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Baby Steps To the Cloud

It seems everyone you talk to these days is talking about "The Cloud." I'm not here to try and define exactly what is and isn't cloud -- there are plenty of people already doing that. But, what are some of the first steps, "baby steps," if you will, that companies can make towards the cloud? The biggest opportunity I see today is Storage-as-a-Service. As Jerome Wendt points out in his blog, consumers are already using storage-as-a-service on sites like Box.net, FilesAnywhere, Flickr, GigaSize.com, Mozy and Photobucket. Wendt also goes on to say that the consumer market is nowhere near as picky as the enterprise (or health care) markets are when it comes to choosing storage as a service provider or services.

While I agree that there are concerns over privacy of data and multi-tenancy for the big guys, what about everyone else? A number of customers that I talk to are just concerned with getting their backups offsite, whether it's putting tapes in a truck or sending the data off to the cloud somewhere. If you read my previous post on tape backups, then you're well aware why I see storage-as-a-service really picking up when it comes to offsite storage of backups. Of course, there's still that pesky issue of how do you get those bits from point A (your site) to point B (the cloud)?

Optimize Throughput

Before you consider squeezing gigabytes of information through your already saturated Internet connection, you need to make sure that you connection is up to the task. You can always just buy more bandwidth, but even that's not a guarantee that you'll meet your service-level windows for getting your backups offsite. The way I see it, there are currently two good methods for getting the most out of your bandwidth:

  1. Store and forward, or
  2. Optimize.

With the store and forward method, your backup target is still a local disk, but that disk is either an appliance or existing storage connected to software that pushes block level changes up to the cloud. With this method, you get the benefit of backing up locally and having software handle getting the changes up to the cloud. A vendor that I've recently been talking to, Twinstrata, has a solution like this that makes it easy to get your data to one of their public cloud partners.

With the optimization approach, rather that storing locally, you can choose to store your backups (or replicas) in the cloud. WAN optimization solutions exist in many varieties, but one that has caught my attention is HyperIP from NetEX. HyperIP is delivered as a virtual appliance so it's a completely software-based solution and runs on your existing virtual infrastructure. Typically, the optimization approach is used when you're trying to move data within your private cloud rather than the public, but there are service providers that do offer optimization as a service.

So, as you start to consider what your cloud strategy is going to be, you may want to start by looking at Storage-as-a-Service. When considering costs, do forget to factor in the savings you'll realize by no longer having to buy tapes and paying some guy (or girl) to truck them around for you.

Posted by Doug Hazelman on 08/24/2010 at 12:49 PM


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