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Cloud storage

Simon Gregory, Business Development Director, CommVaultCloud storage may be creating a stir these days, but big enterprise users aren't buying in — at least not yet.

Meanwhile, vendors are in what one provider calls “education mode,” explaining to CIOs, IT managers and other IT buyers that they can save a lot of money by floating their data in public and private clouds.

The one thing both groups seem to agree on is that cloud storage will eventually take off. After all, it's technically feasible, it's cheaper than traditional data storage, and it's becoming more and more secure.

Cloud storage is a lot further along than a science project. But is it right for part, or even all, of your organization's data? Here are some key questions answered by industry experts that will help you decide whether you should head for the cloud.

Walid Yehia

Pre-Sales Manager

EMC Middle East, North West Africa, and Turkey

What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

Cloud storage is a platform that is presented to the end user as a service not a product. The user consumes this service using a communication links which could be the Internet, or a private network.

The user pays only for what he uses. Moreover, cloud storage can be built across multiple sites but presented to the user as a single storage. This provides huge scalability and the ability to federate your data across multiple sites for redundancy purposes.

This storage as a service can be built by a service provider and offered as a public cloud, or it can also be provided by a company or group of companies and offered to specific users over a private network (private cloud). Users should be able to subscribe to this service on-line without any extensive operation.

Different users have different needs and therefore we at EMC have invented a rich portfolio of storage products to address these needs. For example, consumers who use the Internet to store their pictures do not need high-performance storage and they are more looking for a low cost storage. On the other hand, private cloud users who are using cloud “software as a service” model to run on-line application will need on-line, fast storage that can provide very high level of availability and should be able to federate data across multiple sites for fast disaster recovery.

Is cloud storage for all types of data?

Keeping in mind the answer of the previous question, I can say that cloud storage can be used for all types of data. However, this depends on how you are using the cloud storage.

If you are using “Storage as a Service” from a service provider, you are limited by the link speed you are using and therefore will not be able to store information that requires fast response. Usually this use case is suitable for file storage.

However, if you are using a complete compute infrastructure and you are running your application on the cloud and accessing this application over a public or a private cloud then you can use this service for different types of data.

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

Cloud saves the time and money that an organization usually spends on acquiring the infrastructure in house. However, it does not eliminate the need for technical resources entirely. What it does is to allow the technical resources in house to go up the value chain and focus on the business needs of the user than on how to build and manage the IT infrastructure.

Simon Gregory

Business Development Director, International Region

CommVault

Can you define cloud storage, and explain how it works?

There are many definitions of cloud storage but in essence it is the enabling of on-line storage targets via the internet where both network connectivity and the infrastructure and storage management are normally abstracted. Typically associated with the storage targets are certain other features such as granular usage based billing, mass scalability and hardware agnostic infrastructures. Other services are often available such as metadata tagging which enables data types to be treated in differing fashions by the underlying infrastructure, this is particularly useful when managing large volumes of data. In simple terms it’s akin to having a scalable, on demand hard disk on the internet for which you only pay for absolute usage (i.e. You’re not paying for empty space).

Is it relevant for all types of data?

Not necessarily. By moving data over the internet, customers are potentially restricted by the amount of available bandwidth and the latency of the connection to the provider which will determine the use case. What we’re seeing is that data needs to be classified by it’s size, transactional frequency, read / write profile and value to the organization.

A good fit would be streaming media files, video, large images with attributes such as large file size and frequent reads. Also data types applicable to CommVault such as non-critical backup or archive data which can be written sequentially and moved remotely to help facilitate disaster recovery requirements or governance concerning off-site requirements.

Other criteria can also apply to cloud storage such as geographically shared file types which are a good fit for this model. However, the cloud does not cater for all data types equally. Applications with highly transactional profiles (large numbers of read and writes) would suffer from latency issues. Application code, operating systems, system images would incur the same problems. A good rule of thumb is that any data that requires immediate service delivery is an unlikely fit for current the current cloud implementations.

