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It is not Against Google or Amazon that Data Centers Compete, It is Their Service Model

A blog that I wrote back in January 2010 argued that enterprise data centers need to select a private storage cloud solution that can compete against the likes of Google and Amazon. But it was only last week that an individual posted a comment in response to that blog that asked, “Why would the enterprise data center ‘compete’ with Amazon or Google?” It was a good question and, to answer that, enterprise data centers need to quantify what exactly it is within Amazon and Google’s offerings that they really compete against.

Lori Marshall, the founder of BizDev Experts, wrote the following after reading the blog:

I find the premise of this article interesting. Why would the enterprise data center “compete” with Amazon or Google? The effectively run enterprise data center will be the instantiation of a solid business-aligned IT strategy that appropriately utilizes all available public and private services, solutions, tools and technologies.

Instead of seeking to build a competitive infrastructure, auditing your data storage requirements in terms of security, compliance, location, and manageability will allow you to decide which enterprise data can take advantage of the public cloud/storage paradigm vs. what must stay in-house.

Lori is right to ask why enterprise data centers would want to “compete” with either Amazon or Google.  Both supply specific services over the Internet (Amazon S3‘s storage services and Google’s Gmail both come to mind). Further, as price competitive as their offerings are (free or pennies on the dollar), it makes little or no financial sense for enterprise data centers to compete with them to deliver those same services.

Certainly auditing your data storage requirements so enterprise data centers can offer a hybrid private-public cloud architecture such as Lori suggests makes sense. The cloud services that Amazon and Google deliver may justify selecting them to host non-business related applications such as personal email or infrequently accessed data.

But here’s the problem. Enterprise data centers also deliver services that are similar to Amazon and Google to their customers, albeit at mission critical levels.  So when Amazon and Google show up with these services with the same (or even better) high availability characteristics than what is found in current enterprise data centers, the question does become, “How do these data centers evolve to “compete” or at least complement the service model used by Amazon and Google?”  

While I do not necessarily see Amazon S3 as displacing high end storage arrays or Google Gmail replacing Microsoft Exchange, their underlying service models serve as an example that enterprise data center infrastructures should follow. Current models of networked storage are really not optimized to meet growing corporate demands for more scalable, efficient and easier to manage storage.

So what is it that enterprise data centers need to do to compete with these types of cloud service models?

First, don’t fight it. The cloud service model is clearly going to be one of the predominant IT trends of the next decade.

Second, make a decision as to how to proceed. Right now Amazon and Google are targeting corporate applications and data stores that are considered “less critical” but that will not last forever. So IT managers have a choice to make.

Either they need to act to put in place an infrastructure that can compete against/complement this public cloud service model or they have to resign themselves to watching their IT applications, data and possibly their jobs slowly disappear into the cloud. However it does not have to be this way.

To achieve the “business-aligned IT strategy” that Lori suggests and “appropriately utilize all available public and private services”, corporate IT needs to internally develop and deliver a private cloud service model that competes against or at least complements what Amazon and Google have to offer. Otherwise as businesses seek to achieve this “business-aligned IT strategy” they will eventually be compelled to select some outsourced cloud model offering, be it from Amazon, Google or whoever.

That’s a big part of the reason data centers should consider products like Symantec’s FileStore. It offers enterprise data centers the ability to overlay commodity hardware components with high value software to create a highly available infrastructure. Granted, other software products can also do that but a distinct advantage that FileStore offers over these products is its integration with Symantec’s other enterprise software offerings including its antivirus, data protection and storage tiering software.

Enterprise data centers are not yet truly competing against Amazon or Google because they, at least for now, compete in different spaces. But odds are this will not last forever and already others that offer cloud service models similar to what Amazon and Google offer are appearing that are vying to host production applications and data.

This is why it behooves enterprise data centers to internally build out the same type of service model that Amazon and Google have built. Not only will it lower an enterprise data center’s costs and improve efficiencies, but as organizations audit their applications and data and quantify where it is best to host them, internal IT departments will have a much stronger business case for keeping them right where they are.

Good question and comment, Lori, and thanks for taking the time to make it.

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