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Recommended reading about EMC Atmos

Since I’ve been in the storage industry, I can’t think of another product that generated as much hype and interest for as long as EMC’s “Maui,” now rechristened Atmos for its general release.

Now that there’s actual technical nitty-gritty to get into about the product after a year of talk, the Internet is having a field day. There are a few follow-up resources with great details about the product springing up that I want to point out in case you missed them:

  • VMware senior director of strategic alliances Chad Sakac has an intricately detailed post up about how VMware’s vCloud initiative fits in with Atmos, and the differences between what VMware’s doing in the cloud and what Atmos is trying to accomplish.
  • Another EMCer, Dave Graham, covers the details of the hardware (aka “Hulk”) that’s being paired with Atmos.
  • The Storage Architect has questions.
  • Finally, StorageMojo’s Robin Harris has links to all the relevant technical whitepapers for anyone looking to truly geek out to their heart’s content. Harris also points out the highlights for those who don’t make whitepapers typical bedside reading.

I have been skeptical about cloud computing in the past, and remain that way to a certain extent. While I have no doubt about the ability of storage vendors and IT departments to put together huge, booming, honking service provider infrastructures, I still think that those pesky details about how users–especially users with a lot of data–are going to get their data there and back in a reasonable period of time have not been addressed. Some of my colleagues, like SearchServerVirtualization’s Alex Barrett,  have seen this movie before, and “[wonder] why hosting providers think that cloud storage will succeed when storage service providers (SSPs) of the late 1990s were such a blatant failure?”

For many, the answer to that question is that today’s technology has advanced since the 1990s. Chris Gladwin, founder of Atmos competitor Cleversafe, told me that he’s had the idea for his cloud offering for years, but the average Ethernet network was nowhere near up to speed. Now it’s more like ‘near.’ And just yesterday I wrote about one startup, Linxter, that’s trying to do something about one piece of the networking equation. It may be that the technology’s finally ready, even if the idea doesn’t look much different.

It has also been suggested to me by IDC’s Rick Villars that the storage industry thinks of the cloud as an effort to replace all or part of an enterprise data center, but that cloud service providers actually represent a net new mass of storage consumers. It might be that both skeptics and cloud computing evangelists are exactly right, but they’re talking about differing markets.

When it comes to the enterprise, though, I think the cloud will have its uses–not necessarily in deployments but in giving rise to products like Atmos. The enterprise has been looking for a global, autonomic, simple, logical means of moving data based on its business value, not to mention cheap, simple, commodity storage hardware components, for quite a few years now. I’ve written stories before prompted by the wistful look in enterprise storage admins’ eyes when they hear about automation like Compellent’s Data Progression feature for tiered storage.  Whether or not the external cloud business takes off like people think it will, it looks like some longstanding enterprise storage wish list items might still be checked off.

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