EMC, AT&T open up Atmos-based cloud storage services

At EMC World 2009, EMC and AT&T claim new EMC Atmos onLine service and AT&T's new Synaptic Storage as a Service are more enterprise-ready than existing offerings on the market.

ORLANDO, Fla. - EMC Corp.'s Atmos object-based storage system is the basis for two cloud computing services launched...

today at EMC World 2009 -- EMC Atmos onLine and AT&T's Synaptic Storage as a Service.

EMC's service coincides with a new feature within the Atmos Web services API that lets organizations with Atmos systems already on-premise "federate" data – move it across data storage clouds. In this case, they'll be able to move data from their on-premise Atmos to an external Atmos computing cloud.

Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is evaluating Atmos for its next-generation storage infrastructure, and storage architect Michael Passe said he plans to test the new federation capability.

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"You can imagine this enabling sharing of things like research data among multiple institutions," he wrote to SearchStorage.com in an email Monday morning. "It could have lots of interesting applications."

Organizations without an internal Atmos system can also send data to Atmos onLine by writing applications to its APIs. This is different than commercial graphical user interface services such as EMC's Mozy cloud computing backup service. "There is an API requirement, but we're already seeing people doing integration" of new Web offerings for end users such as cloud computing backup and iSCSI connectivity, according to Mike Feinberg, senior vice president of the EMC Cloud Infrastructure Group. Data-loss prevention products from RSA, the security division of EMC, can also be used with Atmos to proactively identify confidential data such as social security numbers and keep them from being sent outside the user's firewall.

AT&T is adding Synaptic Storage as a Service to its hosted networking and security offerings, claiming to overcome the data security worries many conservative storage customers have about storing data at a third-party data center.

"AT&T isn't making a pure storage play here. This service is complementary to other services customers might buy from AT&T," said Steve Caniano, vice president, AT&T Hosting Services.

Synaptic Storage as a Service will be integrated with those other services. Customers can access their Atmos capacity by using one of AT&T's virtual private networks (VPNs) or they can use AT&T network services such as quality of service and traffic shaping on the Synaptic Storage connection.

This may address the Internet bandwidth issues that discourage many companies from using the computing cloud for data storage.

"The bandwidth problem is a real problem," EMC's Feinberg said. "The EMC approach is to partner with companies like AT&T that can solve this problem, and that's why we're offering internal and external federation services, so users can cache hot data locally."

The ability to migrate content among different third-party services is becoming a hot topic among cloud computing offerings. While Atmos-based services will have some interoperability, integration with other services will have to wait. "An API has to be standardized," Feinberg said. "That takes time.

"We're still at the very infancy of all of this," said Benjamin Woo, vice president, enterprise storage systems at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "This API approach parallels the approach EMC took with Centera. They have to evolve a community of developers."

However, with two service providers – AT&T and EMC, in this case – basing separate services on the same API, "applications become that much more portable," Woo said. "That makes it easier for developers to make the investment to write to the API, because there's potentially a bigger payoff."

EMC and 3PAR jockey for position in the data storage cloud

AT&T also offers what it calls utility hosting based partly on 3PAR's InServ Storage Server arrays. "One is a cloud service, while the other is a utility service," Caniano said of the services powered by EMC and 3PAR. The utility service includes day-to-day management of a single-user hosted storage environment.

Jeff Boles, senior analyst and director, validation services at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group, added that 3PAR offers a block interface while Atmos provides a file-level and object-level interface. "I think it's too early in the game to say whether the object interface is the be-all and end-all," he said.


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