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3/10/2009
11:12 AM
George Crump
George Crump
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The Cloud And Primary Storage

As cloud storage continues to evolve, clearly the two major initial uses are as backup and archive storage, but where does primary storage fit into this equation? Is primary storage going to be made extinct by the cloud?

As cloud storage continues to evolve, clearly the two major initial uses are as backup and archive storage, but where does primary storage fit into this equation? Is primary storage going to be made extinct by the cloud?The short answer is no. As much as I appreciate cloud storage and all that it does, it will not make primary storage extinct. As discussed in our Cloud Storage White Paper, the primary-use cases revolve around backup and archive. The third phase may be file storage, where performance is less important than sharing and collaboration, and we are beginning to see some evidence of this now. Primary storage is more about performance, 100% consistent access, and 100% reliability, and those are numbers that users won't risk yet. Primary storage for the foreseeable future will be internal in the organization's data center.

The cloud actually will help primary storage, when it comes to cloud services or cloud compute. When companies host the application in their data center and provide you access to that application, these companies will need a special kind of primary storage. One that is still cost effective yet offers high performance and, probably as important, business flexibility.

That is one of the reasons companies like 3Par, Isilon, ONStor, and others have established themselves as providers to cloud or hosting services marketplaces. These companies can scale quickly to meet the unpredictable demand of an online service. Take, for example, MySpace or Facebook. The services have been out for a while but due to the economic downturn many are counting on them as a networking resource and it seems like their use is actually on the rise. With storage solutions like the above, fast-growing companies can simply plug in another shelf of storage. That storage is then instantly ready to be allocated, and with some of the solutions even that is automatically done. All with no disruption to the user.

Clustered storage solutions provide this instant scale by being able to add performance, capacity, or both without interrupting operations. And the capabilities provided by thin provisioning allows these companies to efficiently and optimally provide storage on a "just in time" basis, making sure they're paying as little as possible per gigabyte.

The ability to scale quickly and provision efficiently isn't just a matter of convenience. Scaling, just like thin provisioning, is a cost saver. Both capabilities, especially when combined, allow you to wait until the last possible second to purchase more storage. As we all know, storage isn't wine, it does not get more expensive with age. Companies that let you wait until the last possible second by providing the ability to scale quickly and simply as opposed to making it a major project, also allow you to wait until storage is at its best possible price point. Buying storage a year in advance should be avoided, especially now.

Interestingly, these capabilities also should appeal to those trying to solve storage solutions inside the data center. With pressures to reduce costs hitting the traditional IT staff, following the practices of Web 2.0 / Cloud Service companies who have always been under cost pressures may now be a wise choice. What data center couldn't benefit from simpler management, faster scaling, and better storage utilization?

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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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