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Hot storage technologies for 2012

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4. Cloud gateway appliances

Cloud gateway appliances are garnering attention as a great way to introduce cloud storage into an organization. These devices are easy to set up and relatively inexpensive, and users can start small and scale up easily.

The premise of a cloud gateway is simple: the appliance installs in a data center and acts as a bridge between on-premises storage systems and a cloud storage service. The bridge is required because public cloud storage providers rely on Internet protocols such as REST APIs over HTTP rather than conventional storage-area network (SAN) or NAS protocols. By connecting on-premises storage to the cloud via a gateway, the cloud storage service can seamlessly integrate with existing systems.

Although the adoption rate of cloud gateways is still relatively modest, a number of products have been released in the last two years and the attention they’ve received, along with their potential to grab market share, is what has landed them on our Hot Technologies list.

“There’s a huge interest in moving data to the cloud and I don’t think there’s any risk tolerance for user companies to deal with cloud provider APIs,” Forrester Research’s Reichman said. Within the cloud storage market, there’s a need for improving local performance, mitigating extra latency issues and adding security features.

“Those are some of the key attributes of cloud gateways that I think will make them big enablers for

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user companies to use cloud storage,” he said.

Cloud gateways can be integrated or combined with other products, and some vendors have already set up partnerships with backup and storage virtualization vendors; for example, TwinStrata is partnering with Veeam and DataCore, while StorSimple has joined forces with Microsoft. The challenge is that many users are unaware of cloud gateways and their benefits.

“I think cloud gateways will find a home eventually as users get more comfortable with cloud storage technology. I see them getting more embedded and leveraged as cloud storage appliances,” said Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

Some industry experts expect data storage vendors will build this technology into their arrays if the concept catches on. That would make it easy for onsite storage systems to treat a cloud storage service as simply another storage tier without having to take an intermediate step.

“I think the jury is still out as to whether this should be a fully separate product and a fully separate vendor, or if what we’re really talking about is a feature of other products,” Forrester Research’s Reichman said.

Another factor that has slowed acceptance of gateways is that the vendors offering these products are mostly startups.

“It’s going to take some market education and probably some effective partnering on the part of those smaller vendors to really get their product to be considered by buyers,” Reichman noted.

Taylor Higley, director of information services at the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), recently deployed TwinStrata’s CloudArray cloud gateway. When asked why he chose a TwinStrata gateway, his answer was simple.

“Really, it was the ability to leverage cheap Amazon S3 storage but still have the security and reliability of Veeam’s Backup & Replication system,” he said. “TwinStrata was the missing piece to make it all work.”

This was first published in December 2011

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