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Select the right storage for each part of the cloud

Posted: 24 Apr 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:the cloud  IT industry  solid-state storage 

In 2011, it was estimated that enterprise capacity demand for both public and private cloud services alone accounted for 23% of the total enterprise server and storage data capacity shipped, and this figure is expected to triple in the next 10 years. It goes without saying that such a transformation in terms of where data is created and stored is not without complexity.

The overarching value proposition of the cloud is the reduction of complexity through simplification of not only the architecture on which "the cloud" is built, but also, the agility, economics, and scale the cloud delivers. Such simplification is not without complexity. This is especially true when it comes to architecting the cloud to not only provide traditional data storage capabilities to the user (backup, archive, disaster recovery, file sharing), but also, the applications and services the on-premise data centre delivers today.

From transaction processing to business applications and databases, the ability to deliver such applications via the cloud while maintaining the value proposition of complexity reduction is easier said than done. If the cloud is to gain continued momentum it must be able to provide the same level of service in terms of not only data storage, but also data creation. Consider the wide range of applications running in a traditional enterprise data centre today. The opportunity to move said applications to the cloud is dependent upon a number of requirements such as security, bandwidth, time, expertise, and also how the application is architected in the first place.

Historically, applications were architected to run on dedicated servers within the data centre. With the advent of server virtualisation, and thus the cloud, we are seeing a shift from a hardware driven data centre to an application driven data centre. This dynamic shift in application design and development is what I call the "application of applications" and it is challenging traditional IT suppliers to adjust their thinking around delivering solutions that adhere to the cloud mantra of providing businesses increased agility through the simplifying the distribution of IT resources.

Figure: The various aspects and tasks of cloud computing impose different performance and capacity demands on storage solutions.

One segment of the IT industry largely impacted by this shift is storage. With the ever increasing number of cloud-based applications and the promise of cloud providers to drive complexity out of the data centre, storage suppliers must adopt an application or software-centric approach to product development and feature-set versus the more traditional hardware-centric. Doing this, while delivering solutions that provide cloud data centre simplification is complex in and of itself. The storage suppliers that ultimately will succeed in this space are those that possess the greatest understanding of cloud application workloads, and apply such knowledge to products and solutions that not only meet the application workload requirements, but also deliver on the promise of simplifying the cloud data-centre architecture.

Factors beyond capacity, performance
It is important to first understand that there is no such thing as a single storage solution for the cloud. The complex performance demands of differing application workloads, the amount of data they generate, and the costs associated with managing the data lifecycle all come into play when choosing the right storage, or mix of storage for any cloud application (figure). Factor in elements such as humidity and temperature, power costs, physical footprint, and security and the complexity grows. Thus, cloud providers and IT managers, when examining or designing cloud-based solutions, must take into account factors beyond capacity and performance in order to deliver services equal to or greater than those of an on-premise solution with the agility and cost advantages customers seek.

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