Cloud data storage services grow up

Cloud storage is beginning to move to the forefront of the IT market, and it's extending beyond small- and medium-sized businesses to enterprises as well. Rich Castagna, the editorial director for TechTarget's Storage Media Group, discusses why cloud data storage services are making another surge in the market, why the cloud is a more economical storage choice for IT pros and how enterprises are beginning to use cloud storage in this week's episode of Cloud Cover TV.

We discuss:

  • Rich Castagna's opinion on the decision to launch a site specifically about cloud storage
  • The downs and outs of cloud storage data storage services and how a different approach is making the difference
  • Owning a data storage is expensive; cloud is a more economical option
  • How enterprise IT is using cloud storage options like with Amazon S3
  • Reasons why Storage Service Provider failed in the 90s
  • Why cloud is a more economical solution over the long term
  • Whether data co-mingling in the cloud is still a fear for companies
  • The move to hybrid cloud storage, and how it has become a gateway product

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

Cloud storage grows up

Joe Maitland:  Hello, welcome to Cloud Cover TV, our weekly show on all the juiciest news in the cloud computing market.  I'm Jo Maitland, here in San Francisco, and this week my guest on the show is going to be Rich Castagna. He is actually one of my colleagues; he's the editorial director of the storage media group at Tech Target.  Rich and Rich's team just recently launched a searchcloudstorage site.  So, my question for Rich was, why launch this site now?  The notion of buying storage as a service has been around for years, so what's the interest now?  So he's up next talking about that.  Hi Rich, welcome to the show.

Rich Castagna:  Thank you, Jo.

Joe Maitland:  Thanks for being on.  So tell us, why launch the cloud storage site now.  What's going on in the market that makes it worth while?

Rich Castagna:  Well, if you believe the vendors, there's a lot going on in the market right now.  But even if you don't believe the vendors, there's still quite a bit happening.  Cloud storage is not an especially new idea, you know it's been around probably fifteen years or so, but it failed the first time out.  This time around, the technology is different, the approach to it is very different, and it really is poised for more success.  Plus if you add to that the other side of the equation where companies are just dying from the amount of data they need to store, and owning your own storage systems, maintaining them, powering them, cooling them, all of that stuff, it's becoming an economic nightmare.  And cloud storage is a viable alternative to that.  And also for data protection. It's probably the easiest way to backup, especially for a smaller company.  But we're also starting to see it move up the food chain into larger and larger companies.  So I think that the whole idea behind cloud is that it's strictly an economic proposition at this point.  The beauty of it also is that it's like an accordion, if you need twenty terabytes, you have twenty terabytes, if, two months later you only need five, then you have five and you're only paying for five.  If you had to buy that storage you couldn't return the unused fifteen terabytes when you were done with them.  So it's a very compelling economic situation for today especially.

Joe Maitland:  And is everyone using Amazon S3 or is that what Enterprise IT would use?

Rich Castagna:  A lot.  That's the back-end, and a lot of users never see that part of it.  It'll be there, but the users aren't seeing it.  So there's Amazon, there's AT&T, there's Rackspace, there's Nirvanix; there are a bunch of really large ones. But there's also a ton of regional service providers and even local service providers.  A lot of re-sellers and VARS are looking to use, a lot of them have their own data centers; could be because they've been providing managed services to their clients.  So a lot of them are looking to, you know how can they build out their storage infrastructure and then essentially rent space.  So, Amazon and the big guys are a very, very important part and probably pushing it, and may be responsible for revitalizing the idea of cloud storage.  But they're not exclusively behind it.

Joe Maitland:  The only player left.  And so going back to that SSP, storage service provider disaster in the nineties or whenever that was. Was that mainly because those guys were trying to protect primary storage, like primary data?  Or was it different all around?

Rich Castagna:  Yeah, I think there were a couple of things.  First of all, it was a brand new idea.  And if you go back to then, even the web, wasn't such a big deal at that time.  So the whole idea of cloud was still very new, so it was hard for people to understand.  And then on the other side of it, the storage providers really kind of created, for themselves, they created an economic situation that was untenable.  They were going out and buying very expensive shared storage; and at that time it was very expensive shared storage.  And then they were trying to carve that up and again rent out space to cloud users.  And a lot of them found that even when they rented out 100% of their space, they still lost money. Because that storage system was so expensive to buy and maintain, and they could not pass along all of those costs to their customers because then their customers wouldn't see the economic benefit.  If you look at it today, if you look at something like Amazon, Google, you know these big companies dealing with lots and lots of storage, they're building their own. And they're doing it with their own IP and their own intelligent software and commodity hardware.  And that was not the model fifteen, twenty years ago.  That was the opposite and it was an untenable model.

Joe Maitland:  Right, the storage network skies.  Is that so the small, medium sized business that are going for it, is there a portion of the enterprise IT market that uses it for a specific reason?

