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Top 5 cloud storage trends of 2011: Cloud washing, expanded use cases

Cloud storage trends in 2011 show that while cloud offerings are improving, confusing messages from some vendors are still muddling the picture.

The top 5 cloud storage trends of 2011 reflect a young market searching for acceptance while the number of options and features continued to expand. Like many emerging technologies, hype still outpaces reality, but reality is hustling to catch up.

Below are the main trends for cloud storage that popped up in 2011 and related stories.

Top 5 Cloud Storage Trends of 2011

Cloud storage trend 1. Cloud washing is still an issue. Confusion remains about what makes up a storage cloud, mainly because of cloud washing by those vendors trying to position legacy products and services as "cloud." As a result, many data storage administrators spent the year trying to understand the differences among public, private and hybrid clouds, and why any of those are different than the storage-area network (SAN) or network-attached storage (NAS) they’ve been running for years.

Confusion caused by cloud washing was evident at a September 2011 Storage Decisions event in New York City, where several analysts tried to dissect private storage clouds. “What is [private] cloud storage?” asked Howard Marks, chief scientist at DeepStorage.Net, during his presentation on building your own private cloud or hybrid storage cloud. “Now, it’s anything the guy who has a product wants it to be.”

Related cloud washing stories:

Cloud storage trend 2. Struggle to define a storage cloud continues. As a result of cloud washing, vendors and analysts spent the year trying to narrow down the key functions and features that make up a storage cloud.

The industry agrees on a few things. A true cloud has to have a highly scalable, elastic and virtualized infrastructure. Object storage is the main storage technology because it allows for massive scalability and elasticity of dozens of petabytes, and even exabytes, of data. In addition, analysts say clouds have to be geographically aware so that objects and files aren't location dependent. Cloud storage is accessed directly across the internet via APIs such as REST or SOAP that will be standardized as the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI). Multi-tenancy for security and chargeback are also considered key cloud functions.

Related storage cloud stories:

Cloud storage trend 3. Cloud storage gateway vendors extend capabilities. In 2010, a group of startups launched cloud storage gateway appliances to help organizations move primary storage onto the cloud. These products were refined and expanded in 2011 as vendors tried to make them more competitive with traditional storage.

This year, TwinStrata Inc. extended the capabilities of its CloudArray gateway device by adding support for on-premises SAN and NAS, direct-attached storage (DAS) services and private clouds. StorSimple Inc. bumped up its iSCSI appliances, and added fully redundant components and the ability to upgrade without disruption. Nasuni Corp. added multisite capabilities for its NAS filer appliances, allowing multiple controllers to have live access to the same volume of snapshots through cloud service providers. Nasuni also added a service-level agreement capability that guarantees close to 100% uptime for its Nasuni Filer NAS cloud gateway. “We’re a storage services company now,” Nasuni CEO Andres Rodriguez said.

Related cloud storage gateway stories:

Cloud storage trend 4. Cloud storage is still mainly for backup. So far, at least from a storage perspective, the cloud has been most useful for simplifying the backup process. Cloud storage backup can be an effective alternative to tape for protecting data in remote sites and branch offices.

For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) facilities division placed TwinStrata CloudArray Virtual Appliances in 15 remote locations across the district to back up 80 TB of primary storage to the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud. LAUSD estimates it will save $283,000 over five years, mostly from eliminating tape and moving to low-cost commodity servers.

Psomas, a Los Angeles-based engineering consulting firm, turned to Riverbed Whitewater backup gateways, which provide local-area network (LAN)-type access to public cloud storage for data protection. Psomas replaced tape at 11 sites with one Whitewater cloud storage gateway and 10 virtual appliances. The company estimates it reduced backup costs by approximately 40% since it started rolling out cloud devices in March.

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Cloud storage trend 5. Cloud archiving another use of the cloud. We’ve seen petabyte-size digital archives move to the cloud in recent months as cloud archiving has become another use of the cloud. The University of Southern California (USC) contracted with Nirvanix Inc. to establish one of the world’s largest private storage clouds -- 8.5 petabytes (PBs) of digital archive spread over two sites.

The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) is using an Amplidata AmpliStor AS20 object storage system to build a 1 PB active archive of more than 5,000 classic jazz concert performances from the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Related cloud archiving stories:

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