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Choosing the Right Cloud Storage Options for Businesses

Cloud storage options continue to proliferate. Which is best for you?

Increased cloud storage adoption has brought a proliferation of cloud storage options for businesses. Beyond a wider variety of features and attributes, new cloud storage consumption models have emerged to simplify integration with existing IT. Given these advances, it may be a timely opportunity for organizations to get a better understanding of the various attributes, cost points and integration options cloud storage offers when considering their next data storage purchase.

From the outset, the basic tenet of cloud storage has been creating a utility model around data storage. This includes pay-as-you-go pricing, on-demand access to unlimited capacity, multi-site reliability and near-zero maintenance – all simplifying a relatively cumbersome and administratively intensive IT function. As cloud storage has evolved, different attributes and price points have emerged to fill perceived gaps in the original offerings, making it simpler for businesses to extend their existing storage infrastructure to the cloud.

More flavors of cloud storage

With Amazon’s announcement of Glacier last week, there are a number of different categories of cloud storage that businesses can use to extend their on-premise storage capacity, each with a closely matched set of use cases:

  • Standard cloud storage: This is the traditional cloud storage that many cloud providers offer, typically replicated between three or more data centers to enhance availability. On-line access to data is immediate and occurs at disk speeds plus any network latency. The level of availability is well-suited for primary data.
  • Reduced redundancy cloud storage: This offshoot of standard cloud storage offers a lower level of redundancy and availability. Data may be stored in 1 or 2 data centers instead of 3 or more, lowering overall cost. For organizations or applications using cloud storage for secondary or tertiary copies of data, it may make sense to avoid paying for the extra redundancy of standard cloud storage. Backups that are stored both locally and remotely in the cloud are a typical use case.
  • Deep archive cloud storage: This offshoot of standard cloud storage significantly reduces online data accessibility. While cost savings are meaningful, the penalty appears in access times that can result in many hours spent retrieving data. Amazon was the first to roll out this capability with Glacier at a price point about an order of magnitude lower than standard cloud storage. It will be interesting to see if the compelling price point is enough to offset the greatly reduced, tape-like accessibility. An obvious use case of this type of cloud storage is tape replacement.

SSD cloud storage may soon become the 4th cloud storage category, offering a performance boost, primarily for in-cloud deployments where applications live near the storage. However, I have neglected to add this category because in the context of deploying cloud storage in on-premise environments, SSD does little to address the larger network latencies.

New cloud storage consumption models

When it comes to consumption, cloud storage  can be accessed “raw” from cloud providers using API-based interfaces. Alternatively, it can be accessed via cloud storage gateways which make cloud storage look, feel and perform like local storage with full at-rest encryption.

Pay-as-you-go bundled cloud storage gateways are an exciting new development for organizations looking to integrate cloud storage into their existing infrastructure with minimal effort. These offerings include cloud storage and an on-premise appliance that gives cloud storage the look, feel and performance of a local storage array using plug-and-play storage interfaces. As an alternative to new storage arrays for storing archive or secondary data, pay-as-you-go storage appliances are a compelling option, featuring unlimited storage capacity without the need for upgrades and requiring little or no maintenance.

To that end, TwinStrata recently launched a bundled appliance subscription offering with Nirvanix, offering 50TB of capacity with a gateway appliance for a flat-fee yearly subscription. TwinStrata also launched a subscription offering with Google Cloud Storage featuring hardware and/or software appliances all starting at a flat-fee per GB per month.

The verdict? More cloud storage options, policies and consumption models are a win for organizations aiming to simplify deployment and administration of data storage. With these options, organizations now have a bona fide alternative to traditional data storage systems.

More Stories By Nicos Vekiarides

Nicos Vekiarides is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of TwinStrata. He has spent over 20 years in enterprise data storage, both as a business manager and as an entrepreneur and founder in startup companies.

Prior to TwinStrata, he served as VP of Product Strategy and Technology at Incipient, Inc., where he helped deliver the industry's first storage virtualization solution embedded in a switch. Prior to Incipient, he was General Manager of the storage virtualization business at Hewlett-Packard. Vekiarides came to HP with the acquisition of StorageApps where he was the founding VP of Engineering. At StorageApps, he built a team that brought to market the industry's first storage virtualization appliance. Prior to StorageApps, he spent a number of years in the data storage industry working at Sun Microsystems and Encore Computer. At Encore, he architected and delivered Encore Computer's SP data replication products that were a key factor in the acquisition of Encore's storage division by Sun Microsystems.

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