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Top 2015 cloud storage news includes benchmarks, upgrades

The biggest headlines in 2015 centered around the major cloud storage providers -- some expanded, while others split -- and it's still a race for performance and low cost.

Cloud storage news in 2015 moved beyond just a battleground for the lowest prices and fastest performance. Of course, the war between Amazon, Microsoft and Google is still being fought, but users are also increasingly looking to the cloud to support specific applications and use cases. Storage vendors took note in 2015, and adapted their offerings to appeal to users who have specific performance and capacity requirements. Those offerings are also making it easier to implement hybrid clouds -- a model that continues to gain in popularity.

For a deeper look into the biggest cloud storage news and developments over the past year, SearchCloudStorage dug up its most-read news stories of 2015.

1. Google chases cold data storage with Google Cloud Storage Nearline

Google countered Amazon's Glacier cloud storage offering in 2015 with its own low-cost platform for cold storage archiving -- Cloud Storage Nearline. Like Glacier, Nearline storage costs users only one cent per gigabyte, per month. But coming 30 months after Glacier was released, Google had to offer more than just a low price -- and that something was much faster recovery times. Google claims data can be recovered in a mere three seconds, as opposed to the hours that it can take with Glacier. While recovery times aren't typically a concern for cold data storage, Google Cloud Storage Nearline also offers the option to purchase more throughput in the event that even faster restores are needed. That makes Cloud Storage Nearline a viable option for disaster recovery as well.

2. Microsoft Azure wins the 2015 cloud storage race

There are two races in which today's biggest cloud providers are running: the race to the lowest price and the dash to fastest performance. In 2015, Microsoft Azure won the latter. Cloud network-attached storage vendor Nasuni conducted a cloud benchmarking test, which looked at the performance, availability and scalability of the major cloud providers. It tested speeds by running three different versions of reads and writes for various file sizes and at various times of the day. Azure Blob Storage was able to handle a large number of reads, writes and deletes better than its leading competitors -- Amazon Simple Storage Service and Google Cloud. Microsoft was reported to be more than twice as fast at deleting files stored in its cloud than Amazon, and almost five times as fast as Google. Amazon had better response times than Azure for large files, but Azure was the leader when it came to overall blend of files.

3. Cloud hack: IBM SoftLayer gets split in two

In March 2015, IBM created a way to capitalize on the growing trend of customizing cloud technology based on specific application requirements by splitting its SoftLayer cloud into performance and endurance tiers. This allows users to more accurately match cloud performance to application. The endurance tier is intended for use cases such as backup, archiving and ready-heavy applications. Users can choose .25 IOPS per GB, 2 IOPS per GB or 4 IOPS per GB, making the endurance tier suitable for general purpose applications or for transactional databases. The performance tier is intended for I/O-intensive databases that consistently need more than 4 IOPS per GB. Both the performance and endurance tiers are available in either block or file storage.

4. NetApp upgrades storage products to run in Amazon clouds

NetApp made several storage upgrades in 2015 to strengthen its relationship with Amazon and target public cloud users. NetApp developed a virtual version of its AltaVault backup appliance, as well as a hardware version of its StorageGrid Webscale object storage. The AltaVault appliance can be used as a virtual cloud gateway. The newest version of StorageGrid hardware is able to write data directly to Amazon's Simple Storage Service. Richard Treadway, NetApp senior director of product marketing, said the ideal way to use the two products together is to use AltaVault as an on-premises archive, while StorageGrid moves the data to the cloud as it becomes less-frequently accessed. NetApp also upgraded Cloud OnTap -- the software-only model of Clustered Data OnTap -- which allows NetApp FAS storage to run in an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instance.

5. Study shows cloud concerns contribute to rise in hybrid deployments

Cloud adoption might be growing, but users are still bullish when it comes to putting their data in the cloud. One 2015 study conducted by EMC showed that the hesitation could be influencing the growing number of hybrid cloud implementations. Users see it as a way to get their feet wet with cloud storage, while sidestepping one of their biggest concerns -- security of sensitive data. A hybrid approach to cloud storage allows users to store their more sensitive data on premises, while offloading infrequently accessed data to a public cloud for low-cost, long-term storage. Sixty-four percent of respondents in the survey said they used a hybrid cloud model for the security and agility it provides. Automation capabilities were also cited by 74% of respondents as a reason they adopted a hybrid cloud.

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What cloud storage developments do you think were most important in 2015?
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Well, the last item...hybrid storage clouds is clearly the most interesting. Storing data with public cloud storage providers frequently seems like a good way to avoid the capex of building your own on-premises object-based storage cluster. The good idea part of using the public cloud for data storage can fade once you have over 100TB parked there and you realize that you have to pay the monthly bill for that storage forever. Somewhere along the line, say after year 3 or 4 you may find that it would have made more sense to build your own local storage cloud. This is not to say that the hybrid cloud storage concept is not without merit, but you need to be careful about how you use it.

Cloudian's HyperStore may be the only on-premises AWS S3-compatible storage software that gives you the ability to tier your data to AWS S3, Glacier or another S3-compatible storage cloud.
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