By Mark Grindle
When most people think storage they think spinning disk: Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Network Attached Storage (NAS), and probably Storage Attached Networks (SAN). The more technical of us might start contemplating Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL) and Thin Provisioning. But how many of you are thinking about cloud storage? Although DAS, NAS, and SAN have their place in our IT infrastructure and will be required for the foreseeable future for many reasons, cloud storage is something we need to start thinking about and investigating.
Yes, there are concerns. Is it secure? Is it backed up? Can it comply with data regulatory and data privacy requirements? But these are concerns we have with any type of storage. Obviously, being in the cloud, some of these concerns might be more difficult to mitigate than with disk that we can see and touch and easily control, but there are benefits that can’t be easily met with onsite disk:
- Floor space: No longer an issue.
- Capacity: No longer an issue.
- Power: No longer an issue.
- Cost: Well that one depends.
Most companies can purchase disk at very low cost. But what happens when you have to purchase a new storage frame? What about the people and software that it takes to manage the environment? Now the cost difference might not be as dramatic and, in fact, cloud storage might even be cheaper.
Then what about accessibility? If you have someone in another country that wants to access data in your country, what are the implications? Aside from the data regulatory issues that may arise, there is certainly a network issue. How big a pipe do you need? What is the cost of that connection? Even with a lot of bandwidth, latency will still rear its ugly head and some applications (and users) are very response-time sensitive.
This is especially true if you have a transaction-heavy application or a very chatty application. Yes, you could rewrite the application to be less chatty, but now we are back to additional cost for that spinning disk. And no matter how much you improve your applications, high transaction rates are still high transaction rates.
Now, let’s think about cloud storage as a strategic alternative. Presuming that the integrity of the data can be maintained (it can), and that backups and archives are possible (they are), your data is now anywhere it’s needed. If you have a network connection, you can access the data as if it resides locally. That’s the one of the basic premises of cloud environments—they are accessible anywhere.
In addition, think about disaster recovery and business continuity. Since the data doesn’t reside in one of your locations (unless, of course, it’s an internal cloud solution), if something happens, the data can easily be accessed from somewhere else.
What about using the cloud to move data? You want to get data from location A to location B? Load it into the cloud from location A and then download to location B. No need for major network changes or potential loss of data.
Now, I am the first to admit that cloud is not a panacea. It’s evolving rapidly and lots of new uses are being introduced every day. Today, however, it’s not perfect for everything and that is why I am one of the advocate’s of HP’s hybrid delivery strategy.
We will have computer rooms and data centers with physical disks in them for quite awhile yet. What I am suggesting, though, is that cloud storage can be used to solve some of the problems facing you today and it can be a strategic part of how we make IT more agile and responsive to businesses needs and goals.
Here are some resources for more insights and info on the strategic role of storage:
- HP article: “Six signs that it’s time to rethink your storage infrastructure”
- Whitepaper: A practical guide to successful data deduplication (511KB, PDF)
- HP Storage Technology Services