Making the Case for Cloud Storage - Page 2

Storage is often cited as one of cloud's killer apps because it provides quick and easy access to data as an temporary cache, a long-term archive and, best of all, a much faster way to reboot your business in the event of an outage -- all without trucks and tape.

 By Paul Rubens
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Sliced and diced

Cleversafe, a Chicago based storage company, developed another type of appliance that can be used as a cloud storage gateway. The company's appliances use storage slicing technology to divide up blocks of data, encrypt it, and then store it in different locations. The system uses variable rates of redundancy, so that, for example, only 10 slices out of 16 may be required to reassemble the data.

The implications of this for companies with large data archives are important. Using Cleversafe's technology it is possible to store multiple copies of huge data sets by distributing the slices across a cloud service provider's different data centers. And since redundancy is built in to the slicing mechanism, increasing the total volume stored by a factor of 1.6 in our example (because 10 slices out of 16 are needed to recreate the data) results in what is in effect multiple copies of the data set. If a company has 50 petabytes of data to be stored, for example, the potential savings in storage volumes (and therefore costs) can be huge.

"Our model is cost effective with storage capacities of a petabyte or above," said Russ Kennedy, Cleversafe's Strategy vice president.  "Normally, companies would have to make a second copy of their data, which is very expensive. We offer high reliability with one instance of the data."

 The system is also highly scalable, which appeals to cloud storage service providers, and although Cleversafe currently only sells direct to enterprises for use in private cloud environments, Kennedy said the company is currently in talks with cloud providers about offering Cleversafe's technology for cloud storage services.

For cloud storage to work there are several considerations that need to be taken in to account. One is the physical  location of data stored in the cloud, because regulations apply in some countries or industries that dictate where data must be stored. Using a cloud storage provider that replicates data for redundancy purposes in different continents might easily breach these regulations.

There's also the issue of WAN bandwidth to the cloud. This doesn't always come cheap. Riverbed recommends a 50Mbps to 100Mbps WAN connection as a minimum.

The fine print

IDC's Dubois warned that the devil can be in the detail, and recommends that special consideration be given to SLAs, cloud contract terms, pricing, certifications, independent audits, and, of course, security -- both at the physical and logical level.

As cloud storage technologies become more developed, new use cases will emerge, Dubois believes. "An example would be the opportunity for a file sharing/sync/collaboration cloud storage service for businesses. Like an enterprise version of DropBox," she said. "Something that can bridge both public and private cloud content is really the ideal."

At the moment the cloud storage gateway market is quite small, and key vendors include:

Cleversafe -  software or software and appliance-based system based on storage slicing technology. Not yet offered as part of a cloud storage solution.

CTERA - "Cloud attached storage" appliances aimed at SMBs, branch offices and SOHO environments. These combine on-premise storage infrastructure with cloud storage from Swisscom, OpSource, Amazon S3, Rackspace, Dimension Data, VISI, petaera  and Quadria .

Gladinet - CloudAFS software file-server interface to the cloud is licensed on a monthly basis. Cloud Desktop client software working with CloudAFS software sees cloud storage providers including Windows Live SkyDrive, Google Docs, Amazon S3, EMC Atmos–based providers, and AT&T Synaptic Storage as local disks

Nasuni - The Nasuni Cloud File Server virtual appliance holds data in a local cache and replicates it to public cloud storage providers including Amazon S3,AT&T Synaptic Storage, Nirvanix, PEER 1 Hosting, Rackspace Cloud, and Microsoft Windows Azure. Pricing is based on a flat  monthly charge

Panzura – Panzura's Alto Cloud Controller appliance or virtual appliance works with cloud vendors including Nirvanix, Amazon S3, Microsoft Windows Azure, EMC Atmos, and AT&T Synaptic Storage as well as CDN networks such as Limelight. The appliances  support NFS, CIFS and HTTP, and can carry out file locking, versioning, snapshots, compression, deduplication and local caching.

Riverbed -Whitewater appliances and virtual appliances work with Amazon S3, AT&T Synaptic Storage, and Nirvanix and support for all major backup tool platforms, including NetBackup, Backup Exec, TSM, Quest vRanger, NetWorker, and ARCserve, requiring no change or rewrite of existing applications.

StorSimple – StorSimple's appliances are targeted at primary storage workloads with application plug-ins for SharePoint, Exchange and shared drives, using cloud storage from AT&T Synaptic Storage, Amazon S3, EMC Atmos–based partners, and Microsoft Windows Azure.

Twinstrata – Twinstrata's CloudArray appliances and virtual appliances connect to cloud storage from PEER 1 Hosting, Amazon S3, Windstream Hosted Solutions, EMC Atmos–enabled clouds, and AT&T Synaptic Storage and appear as iSCSI volumes.

Paul Rubens has been covering IT security for over 20 years. In that time he has written for leading UK and international publications including The Economist, The Times, Financial Times, the BBC, Computing and ServerWatch.

This article was originally published on Apr 2, 2012
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