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Software for hybrid storage clouds

Combining internal and public cloud storage into a single heterogeneous storage cloud without custom integration or gateways is only possible today if the internal and external storage clouds run the same cloud storage software. While there are standardization initiatives in progress, such as the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI), a lack of standards has prohibited out-of-the-box integration between heterogeneous storage clouds. So what we're seeing is cloud software vendors selling their offerings to corporations and service providers to create the prerequisite for hybrid clouds. And some cloud storage providers are offering their storage stacks as internal storage clouds that provide easy integration with their public storage cloud services.

An example of the latter is Nirvanix. Nirvanix began as a public cloud service, but now allows users to run its cloud storage internally in a private cloud.

Rackspace has been offering its Cloud Files as a public cloud storage service, but it has now open-sourced Cloud Files and formed OpenStack.org to drive standardization. The intent is to enable hybrid clouds between service providers and corporate customers, as well as Rackspace's public cloud storage service.

Until recently, cloud storage service providers had to either use one of the open source cloud storage products, such as Luster and MogileFS,

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with their idiosyncrasies and limitations, or develop their own offerings. In the past couple of years, however, cloud storage software has become available as a commercial product from several vendors who sell it to both enterprises and service providers.

Among the commercially available products, EMC Corp.'s Atmos is the most prominent. It's a software-based, hardware-agnostic, object-based storage stack that consists of three loosely coupled services: a presentation layer that handles interfacing to clients via REST, SOAP and traditional file-system protocols; a metadata management layer that manages where data objects are stored and how they're protected and distributed on storage nodes; and a storage target layer that interfaces with storage nodes. It can run on dedicated hardware or on VMware virtual machines. Architected as a scale-out system, it's able to scale to petabytes of storage by simply adding nodes. EMC sells Atmos to enterprises and providers, so on-premise Atmos deployments can federate with Atmos services in the cloud.

This was first published in January 2011

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