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Google takes the chill out of cloud cold storage

Google rolls out Nearline, its cloud cold storage answer to Amazon Glacier, offering low cost, limitless capacity and access to data in seconds.

Google has entered the cloud cold storage space with the first major competitor to Amazon Glacier and a service that allows customers to use data in a more active state.

Google Cloud Storage Nearline is now in beta and lets customers store limitless archival data starting at one-cent per gigabyte (GB) per month and retrieve the data within seconds.

Nearline supports customers' needs for disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) by acting as a second data center, and also helps big data analytics initiatives by allowing customers to retain and access older data quickly and cheaply, according to Google.

Nearline will likely serve as a direct competitor to Amazon Glacier, introduced in 2012 to challenge the tape archive market and starting at the same price as Google's new service.

While Glacier cuts down the recovery time from days to hours, it has limits because of the remaining gap in time to recovery of around five hours. In addition, policies limit how much data can be taken out before hitting a penalty, said Henry Baltazar, senior analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass.

"Now, we finally have somebody that's dropped into the penny-per-gigabyte price range and, not only has done that, but has removed the access penalty, too," Baltazar said.

Nearline appears to be closer to an active archive, and more appropriate for a productive role, he added.

The price for Nearline storage increases as storage volumes rise, but throughput increases accordingly, according to Google. Data is stored redundantly in multiple physical locations and Nearline is integrated with Google's other storage services. And though Nearline uses the same APIs to do so, it does have higher latency and probably wouldn't be the right fit for applications that are latency-sensitive for data access, sources said.

DRaaS with Nearline

Google, which has been knocked for its lack of cloud partnerships, has four backup vendors integrating Nearline into their services: Veritas Technologies Corp., NetApp, Inc., Iron Mountain, Inc. and Geminare, Inc.

Amazon Glacier launched a few years ago and there really hasn't been a competitor to it. Now we finally have somebody that's dropped into the penny per gigabyte price range and not only has done that but has removed the access penalty, too.
Henry Baltazarsenior analyst, Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass.

Public cloud has squeezed many traditional service providers, but the ability to access cheap infrastructure and storage allows them to compete against the SunGards and IBMs of the world with disaster recovery, said Joshua Geist, president and CEO of Geminare, a DRaaS provider based in Los Altos, Calif.

"It essentially allows them to expand their product offering incredibly easily," Geist said. "And there are going to be customers that say the public cloud isn't for me and instead want private or hybrid, and that's where these service providers play today."

EXPECTtech Solutions, a Clearwater, Fla.-based reseller of Geminare's DRaaS, worked with a Nearline alpha customer to replicate its 20GB SQL server to Google's cloud. Initial failover tests showed it working perfectly in 20 minutes, said Paul Melidosian, EXPECTtech president.

"The failover is very fast," Melidosian said. "What is incredible about a system like this is if you upgrade you can always do the upgrade on the [disaster recovery] server first to see how it goes and then use it on the production server afterward."

How Google Cloud Storage Nearline differs from Amazon Glacier

Amazon and Google may now compete for customers in the cloud cold storage space, but Geist and Melidosian say the two fit different needs.

Geminare runs in Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, but has a deeper relationship with Google through its full-scale offering. Glacier has clear uses for "very cold" archival storage, but Nearline offers greater technical capabilities with that data, Geist said.

"This is completely different from Glacier," Melidosian said. "[Glacier is] for data I want in the cloud but don't ever expect to see again, because if you stick it up into Glacier you have to decide [you want] it back, and getting it back is no quick trip."

Nearline won't be a big moneymaker for Google, per se, but it does serve as an inroad to other revenue streams once the data is in its cloud, Baltazar said.

"The process of just holding data isn't where they make money," Baltazar said. "The compute, analytics, security and host of other services that haven't even been invented yet is where they will make their money."

It's still too early to make any declarative statements about Nearline's market impact. In particular, early adopters have to answer questions about performance using Nearline compared to standard platform environments and if certain applications can run well using it, Baltazar added.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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