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8/4/2009
12:11 PM
George Crump
George Crump
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Cloud Storage Needs A Hybrid

Cloud storage is ideal for small businesses to perform backups, archive important data and to share files when collaborating on a project. Small businesses are typically built on desktops and laptops making the cloud the ideal connection point. As the business grows and servers are added, applications become more critical and the cloud becomes the bottleneck. At this point to handle the needs of a growing business cloud storage needs a hybrid.

Cloud storage is ideal for small businesses to perform backups, archive important data and to share files when collaborating on a project. Small businesses are typically built on desktops and laptops making the cloud the ideal connection point. As the business grows and servers are added, applications become more critical and the cloud becomes the bottleneck. At this point to handle the needs of a growing business cloud storage needs a hybrid.Hybrid cloud storage involves implementing a local appliance in the medium sized business or larger data center. This local appliance is typically used as a local cache of the data set and it can also be used to translate between LAN friendly protocols like CIFS and NFS to more internet friendly protocols like WebDAV.

Cloud backup companies like Axcient or DS3 DataVaulting leverage this hybrid architecture to allow for cached local backups before replicating them to the cloud, but more importantly they use these appliances to provide local recovery of data in the event of a failed system. Recovering a single file through the cloud is not a major problem, recovering an entire server can be impossible, having this appliance local provides a scalable solution for the growing business.

The local appliance only needs to be large enough to handle the most frequent backups, which is what you would typically need in a full system recovery. Older data is often a much smaller subset of files and is usually the result of a specific inquiry. Time to recovery is less of an issue and the size of the data to be recovered is smaller, making the pull from the cloud more viable.

Similar is the case with archive, companies like Bycast, Nirvanix and Iron Mountain provide an appliance that is located inside the business' data center. This device then holds the most recently archived data as it is moved up to the cloud storage facility. Some companies use the appliance primarily as a CIFS/NFS to WebDAV protocol translator, others do that plus use it to cache a copy of the most recently archived copy of data.

Hybrid cloud storage is not only important because it resolves the potential bottleneck issues of the cloud but also lays the groundwork for using the cloud as a primary storage solution. Imagine a local appliance that is essentially a big solid state disk (SSD) drive that automatically caches active blocks of storage and then sends the older blocks to the cloud as they age. We may be a few years away from providing this capability but it is likely that this is how it will be implemented.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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