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Monday
Nov152010

Commercial Storage at "cloud scale"

The major storage manufacturers are all chasing the cloud storage market. The private cloud storage market makes a lot of sense to me. Clients adopting private cloud methodologies have additional, often more advanced, storage requirements. This will frequently require a storage rearchitecture and may dictate changing storage platforms to meet the new requirements. The public cloud storage market outlook is much less clear to me.

If public cloud services are as successful as the analysts, media, and vendors are suggesting they will be, then cloud providers will become massive storage buyers at a scale that dwarfs today's corporate consumers. Whether the public cloud storage is part of an overall architecture that includes compute and capacity or a pure storage solution, the issue is the same. This is not about 1 or 2PB. The large cloud providers could easily be orders of magnitude larger than that.

Huge storage consumers are exactly what the storage manufacturers are looking for, right? Let me suggest something that may sound counterintuitive. Enormous success of cloud providers will be terrible news for today's mainstream storage manufacturers.

The economics of a cloud provider simply do not work if they run the same infrastructure that is being used in corporate environments. Corporations will not use the cloud if it costs more than their current infrastructure. There also needs to be room for profit built into the pricing. IT departments may bill back at cost, or more likely operate as a cost center, but cloud providers are in business to make money. This means the infrastructure needs to be more efficient in order to make the business model work.

How can the cloud providers change the economics of IT infrastructure? They build it. The build vs. buy debate is one that IT departments consider everyday. At "cloud scale", the economics of paying a premium to buy traditional enterprise infrastructure components starts to break down. How many people need to be hired to maintain a storage architecture that is based on open source software running on commodity servers? Yes, people will need to be hired, but they will cost less than buying mainstream storage products and paying for support every year.

Building your own infrastructure may seem unreasonable, but these businesses are designed differently. "Enterprise storage" is a very difficult product to develop, but what if the cloud providers throw out all the assumptions about storage and start over. They have the ability to design and build their infrastructure from the ground up to meet different requirements. Instead of focusing on keeping an array online and serving data 100% of the time, throw out that assumption. What if the infrastructure was designed to have multiple copies of the information and at least one of them would be online at any time? An infrastructure designed around a different set of assumptions could look completely different from what enterprise IT organizations use today.

I do not think it is a foregone conclusion that the world is going to consolidate into a handful of public cloud infrastructure providers. However, I expect to see change in IT continuing to accelerate. Large companies are already using more cloud services than they realize. Keep an eye out for departments expensing cloud services on personal expense reports. Cloud and software as a service (SaaS) products are being used by individuals and departments today more often than CIOs realize. These changes may not get to the extremes I mention above, but they are extremely powerful economic forces that I expect will challenge all of our definitions of enterprise IT infrastructure.

Originally published at http://ctistrategy.com.

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm currently in the process of moving and have been looking for a reliable commercial storage. All of my belongings will not fit in the my new home because it is a lot smaller then my current home. A friend recommended that I place the rest in storage because I don't want to get rid of anything.

December 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaterina Ray

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