Rich Castagna:  Yeah.  So what we found in talking interviews, and we do a lot survey based research. What we found is, first of all, overall we're seeing about 15% of the companies that we talked to are using some kind of cloud storage.  So it could be a little bit here or it could be a lot.  Could be all of their backup or just a little bit here or there.  But 15% we think is a pretty significant number at this point in the development of cloud storage.  The backup is by far the most popular application.  It was the first and earliest one out there, it's the easiest to justify, and it is filling one of the greatest needs that any sized company has, or individuals for that matter.   What we're finding next in popularity, if you will, is disaster recovery.  So that kind of goes hand in hand with backup. Although it's different obviously because you want to be able to regain your business and continue your business.  But what's cool about that is that if you save your data for disaster recovery out in the cloud, you may be able to recover out in the cloud as well. By renting the compute that you need to keep your business running, while you're restoring your in-house systems.  So that's been very popular.  We're also seeing a surprising number, and I think the number was 8-10%, are actually using it for some primary data.  So they're offloading some of their data center data, which they consider their primary still, into the cloud.  And then we're also seeing it being used, especially for backup in remote offices; that's been very popular. 

Joe Maitland:  Has anyone solved the problem, and it's been awhile since I've heard the business market, of that initial upload of the data to the cloud?  Do you still have to drive it in a truck...

Rich Castagna: Not really.  I mean, that whole seeding issue, that you have to seed your data store first.  So, no.  If you have a lot of data you ship disks.

Joe Maitland:  That's how they do it still?  Really?

Rich Castagna:  Yeah.  Or something.  You know, you ship something.  Some kind of media. And then the service will load all of that, and then after that it's fine, until you have to restore something.

Joe Maitland:  That's the next question, is how's the restore process work?

Rich Castagna:  Well the restore process works fine if your just restoring a handful of files or something.  But if you have to restore you entire data center.  I mean even if it's a modestly sized data center, and now again, we're talking about shipping things, shipping disks, shipping systems, whatever's necessary, because doing it over telecom, it just isn't going to work.

Joe Maitland:  Right.  And all of that still works out cheaper than with the continuously dropping price of disk?  That's still a better solution than just buying more?

Rich Castagna:  Yeah, it is.  You know, it is for the most part. Because disk does get cheaper, but maintenance doesn't.  People to maintain and run those data holds, electricity doesn't; you know, all that other stuff doesn't.  If you had a disaster or a series of disasters, and you had to spend a lot of money and time to do major restorations, then in that short period of time it might not be such a terrific looking economic proposition.  But over the long haul, I would say 95% of the cases, it almost always will be.

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Joe Maitland:  Right.  And do you feel like the secure multitenancy, data co-mingling fears that people have, is that solved yet, or is that still a worry that my data and your data, if we're competitors might be in the same store?

Rich Castagna:  It's very much a worry.  And it's probably the most worrisome factor for companies that are considering doing it.  The whole idea of, here's the company's data, our intellectual property, the crown jewels, and then the storage manager walks in and tells the CEO that we're going to take all of this stuff and we're going to ship it a thousand miles away to somewhere.  It's a pretty big stretch to accept something like that.  So that issue is definitely there.  Now on the technical side of it, it's probably not much of an issue because everything in transit in encrypted and everything at rest is encrypted.  There are issues about who holds the keys to that encryption, but the customer could easily hold the key so that should ease any kind of concerns about anybody being able to see your data.  Multitenancy is one of the most basic parts, building blocks, of cloud storage.  So that's there.  That's part of the infrastructure.  And don't think any organization could go out and start selling cloud storage without having a pretty solid foundation in multitenancy and everything else that that entails.  So those parts are OK.  It's the confidence.  It's consumer confidence essentially.  And that's still a big issue.

Joe Maitland:  Right.  So it's kind of like we'll see when that guy goes first, and that guy then we'll go...

Rich Castagna:  And then as soon as an incident occurs, as soon as something happens, then it sets things back tremendously.  And even if that incident is not necessarily connect with the cloud it'll still set things back. 

Joe Maitland:  Yeah the outage, that Amazon had with elastic block storage was like a black eye for the whole industry for like six months, probably.  And then in terms of coverage for you guys, what would you say, sort of hot topics, what does well on the site?

Rich Castagna:  I think that the focus is very rapidly moving towards what we're calling "hybrid cloud storage."  A hybrid situation is where you have some sort of device, and that device could be a hardware device or it could be a software device, but there's some sort of device on your premises; and that device could have its own storage in there or not.  And basically it's local storage that treats the cloud as another tier.  As some level of tier.  So i can save my data to this device and maybe after sixty days, or something like that, that data gets shipped out to the cloud storage somewhere.  So what that's doing is it's integrating and it's very neatly integrating for the most part, your in-house storage systems with these cloud services.  And it allows you to create policies, so that that integration is very much controlled by you.  And you know where your data is at all times.  And that link can be between an internal cloud and a public cloud, or it can just be whatever existing storage you currently have; there are devices that just do it for backup, so you it's just like a backup machine, a backup appliance where you save your backups there, they sit there for a little while and then they get shipped out.  Like how you used to send a tape.

Joe Maitland:  So they're just sort of like a gateway kind of product.

Rich Castagna:  Exactly.  And there are surprisingly still just a handful of companies that are doing this right now.  But we really think that this is going to be the key focus because it's not an either/or situation anymore.  It's dealing with it as one unit.  And that's what all of storage is moving to now with solid state on one end and high-capacity drives on the other end and cloud is just another layer. 

Joe Maitland:  Rich, thank you so much for being on the show.

Rich Castagna:  Thanks for having me.

Joe Maitland:  Cheers.  This has been Cloud Cover TV.  Thank you for watching and tune in next week for more insider news on the cloud computing market.

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