What is cloud storage good for?

Facebook friend carrousel by antjeverena (cc) (from flickr)
Facebook friend carrousel by antjeverena (cc) (from flickr)

Cloud storage has emerged  as a viable business service in the last couple of years, but what does cloud storage really do for the data center.  Moving data out to the cloud makes for unpredictable access times with potentially unsecured and unprotected data.  So what does the data center gain by using cloud storage?

  • Speed – it  often takes a long time (day-weeks-months) to add storage to in-house data center infrastructure.  In this case, having a cloud storage provider where one can buy additional storage by the GB/Month may make sense if one is developing/deploying new applications where speed to market is important.
  • Flexibility – data center storage is often leased or owned for long time periods.  If an application’s data storage requirements vary significantly over time then cloud storage, purchase-able or retire-able on a moments notice, may be just right.
  • Distributed data access – some applications require data to be accessible around the world.  Most cloud providers have multiple data centers throughout the world that can be used to host one’s data. Such multi-site data centers can be often be accessed much quicker than going back to a central data center.
  • Data archive – backing up data that is infrequently accessed wastes time and resources. As such, this data could easily reside in the cloud with little trouble.  References to such data would need to be redirected to one’s cloud provider but that’s about all that needs to be done.
  • Disaster recovery – disaster recovery for many data centers is very low on their priority list.  Cloud storage provides an easy, ready made solution to accessing one’s data outside the data center.  If you elect to copy all mission critical data out to the cloud on a periodic basis, then this data could theoretically be accessed anywhere, usable in many DR scenarios.

Probably some I am missing here but these will do for now.  Most cloud storage providers can provide any and all of these services.

Of course all these capabilities can be done in-house with additional onsite infrastructure, multi-site data centers, archive systems, or offsite backups.  But the question then becomes which is more economical.  Cloud providers can amortize their multi-site data centers across many customers and as such, may be able to provide these services much cheaper than could be done in-house.

Now if they could only solve that unpredictable access time, …

4 Replies to “What is cloud storage good for?”

  1. What is cloud storage good for? Survey says…
    Thoughtful piece. Supporting your assertions, in a recent survey of over 400 IT professionals commissioned by Zetta, the two most often-selected applications for cloud storage were backup (38%) and online archive (37%). There is no surprise there, as those are very early use cases that can fit into first-generation cloud storage offerings. Data warehousing (28%), primary file storage (25%) and business continuance (18%) were the next most chosen applications.

    It’s interesting that primary file storage scored as high as it did. Unlike Zetta, many early cloud offerings do not make that an easy transition as new APIs and storage techniques are required. Zetta customers are implementing primary storage applications in the cloud, sometimes with private connections or even data center cross connections.

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