In Pursuit of a More Enterprise-Friendly Cloud

What will it take for enterprises to truly embrace cloud storage?

That question may seem odd considering the amount of buzz the cloud has gotten over the past year. But aside from a handful of trial runs, hardly anyone is utilizing cloud storage at levels even closely approaching the technology’s capability.

For some, this probably has a lot to do with the idea of the cloud vs. the reality. As Forrester Research’s Andrew Reichman laments in his latest blog, the cloud is still way too generic to fulfill any real need for most enterprises. Cloud environments are needed, he says, that are tailored to specific workloads, much the same way different network fabrics and array architectures are optimized for tasks like database and file storage or file streaming and sharing. This is probably the primary reason more than 90 percent of respondents on the company’s latest enterprise/smb hardware survey report no plans to implement cloud storage.

But according to UK research firm Ovum, it is exactly those kinds of specialized storage needs that are drawing a new wave of start-ups to the cloud. As the cost of network bandwidth continues to drop, the business model for highly targeted cloud environments is starting to take off. These cloud services are just as adept at handling live application data as traditional in-house storage regimes, and at a fraction of the cost.

Ovum points to firms like Nasuni and Ctera, which are converting large file volumes to object-oriented formats for storage on public cloud services like Amazon and Rackspace. A big factor in the success of these services is growing industry acceptance of the cloud as a viable, low-cost alternative to the continued build-out of internal storage infrastructure.

Part of the error behind most views of the cloud so far is the notion that the new always replaces the old. New technologies are inherently better than the old, so there’s no point in continuing to support an obsolete data environment. Why stick with the old laundry detergent now that the “new-and-improved” version is here?

The cloud, though, is not likely to be an end-game technology. Some boosters may talk about a strictly cloud universe at some point in the future, but the more likely reality is continued reliance on traditional data center infrastructure supplemented by flexible, scalable cloud resources. Indeed, it is the concept of the hybrid cloud easily traversing both of these environments that has drawn the highest level of interest among IT professionals.

Cloud computing is poised to exert a tremendous influence on data center operations, but it will only do so by catering to IT needs, not redefining them.

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