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Cloud storage 2012: Microsoft opens gate, file sharing proliferates

Cloud storage 2012 featured big plays by Microsoft and Amazon, while file sharing and syncing showed up practically everywhere.

There was plenty of cloud news to cover in 2012, with online file sharing ubiquitous, Microsoft ascending, Amazon's Glacier emerging and object storage building.

Here's a look at cloud storage 2012 through an examination of our stories about its top news and trends:

1. Online file sharing goes viral, maybe rogue

The online file sharing market gained a lot of buzz this year through helping employees access files from mobile devices at any location.

It has become a crowded space, with an estimated 40-plus dedicated file sharing and syncing products and services. That vendor list includes Box Inc., Citrix Systems Inc.'s ShareFile, Dropbox Inc., Egnyte Inc., Nomadix Inc., SugarSync Inc., YouSendIt Inc. and Maginatics Inc., which came out of stealth in August. Most of these companies offer dedicated products that allow workers to access data from PCs, smartphones, iPads and tablets, but the market is getting enough attention that other vendors are joining in.

Others, however, also added file-sharing capabilities, including EMC Corp. with its acquisition of Syncplicity. Cloud vendors Nasuni Corp. and Scality Inc. also joined in, with Nasuni adding the ability to access mobile device data through its cloud-based network-attached storage (NAS), and Scality adding Sync-n-Share to its object-based software. IT managers also are turning to file sharing in the cloud to displace in-house file servers.

However, IT administrators are concerned that online file sharing is a security risk because employees use accounts that haven't been endorsed by IT, according to an Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. report titled "Spotting and stopping 'rogue' online file sharing." Those concerns prompted Nasuni and Scality to put their file sharing behind the firewall, giving IT managers more control over security.

Related news about online file sharing

2. Microsoft buys cloud gateway; will it open the floodgates?

Microsoft turned up the volume on cloud storage gateways when it revealed plans to acquire StorSimple and its iSCSI controller.

Microsoft considers StorSimple a good fit because its technology is tightly aligned with Microsoft's Cloud OS strategy. StorSimple's controllers are optimized for Microsoft applications, such as Exchange and SharePoint; user files; and virtual appliances.

In 2013, we'll watch to see whether Microsoft uses StorSimple gateways exclusively for Azure, and how the deal will affect StorSimple competitors Ctera Networks Ltd., Nasuni, Riverbed Technology Inc., Panzura Inc. and TwinStrata Inc. It's also possible that more acquisitions in this market will occur in the coming months.

Amazon has taken a different approach to gateways. It supports most of the gateways on the market, but also launched its own Amazon Web Services (AWS) Storage Gateway in 2012. Amazon's gateway is installed as a virtual appliance at customer sites and allows them to set up Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2, instances.

Related news about cloud storage gateways

3. Amazon unveils Glacier cloud storage for the patient user

Tape is under attack again, this time as an archiving medium. Amazon launched Glacier as a low-cost service for data that's rarely accessed but needs to be retained for long periods. That makes it significantly different from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for data that needs to be accessed in real time.

Glacier is slow and cheap. It's designed for data that can tolerate a three- to five-hour retrieval time. That puts it in direct conflict with tape, which many organizations have repositioned from a backup tier to an archiving tier. For 1 cent per gigabyte per month -- about one-tenth the cost of Amazon S3 -- Amazon will archive your data ad infinitum, using AES-256 encryption, multisite redundancy and regular data integrity checks.

The company also promises an average annual durability rate of 11 nines (99.999999999%), meaning that it expects to lose one file object for every 100 billion stored in the service. Amazon isn't saying whether it uses tape or just slow disk as the storage for Glacier, but its pricing certainly raised eyebrows.

Related news about Amazon Glacier

4. HP and Dell move to the cloud

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. were slow to get into the cloud market in 2012 to compete with Amazon S3, Google Inc. and Microsoft, but the two companies made moves to help customers build storage clouds this year. HP made its HP Cloud Object Storage and Cloud Content Delivery, or CDN, generally available, while Dell forged a relationship with Nirvanix Inc. to use its software for public, private and hybrid clouds.

HP's strategy is similar to EMC's with its Atmos cloud object storage platform, around which providers can build cloud services. But HP's most formidable competition will come from Amazon's established cloud services.

Dell is counting on its channel to build its cloud business. Under the Dell-Nirvanix deal, customers can store as many as four copies on Nirvanix's cloud infrastructure under a one-year term agreement. Dell will configure the service, handle account administrative activities and move the customer to Nirvanix, which will manage infrastructure, onboarding, maintenance and support, and operational service levels.

Related news about HP, Dell storage clouds

5. Object storage develops, waits for a market

Object-based storage has yet to reach critical mass, but is getting a lot of vendor attention. EMC Atmos, Cleversafe Inc., DataDirect Networks Inc. and Amplidata Inc. all enhanced their object-based storage, while Quantum Corp. and Swedish startup Compuverde AB entered the object storage market.

Quantum got into object storage through an OEM deal with Amplidata. Quantum's Lattus wide-area storage family consists of a scale-out NAS disk system integrated with Amplidata's AmpliStor dispersed object storage for archiving "big data."

Related news about object storage

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