Cloud storage as a replacement for high-cost, in-house storage to files and databases is here. On October 5th Amazon announced their Simple Storage Service (S3) crossed the half a trillion mark. Cloud storage requires eight (8) functional areas for successful product adoption in the Enterprise. Functional areas will change in priority depending on your business or market focus. Regardless of the functional areas, half a trillion objects is a priority.
Amazon’s raw number is impressive. More impressive is the growth shared by Amazon in their press release. In late 2006 Amazon reported 2.6 Billion objects. The combined annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2006 and 2011 is 187%. Currently, Amazon reports the number of objects is 566 billion objects. It is valid to say the adoption is prolific.
Adoption is driven by organizations operating virtually. Applications used by these companies must create and manipulate content anywhere, anytime and from any device. Application content and storage needs changed and this is what led them to Amazon S3. But as they turned to Amazon, new requirements for how cloud storage was managed and administered emerged. Eight specific ones that have emerged over the past few years include:
- Multi-Tenancy – support for different business users of the cloud storage, including but not limited to, multiple companies, multiple business units, multiple users and multiple resellers who may sell to multiple companies, business units and users. Further, users can share physical space or be isolated to specific physical locations.
- Geo Capability – enables hybrid cloud storage with policy defined geo-location and replication model for business continuity and content compliance available in a single namespace.
- REST API Access – storage API that emulates common content interfaces used by applications storing data in file systems, using basic database operations and content management.
- Storage Virtualization – provides an abstraction layer to any and all storage, resulting in use of existing capital expense and commoditizing future storage acquisitions, e.g. RAID shelves vs. entire arrays.
- Data management and provisioning – uses standard REST API data management protocol to manage tenancy, create containers, expand container usage, set policy, etc.
- Billing data – enables existing billing and operational support systems to integrate with tenant activity log to facility billing and usage tracking.
- Identity management – support industry standard authentication protocols, e.g. LDAP, Kerberos, SAML, etc.
- End to End security – enables end point security for domestic and international regulatory requirements by encrypting content between end points and content at rest.
Enterprises, Telco’s and Information Technology Companies can’t get their arms around cloud storage discussions because Enterprise buyers do not need to consider all eight functional areas. As a buyer of Cloud Storage there are functional areas that have little or no priority on your list of evaluations. Firstly, identify who you are – storage or applications?
If you are a storage administrator or IT leader, your table stakes for cloud storage are security, resiliency and service levels. Translated to the eight functional areas you would be concerned about:
- End to end security
- Identity management
- Storage virtualization
Geo-capabilities will provide you with a policy based interface to store data in multiple locations and on devices that meet the requirements requested by applications, e.g. data recovery and performance. End to end security and identity management will protect data outside the company and manage access within the company. Finally, storage virtualization will enable to you introduce cloud storage on existing storage vendor arrays. Using existing storage arrays will reduce capital and operational expense, while improving return on investment (ROI).
Application teams are consuming cloud storage due to its simplicity and cost containment. Their table stakes are application workflow, content and metadata management, roles based access control, data encryption and content container creation, management, expansion etc. Translated to the eight functional areas applications teams require:
- REST API
- Identity management
- End to end security
- Data management and provisioning
Application teams must consider both security and location of the data, e.g. French data in France, unencrypted. In addition, new applications designed to access content anywhere, anytime from any device require REST APIs.
REST APIs are used by applications anywhere, anytime, from any device to manage content and metadata representing business metrics. Behind the scenes, content and metadata is interpreted by the cloud storage system such that security, resiliency and service levels are met.
I know who I am, but do the vendors?
As a buyer of cloud storage, you’re already experiencing the vested interests of existing companies. There are only a handful of product companies that have a vested interest in the disruptive nature of cloud storage, e.g. Mezeo, Nirvanix and Oxygen Cloud. Traditional players have revenue and enablement challenges:
- Storage and content management companies will suffer revenue and margin losses
- Telco’s don’t have a lens on the SMB/Enterprise IT or VAR programs
- VARs don’t understand Telco offering because they don’t have VAR programs
Of the three vendors above, Mezeo caught my eye as an up and coming vendor providing cloud storage software required by enterprises. Mezeo has over three years in the market place, mature software offering and customers spread out globally. However, as a buyer of enterprise cloud storage, you must consider all three and Amazon.
As an enterprise buyer, the success of Amazon must have your attention. While Amazon addresses the functional areas for cloud storage in the enterprise, they lack the ability to bring the cloud storage software to your data center.
Cloud storage products supporting local data center installations that expand geographically to hosted cloud storage are considered hybrid cloud storage. This ensures you can selectively restrict and allow content to move in and out of your data center to a cloud as regulatory, operational, and budgets require. Therefore, any cloud storage product you evaluate must support hybrid cloud services.
Regardless of your space – Fortune 1000 storage or application professional – you should be having conversations with Mezeo, Nirvanix and Oxygen Cloud, or anyone claiming to be an equivalent cloud storage software product supporting security, provisioning, existing storage assets, REST APIs and geographic distribution.