Can IT do Cloud Storage better than Cloud Providers?

Outsourcing some or all of your organization’s storage needs to a cloud provider sounds very appealing to overworked IT professionals. After all, who wouldn’t want to get rid of having to deal with storage management, data protection and upgrades? Cloud storage providers can also provide an organization with all the capacity it needs without upfront costs. You pay for capacity on a periodic basis. But the public cloud has three big challenges that IT needs to reconcile; security, latency and long-term costs.

If the cloud provider’s service offers data-at-rest and data-in-flight encryption, security is becoming less of an issue. And frankly there are many data centers that have far less security than most cloud service providers. The risk is once it is publicly connected, data is open to attack. Although unlikely by the average capabilities of today’s technology, hackers can crack encryption. And if compute technology advances faster than encryption technology, data can be at great risk.

An organization’s firewalls, plus similar data encryption, should provide an extra layer of protection for organizations. Of course advancements in compute power and the general creativity of bad actors still require corporate vigilance. In extreme cases the private organization has the ability to create a storage system disconnected from the outside.

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A more pressing issue is latency. While cloud storage providers can continue to advance their security capabilities, they can do nothing to upgrade the speed of light. Increasingly bandwidth is not the major issue for cloud connectivity, most transactions are very small. It is the time it takes that transaction to make the trip to the cloud, and in the case of storage, the time it takes for an acknowledgment to make it back to the data center that is of greater concern. For primary cloud storage, vendors like ClearSky Data are solving this issue with regional points of presence that act as mid-tier cache. We discuss how to use the cloud as primary storage in our webinar “5 Reasons Primary Cloud Storage is Broken and How to Fix them” which is now available on-demand.

Of course not all data is latency sensitive, especially unstructured data. This data is often written one time to the cloud. In the past this was called archive data. The assumption was that once written no one would access it again. Now however there is an expectation of much more frequent access to this data. The term “Active Archive” is used to better describe it. While this data does not need the same speed of access as a high transaction database, access speed and searchability are more important than in the traditional archive use case. The public cloud may not be fast enough for some organizations.

Finally there is your long-term costs. The no up-front, periodic billing model of the public cloud does sound good but if you add up those costs over the course of time, many organizations find they could easily have bought their own infrastructure for a fraction of the price that public cloud storage service costs. Also, cloud providers are quick to point out “soft-costs”. Most providers don’t manage the organization’s storage turnkey, effort is still required on the part of IT, so the soft cost savings that providers claim are often overstated.

Conclusion

These challenges might be best reconciled by IT creating a cloud storage solution internally; private cloud storage. But that storage system needs to provide similar attributes to the storage infrastructures that the public cloud storage providers leverage. In our on demand webinar, Storage Switzerland and Cloudian discuss cloud storage and whether or not IT can do it better. Join us for an interactive discussion on the pros and cons of public vs. cloud storage.

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Eight years ago George Crump, founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal. To educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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