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

Not necessarily. Storage is one component of any given IT infrastructure, other elements typically include Servers, Operating Systems and applications. Unless a customer is looking to move all of the IT components to a service provider and rely upon the network connection between their business and the service provider then there is still going to to be a need for in house technical resources. Most Storage clouds today are targets for data movement for “secondary data”, meaning that production systems continue to operate at the customers location and redundant, stale, backup or archive data is moved to the service providers storage facility (facilitating the off-siting of data to lesser cost storage and negating the requirement to continually service that data locally).

Jeff Reed

Vice President, Clustered Storage,

Symantec Storage and Availability Management Group

What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

Cloud computing embodies the notion that a user should be able to access an application without regard to what the specific application is or how it is delivered. For example, when you access a public e-mail system (e.g., g-mail, Yahoo) you don’t know what the actual application is, what the OS is or what the hardware infrastructure is – or care. It is simply available to you from any access point. That’s an example of Cloud computing. Cloud storage, as the name implies, is storage that support Cloud computing. From a user perspective, it should be transparent with little configuration or user administration. Cloud storage should include all of the functions that users demand from storage including reliability (e.g., failover, RAID), configuration (e.g., volumes), data protection (e.g., B/R, archive) and security (e.g., anti-virus).

The core value of Cloud is twofold: reduced Capex and operating expenses. In the case of user engagement of Public Cloud, no Capex is involved in a purely subscription engagement. In Private Cloud (and for Public Cloud vendors) it ideally utilizes commodity server and storage hardware at a savings over brand-name vendors.

Operating expenses are reduced through the self-service model of Cloud computing. For example, a company might select to do laptop backups to the cloud (Symantec Online Backup Services). This significantly reduces the support load of the IT organization compared versus in-house deployment (managing daily backups, tape, user requests for recovery).

The concept of Cloud computing has been around for several years and is now beginning to make market in-roads. Many customers will have heard the term, but are still trying to decide the best way to leverage public and private clouds. Symantec is one of the largest storage suppliers of Public Cloud. Our Online Backup Service manages 42PB of storage, and supports 9 million active users. For Private Cloud, and to supply Public Cloud vendors, we have launched the Veritas FileStore family of file-based storage products. The current release of FileStore includes highly scalable file serving with the fastest SPEC SFS benchmarks in the industry.

Is cloud storage for all types of data?

Not at this point in time. Customers must understand the requirements around performance (cloud based data will often have higher latency than on premise data), availability / business continuity and security / compliance. At this point, cloud storage’s appeal is driven by its elasticity, i.e. it is easy to increase or reduce consumption very quickly and customers only pay for what they use, and low cost, though the cost benefit will depend on data access patterns and relative cost for similar storage internally.

Currently most initial use cases for cloud storage revolve around data that is not latency sensitive and is generally not mission critical or particularly sensitive. Over time these restrictions will lessen, and in cases where the entire application is being delivered as a service that has already happened (e.g. Salesforce.com, Symantec Online Backup Services).

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

No. We expect that the vast majority of customers will require on-premise storage resources for specific applications for the foreseeable future, and it is important that customers have strong in-house resources that can help make informed decisions on the suitability of data classes to the cloud.

Stefan Wolf,

Software Business Development Manager,

HP Middle East

What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

As the logical result of distributed computing, Cloud Storage is a model of networked data storage where data is stored on multiple virtual storage platforms, generally hosted by third parties, rather than being hosted on dedicated storage infrastructure. Hosting companies operate large data centers; and people who require their data to be hosted buy or lease storage capacity from them and use it for their storage needs. The data center operators, in the background, virtualize the storage resources according to the requirements of the customer and expose them as virtual capacity, from which the customers pool from and tap into. Physically, the resource may span across multiple storage infrastructures and tiers. In some cases, the system may span multiple data centers or even continents.

Is cloud storage for all types of data?

Cloud Storage (as is storage virtualization) is not a technology that serves itself. Typically Cloud Storage operators will provide Storage as a Service (SaaS). SaaS is a business model in which third-party providers rent space on their storage to end users that lack the capital budget and/or technical personnel to implement and maintain their own storage infrastructure. There is nothing new about third-party storage services, but the complexity of today's backup, replication, and disaster recovery needs has renewed their popularity, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses (SMB). So Cloud Storage is not necessarily related to the type of data, but rather the complexity of managing a lot of data. Although one may argue that highly transactional, I/O intensive data and very confidential data (read Privacy and Compliance) be stored remotely.

