CIOs See Promise in Public Cloud Storage

A new survey shows that public cloud storage adoption is strong and poised for a big increase over the coming year, amid concerns over security and performance.

By James E. Bagley and Deni Connor
Tue, July 12, 2011

CIO — Three quarters of companies are either currently using or plan to use public cloud storage offerings. What's more, all organizations with more than 500 employees are using or planning use of public cloud storage, mostly for e-mail, data protection and front-office applications like CRM, especially SaaS-based CRM solutions such as Salesforce.com.

That's the upshot of a recent survey of 133 CIOs/CTOs and their operations staff in North America conducted by SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and our industry analyst firm, Storage Strategies NOW. The survey paints a picture of a technology that's poised for takeoff — if providers can overcome user apprehension over two big concerns: security and performance.

Anand Kapoor, vice president of technology of WNS Global Services (WNS), a business process outsourcing firm in Mumbai, India, puts it this way. "Generally you see two sets of early adopters: smaller enterprises and SMBs that cannot afford the redundancy that an enterprise-class infrastructure would cost, and larger enterprises that need rapidly scaling infrastructure that is managed by organizations with the core competencies related to storage," says Kapoor.

Making the Cloud Storage Case

In a way, public cloud storage is like any outsourcing decision. Companies are faced with ever increasing storage requirements, many of which imply permanent retention of archives. So is it better to leave long-term storage management for generic applications like e-mail and CRM to external organizations whose primary business is providing those services, leaving IT more time to focus on critical business applications? Clearly, many CIOs and CTOs believe it is.

Cloud access appliance manufacturer Nasuni's CEO, Andres Rodriguez, likens public cloud storage to an electric utility. "You wouldn't try to build and manage a power generating station in your back yard, so why try to recreate the economies of scale that the cloud storage provider has available?" he asks.

Speed of deployment is another issue, says Hisam Ahmad, global head of architecture and engineering for T-Systems, a hosting service provider in Bonn, Germany, which both uses and provides cloud storage access. "It takes time for an IT organization to plan for increased data center infrastructure, find a vendor and finance a storage acquisition, and then it has to wait months for installation," he says. "We are seeing end-user organizations going around IT and directly contracting cloud storage and using it within days if not hours."

Potential Cloud Pitfalls

With many good reasons to deploy public cloud storage, what's the downside?

Fear of security breach, loss of control and access to critical data are major concerns, according to the SNIA/SSG-NOW study. Perpetuating these issues is the lack of a standard for public cloud data interchange. Each provider has its own version of an HTTP command structure that is foreign to existing applications. Modying existing applications to use a proprietary public cloud is not feasible, so this relegates public cloud to only those applications that are already cloud ready.

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