a highly versatile, scalable and much easier to manage data centers. As this occurs, corporate data centers must swiftly adapt and transform their data centers not to compete with their own line of business mini-data centers or HP and IBM but the Amazon’s and Google’s of the world who are poised to become the new competition.
While they do not pose an immediate threat (0 – 12 months) for supplanting key data center operations, the threat they pose is probably closer than what many data centers expect. As cloud storage security improves, network speeds increase, costs decline and cloud storage offerings from these companies mature, it is logical to expect them to have competitive offerings by 2011 or 2012 that target more than just corporate archive and backup data stores.
Translated, this means enterprise data centers need to start to act now to transform their IT infrastructures so they are in a position to compete against these cloud storage providers or else they risk having both their IT infrastructure and jobs virtualized by these new data center competitors.
The good news is that new private cloud storage offerings are now available that corporate data centers can start to leverage so they can evolve their IT infrastructures into a model that can compete with the likes of Amazon and Google. So as corporate data centers start their searches for appropriate cloud storage solution, here are some tips to keep in mind to select the right one:
- The cloud storage software is the secret sauce. Not to diminish the importance of hardware but software is the enabling component of a cloud storage solution. Organizations are rightly recognizing that data tends to far outlive the underlying storage hardware on which it resides so the software needs to decouple the data from the hardware. This is necessary to enable the movement of data between old and new or failing and functional components; ensure the availability of data across any tier of storage; and, the policy-driven placement of data on the appropriate tier of storage with minimal or no administrative attention.
- Multi-tenancy. This is a new concept that is cropping up in almost every cloud conversation that I now have. In essence, it permits data from different owners to co-exist on the same hardware while retaining the security permissions and separateness of the data for the individual business units or departments that store their data in the cloud.
- Scalable. Data stores are certain to only get larger, not smaller, so organizations should identify cloud storage solutions that scale into the petabytes. Already solutions such as Symantec FileStore scale to manage billions of objects and petabytes of data which is needed to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google.
Enterprise organizations are looking at cloud storage models like Amazon and Google and saying, “We want that!” They want to collapse their line of business mini-data centers by going to a very large data center at the back end in order to drives out costs while retaining the service oriented model to which these lines of businesses are accustomed. New private storage cloud offerings such as Symantec FileStore deliver this new functionality so that enterprise organizations can consolidate their mini-data centers and scale them out with new architectures so they can cost-effectively compete against the likes of Amazon and Google in the not-too-distant future