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

From a technical support point of view cloud storage does away with the need for technical staff to maintain large systems locally, as the storage infrastructure will be located in a separate center. Hence the need for technical resources is reduced and shifted towards the owner, outsourcer or host of the center, who will put in play certain features that allow the system to be reliable and available like a utility service. Technical resources most likely will not be eliminated but upgraded, or trained to be storage analysts.

Mashood Ahmad,

Regional Managing Director, Middle East,

Ciena

What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

Cloud storage is another name for storing data in a remote location from your computing. It may be through an internal or external cloud-based resource. For example, under some definitions storing a file on a network drive instead of your computer’s internal disk may be considered using a form of cloud storage.

Some of the roots of this idea go back to the Storage Service Provider market in the late 1990s. The SSPs offered utility, on-demand storage to the dot-coms, who did not have time to build their own infrastructure. Unfortunately, this business model failed due to the dot-com failures and because it was designed to store “primary” enterprise data, and customers at that time did not have enough trust in security and in the SSP companies to move their primary data into the cloud.

Today, the idea has evolved to multiple applications and levels, including: file storage, file sharing and backup or archiving services. These services are sometimes free, especially for small amounts of storage – Microsoft Windows Live SkyDrive is a good example here. Or, they can be purchased under some, or all, of these metrics: by user, storage used, amount of data uploaded, amount of data downloaded.

Is cloud storage for all types of data?

The Storage Service Provider market collapse proved that using the cloud for an enterprise’s primary data sets is a very tough sell. Many issues remain on security and performance.

However, cloud based storage is frequently used to for:

– backup

– archiving

– digital media distribution and archiving

– office files access

– content distribution points

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

IDC forecasts enterprise storage growth of SAN and NAS systems to ship around 15,000 Petabytes in 2010, growing around 50% per year. It seems that from an enterprise perspective, technical capability to manage business-critical company information in-house will clearly remain a core requirement for the foreseeable future. This is also the resource that will determine which non-essential services can take advantage of lower cost cloud storage, without compromising security and performance.

Martyn Molnar,

Regional Sales Director

NetApp

What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

NetApp defines cloud as IT as a service (ITaaS) because we fundamentally believe cloud offers a new paradigm for implementing IT infrastructures. Cloud storage or STaas is just one of the facets of ITaaS along with SaaS (Software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service and Iaas (Infrastructure as a service). Specifically, there are public clouds, which offer services largely for consumer-oriented applications and private clouds, which focus on serving enterprise IT needs. We believe private clouds will experience the fastest adoption by enterprise IT customers.

Whether a cloud is public or private, the key to success is creating an appropriate server infrastructure in which all resources can be efficiently utilized and shared. Because all data resides on the same storage storage systems, data storage becomes even more crucial in a shared infrastructure model.

Is cloud storage for all types of data?

This a question for the CEO’s to decide upon as there are still many questions linked to privacy and compliance. So companies need to identify which services can reside in the cloud and which should be internal by determining what systems and services are core to their business or store their crucial intellectual property. These should be categorized as high risk and not considered cloud opportunities in the near term. Companies that hesitate to commit data to the cloud are developing models to store production data in their own facilities to ensure they meet compliance requirements while leveraging massive compute resources in the clouds for processing as needed.

Does cloud storage eliminate the need for in-house technical resources?

For at least the next five years, more likely ten, NetApp believes that most CIOs will run a hybrid model consisting of three main parts: (1) Traditional silos, where an application, a server, and storage are purchased and installed together; (2) Internal clouds, which will initially run less critical apps and grow over time; and (3) External clouds, which will also start low and move up. So in this period of transition, in-house technical resources are key to the running of the infrastructure. We also believe companies will also be looking for a new generation of professionals to manage the new cloud computing infrastructures.

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