Despite the confusion surrounding what cloud storage really means and how it might be used, few advances in storage have been hyped as much as "cloud storage." Understandably, IT professionals are intrigued by the prospect of reducing their reliance on internal capabilities, eliminating capital spending, and improving the overall cost structure of specific parts of their storage environment by moving workloads to the cloud. At the same time, every vendor in the space is painting its products and message with a cloud veneer. To cut through the hype, Forrester defines cloud storage as:
Storage capacity that is disaggregated from the primary computing environment, with the location, ownership, and operation of the storage resources managed by a single or a combination of service providers.
While it may be tempting to think (and market) that the cloud will eliminate data center storage as we know it in one fell swoop, this isnt likely. There's no magic in the cloud, and the concept of a consistent architecture with geographic separation from the primary data center is not well suited to all workloads. Instead, buyers and vendors need to think carefully about the specific workloads they are currently provisioning for that might be effectively solved in a cloud architecture.
Slideshow: Cloud Storage Lives Up to the Hype
The majority of todays cloud storage options focus on low price, but lack the security, scalability, and trust that enterprises require. Recent research from Forrester found that currently, only three cloud storage use cases are ready for prime time:
1. Whole in-cloud applications with their own storage
Such a delivery model allows the storage and server resources to remain collocated, just not inside the walls of the firm. With this shift, the data integrity, resiliency, and backup of the application become the responsibility of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, which presumably has more resources and better expertise than its customers.
2. Backup to the cloud
Cloud offerings differ from traditional outsourced backup in that they typically leverage a globally dispersed, shared-tenancy grid system that houses many customers' data together in a cost- and security-optimized infrastructure.
3. File storage in the cloud
Many firms with widely dispersed regional sites already go across the WAN to reach centralized file services, so moving this content to a cloud-based offering is not a huge stretch. It's an especially good fit for data with low criticality and low access frequency, such as archive files and older project data.
As you explore these use cases, you'll need to select vendors that provide the proper underlying facilities, infrastructure, and storage management applications. Done right, cloud storage has tremendous potential to free up IT professionals from complex and onerous storage management. Just be sure to pick the workloads that make sense and move forward carefully, evaluating the risks and rewards of doing so.