Storage clouds gather over Storage Networking World

Hitachi Data Systems makes a play for the cloud; SNIA tackles cloud standards; and customers talk about adopting cloud services at Storage Networking World.

PHOENIX – Cloud storage is a popular topic at Storage Networking World (SNW) Fall 2009, with Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) today launching the Hitachi Content Platform cloud platform and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) revealing its Cloud Storage Initiative plans to develop standards for cloud services.

HDS rolled out the Hitachi Content Platform – an upgrade to the product formerly known as the Hitachi Content Archive Platform (HCAP) – as its cloud delivery mechanism.

The content platform now supports logical partitions to segregate data and administration for multitenancy, access rights to prevent unauthorized access, and encryption. It also includes a REST interface to connect to the cloud, namespaces, chargeback, and supports compression and single instancing. Miki Sandorfi, chief strategist of file and content services at Hitachi Data Systems, said one cluster can support an enterprise and cloud simultaneously. The new version of the content platform is expected to be available by the end of the year.

Like HCAP, the content platform provides an object store for unstructured data and supports the entire Hitachi Data Systems storage platform. Customers can add any HDS storage services on top of it. The idea is to provide block and file storage on one platform in a utility delivery model.

The timing for an HDS cloud announcement is poor, coming one day after Hitachi Data Systems was accused of having a role in a storage-area network (SAN) failure that led to an embarrassing data loss, giving cloud computing a bad name while – if true -- throwing water on Hitachi's reliability claims. But there seems no turning back on established storage vendors pitching their products as cloud-enabled while new vendors come into play with products solely focused on the cloud.

"Cloud to us is not a product, it's a mechanism for delivering services," Sandorfi said. "We're building a house with a foundation, and multiple floors on top of the foundation."

Hitachi Data Systems isn't the only major storage vendor going down the cloud path. IBM and NetApp Inc. put a cloud tag on recent storage product releases, and EMC is in beta with its Atmos onLine cloud offering.

"We've seen a wave of cloud washing in the industry," said Rick Villars, vice president, storage systems and executive strategies at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "Every company and every product group wants to talk about how they are cloud. Like many of the storage players, Hitachi is being caught a little bit by two transitions. The first is a dramatic increase in content, and the second is the whole idea of people wanting to pursue a more shared option for their infrastructure."

 Cost is just one factor 

Organizations are already using the cloud for storage, but smart companies are doing a lot of homework first. Phil Mentesana, director of IT at New York City-based Delphi Capital Management Inc., conducted a session on evaluating cloud-based backup and recovery services Monday at SNW, and recommended rigorously evaluating vendors before taking the plunge.

"At the end of the day, we worried more about vendor than price," Mentesana said. He said he looked at factors such as "Are they going to be around in 10 years? Is their software easier to use? How responsive is their technical support? How scalable are they – can they meet your needs of what your network will look like in five years – and can the vendor meet your RPO and RTO goals?" He said he went with EVault from i365, A Seagate Company, because of those factors.

As for security, Mentesana said his company conducts full restore tests twice a year. He also reminded attendees that security isn't only an issue in the cloud. Before going to the cloud, Mentesana said he sent tapes offsite. "One day I got a call from someone who said, 'Hi, this is John, I have your tapes,'" he said. "My vendor sent him my tapes. He said, 'I'll meet you on the street corner and give them to you.' I got them back, but that was shocking and scary."

SNIA's Cloud Storage Initiative targets cloud standard

SNIA said Monday it has formed a Cloud Storage Initiative (CSI) that will try to educate vendors and customers on cloud computing, with one of its goals the adoption of a Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) standard.

"Today the marketplace is filled with terms, and there are different flavors of confusion out there," said Wayne Adams, SNIA's chairman. Adams said the CSI will focus on data storage as a service and managed data that goes into the cloud, but not applications and platforms offered in the cloud.


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