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Hybrid cloud storage products provide the best of both worlds -- local storage that's tightly integrated with off-site cloud storage services.

[This story was updated February 2013] Following the widespread adoption of server virtualization, cloud computing is the next evolutionary step toward utility computing where computing resources are consumed like electricity and paid for based on usage. Cloud storage got off to a running start with Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), which was quickly followed by other offerings. However, security concerns and slow performance have often overshadowed the benefits of cloud storage and hampered its adoption in the enterprise. Early adopters included startups, development teams and consumer-facing data services, but cloud storage struggles to become a viable complement to data center storage.

Conservative by nature, corporate IT has viewed public cloud storage as risky. But that's changing -- not because of a change in the perception of public cloud storage, but because of the emergence of internal cloud storage offerings as well as solutions that safely allow extending on-premise data storage with external cloud storage services. From a deluge of cloud computing-related offerings and heightened enterprise customer interest, to analyst predictions and extensive press coverage, all indications are that cloud computing has reached an inflection point and we'll soon see accelerated adoption of cloud

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storage in the enterprise.

Cloud storage defined

When a technology gets as hot as cloud computing is right now, there's a temptation by vendors to simply take existing products and rebrand them as "cloud." But, generally, storage-area network (SAN) storage and network-attached storage (NAS) can't be considered cloud storage simply because they offer shared storage. "SANs really don't meet the cloud storage paradigm of dynamic, flexible and elastic storage that's allocated when and where needed; from zoning, provisioning to worldwide names, they're pretty static in nature," said Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Mass. This is especially true for traditional, vertically scaled SAN and NAS offerings. Scale-out block-based storage systems like Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s 3PAR StoreServ array with its self-tuning and load-balancing capabilities, are able to dynamically spread loads across the SAN; scale-out NAS products are further along, but even those aren't appropriate for large public storage clouds.

This was first published in January 2011

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