Getting it Right with Enterprise Cloud Storage
Do you ever have that feeling, perhaps when using a new product, that the vendor really got it right? This seems to happen regularly with consumer products. Maybe the new widget fits really well in your hand, or the features are like nothing you’ve seen before. Maybe it provides hours of entertainment, or lets you escape reality for a while. But think about it for a moment… it isn’t usually about this, OR that, OR the other. It is usually about several elements that have been combined to for the best total benefit for the user. It is about this, AND that, AND the other.
The Amazon Kindle is one obvious example of getting it right with consumer devices. OK, it is also an overused example… but it helps quickly make the right points. If you are not a fan of the Kindle, that is OK. Maybe you prefer the Apple iPad or the Barnes & Noble Nook (or actual books!). There are still many millions of Kindle users that can attest to Amazon getting it right with the Kindle. It isn’t about making everyone happy, it is about making your target audience happy. Jeff Bezos sums it up like this: “Every single design decision as you’re walking down the process has been made to optimize for reading.” Amazon is (currently) selling to readers, not web surfers and game players.
Some would say that Amazon got it right again with cloud storage. After all, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) has thousands of customers that are together storing billions of objects. Clearly they are doing some things right. But this blog is about enterprise cloud storage.
The main Amazon S3 web page says this: “Amazon S3 is storage for the Internet. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers.” Notice that this description does not say it is designed for enterprise storage needs. Of course Amazon will be quite happy for enterprise IT organizations to adopt S3. And there are enterprise organizations that indeed do this. And there are even service providers that build what they call enterprise storage services on top of S3. Yet, when it comes to enterprise cloud storage, I can’t seem to convince myself that Amazon S3 has gotten it right.
Is there something called ”real” or ”true” Cloud Storage?
Setting Amazon S3 aside, let’s take a fresh look at cloud storage. As we all know, there is a lot of cloudwashing within the industry. In some cases this involves gray areas. For example, not every “cloud” solution available has every cloud attribute. Some fall just a bit short on elasticity while others fall short on pricing models.
Frankly Neovise tries to take a fairly open approach here. It isn’t about dogmatic definitions. It is about pragmatism and value to purchasers and users. So we try not to draw hard lines and categorize solutions as “true” cloud or not. Sometimes you will see people (journalists, bloggers, analysts, vendors, etc.) use “true” or “real” as shorthand to describe solutions that they feel meet an appropriate level of “cloudiness.” In any case, when vendors claim their solution is cloud-based, lines do sometimes get crossed. You will likely encounter storage solutions described as “cloud” when they are anything but cloud.
Here are some attributes that suggest to varying degrees – or even confirm – that a given storage solution is not cloud storage:
- Up-front payment
- Fixed payments, regardless of storage use
- Little or no pooling of storage resources
- Missing control / governance capabilities for multiple types of users or organizations
- Purchase of storage in large increments (especially if they happen to match the capacities of the vendor’s various storage devices!)
- Lack of a service interface or experience
In contrast, here are attributes that count toward a storage solution being a cloud storage solution:
- Usage-based pricing, paid as you go
- Elasticity for rapidly scale up AND down
- Multi-tenancy for separate businesses and / or departments
- Aggregation of multiple storage resources into a single universally accessible pool
- Deployed as a service with accompanying SLAs
Remember, it is not about finding a fictitiously certified or bona fide cloud solution. It is about getting the benefits that are inherent in a cloud solution!
Enterprise Cloud Storage
We’ve discussed what cloud storage is and isn’t. But what about enterprise cloud storage? What would it look like to “get it right” with enterprise cloud storage? The appropriate hints have been dropped earlier… At a high level, a top notch cloud storage solution is going to have a lot of attributes that collectively make it a winner. Further, all of the design decisions leading to those attributes will have been made cohesively so that they appeal most to the target audience, not just any audience.
I’ve been evaluating various cloud storage solutions recently, each with different target audiences. When it came to enterprise cloud storage, I was particularly struck with how Nirvanix has gotten it right. This is not to say the storage service provider wars are over. In some ways they are just getting started. This also does not mean Nirvanix is the right storage solution for every use case. It isn’t the best pick for small amounts of scratch storage, for instance. However, when it comes to enterprise cloud storage, Nirvanix provides an outstanding benchmark.
The current Amazon Kindle got it right for reading with attributes like: small, light, high contrast screen, fast page turns, and a battery that lasts month. What sort of attributes has Nirvanix delivered to get it right for enterprise cloud storage? Here are some:
- 24x7 support
- Public, private and hybrid options
- All in one pricing so you don’t need to worry about upload / download costs
- Usage-based pricing - only pay for usable storage with no charge for RAID overhead and no charge for meta data storage
- Network optimization and guaranteed QoS levels
- No maintenance fees, no technology refreshes
- Full inspection of all data centers allowed
- Cloud gateway with end-to-end network visibility
- Hardware and file system agnostic
- Security auditors allowed on premises
If you are shopping for an e-reader, tablet or mobile phone, you want to buy from someone who has gotten it right. If you are shopping for cloud-based solutions – whether storage, network, compute, or other – you also want to purchase from a vendor or service provider that has gotten it right.
In order to do this, take a close look at the market strategy and philosophy of your vendor and / or service provider. Have they identified a clear target market? Have they made all their design decisions around that target market? And, importantly, are you their target market?