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03:04 PM

Storage Management Meets the Cloud

SMBs today still have a serious problem with cloud-based storage. It's not the cost, and it's not the security.

SMBs today still have a serious problem with cloud-based storage. It's not the cost, and it's not the security.It's the storage management tools -- or rather, the lack of them.

Here is how Computer Technology Review contributor Andres Rodriguez laid out the problem in a recent article -- "Building a Gateway to Cloud Storage for the SMB":

The need has been to make the cloud more useful for these businesses, and more appropriate for the working lives of mainstream customers, by solving issues with the network that connects users to the cloud. What this required was an architecture pairing local caching so files are accessible at local speeds, with unlimited capacity, where files are kept in the cloud, fully protected. It also required the familiar look and feel of a Windows file server environment, simplified installation, management, billing and service monitoring.

These requirements inspired a cloud storage vision in which files stay present in the cached set most of the time, guaranteeing local speeds for all but the least frequently accessed data. The performance difference between pulling a file out of the cached set and doing so from a local disk is imperceptible to most users. Changes to these files are deduped, compressed, chunked, and sent to the cloud periodically, keeping the customers file set in the cloud updated. A relatively small cache can support a potentially infinite cloud.

The problem, as Rodriguez sees it, is that consumers don't need or care about these middle-layer management tools. And enterprises have the development talent, resources, and storage-tiering solutions to cut the problem down to size.

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That leaves SMBs searching for a solution. The stakes are high, because cloud-based storage offers so many benefits in terms of cost, reliability, and (yes) security. But in order to achieve what Rodriguez is talking about -- basically a cloud solution that works and performs pretty much like a local NAS device does today -- there is still a lot of work to be done.

I have no doubt this will happen before long. There is simply too much money to be made here. And if the traditional storage management vendors can't meet this need, the cloud services themselves probably will. While it might seem odd for them to promote APIs and other components that make it easy to work with multiple providers -- or to move between providers at will -- there's enough opportunity here for everyone.

It's fertile ground for what the marketing gurus call "coopetition." And I expect it to bear fruit in the very near future.

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