When I first heard of the ‘cloud’ I thought of it as simply marketing jargon being used by technology companies to create a false new market. Boy was I wrong! The Cloud, in its various forms, is re-defining how we access, utilize and manage software, hardware and IT services.
The concept of a utility based model has driven efficiencies into what now looks like an archaic means of purchase and consumption by both individuals and corporations. The infiltration and accelerated adoption of the cloud is self-evident. Just think of all the things we access and utilize through a cloud model, such as Dropbox, Netflix, and iTunes, to Salesforce, Google Docs, and WebEx. Its adoption is accelerated through its ease of use, limited upfront costs and global accessibility. The increased usage of these and other cloud based solutions leads to an exponential growth in the underlying data that is stored by these providers.
The majority of data that is stored by cloud providers is user files and its associated data. From documents to pictures and videos, individuals and businesses are increasing the digital content that gets stored in the cloud. A recent personal example was when I was at the airport and needed to review a forecast spreadsheet. I immediately logged on to my online account, accessed the spreadsheet via our cloud provider, made comments and edits and shared it with others. This simple yet real example showcases how we have become so comfortable and take for granted ease of access to documents anywhere in the world. Our provider charges us per user, per month and as our company grows we can simply expand the number of users.
The storage infrastructure that supports the underlying cloud infrastructure is primarily Network Attached Storage (NAS), managed using CIFS and NFS protocols. Another form of underlying storage that is gaining momentum is Object based Storage Devices (OSD), managed via SCSI command for OSD. The continuous evolution of this underlying storage infrastructure and its management is a key area of focus for enterprises and cloud providers alike. Many questions arise in management of this infrastructure such as what files should be stored where, maintenance of primary and secondary sources of data for disaster recovery and business continuity, the need for continuous tiering between different layers of storage for optimization and an automated policy based management and movement of the data all the while providing users seamless access.
As the cloud matures in its incarnation and data continues to be core for decision making, the need to manage and optimize its storage infrastructure will be vital. There are many start-ups being created to address various aspects of the problem posed, both hardware and software based. These innovators will bring long sought after solutions and have the nimbleness and agility to drive innovation to meet the evolution and maturity of the cloud.