A recent Storage Switzerland webinar sparked an online discussion on the idea of using cloud storage services coupled with a cloud caching appliance. As with all online discussions, there were some naysayers and some supporters. I enjoy debating anything – including politics and religion – and the use of the cloud is an important thing to debate.
I do believe that public cloud services like those provided by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, can be less expensive than doing it yourself. This won’t be true for everyone, of course. The key to making public cloud services inexpensive is to understand the service levels available and to map your requirements to the appropriate service level. The key to making your own storage systems cheaper than the cloud is to use the same technology the cloud uses and in order to get rid of inefficiencies.
Most major cloud vendors have different service levels with different prices. Specifically in cloud storage services there is online storage, nearline storage, and cold storage. Some services like Amazon Glacier offer reduced monthly charges in exchange for an increased access time during retrievals. In contrast, all Google cloud storage services have the same access time for all levels but cost differently to retrieve the data.
The point is that you need to think about how and when you are going to access the data, because placing the data on the wrong tier of storage could be a waste of money on the front-end or the backend. For example, if you are never going to retrieve a particular set of data, paying to store that on Google’s multiregional service is a significant waste of money every single month. However, if you have a data set that you are going to regularly retrieve, storing it on Google Coldline could end up costing you a significant amount of money on the backend with retrieval costs. You could also end up paying storage costs for data that you no longer need if you put it on the wrong tier, since some of the less expensive tiers have minimum retention requirements of 90 days or more.
Another key to making the cloud inexpensive is to minimize the level of effort needed to put data in the cloud. This is why cloud caching appliances are so popular. They provide a quick and easy way to store data on-site and off-site using the cloud and are much easier and less expensive to manage than a typical filer.
But what if you put the data on your own inexpensive object storage system? Would that be less expensive than the cloud? It could be, but the biggest challenges you will fight when doing storage yourself is inefficiency. In the cloud, you only pay for the gigabytes you use as you use them. In the data center, you are going to pay for every spinning disk drive or flash drive that you have whether there is data on it or not. With typical efficiency percentages being well below 50 percent, this is going to significantly drive up your effective per gigabyte cost.
Fred Pinkett from Nasuni and I discussed these issues and more in our recent webinar, and it’s now available on demand. Check it out and join the discussion!