There's been a certain pessimism in the trade press around the idea of enterprises storing their data in a cloud-y service. While it's true that the practice certainly isn't mainstream, you'd be surprised how many organizations are looking for a better way to lower costs, reduce risks and (in some cases) improve information delivery by using an external service.
Here at EMC World, interest is far stronger than it was last year at this time. And, not surprisingly, EMC has a number of announcements today around this specific theme.
There are three reasons people look to use an external cloud storage service. The most popular (in a conventional wisdom sort of way) is cost reduction. Maybe the media isn't all that much cheaper, but the labor certainly is, since these environments have been built to scale not only technologically but operationally as well.
But right behind that is the motivation for additional data protection. Not only can cloud services be considered a valid "remote copy" in the information protection domain, but many of the newer services offer advanced protection mechanisms that most enterprise don't care to implement internally.
And, finally, there's improved information delivery. More copies of information in more locations means better user experiences and less long-haul network transfers.
Whether your motivation is cost savings, better protection or perhaps better user experiences, it's pretty clear that cloud storage is gaining quiet acceptance in many corners of the IT landscape.
If you’re not familiar, Atmos is EMC’s purpose-built cloud-optimized storage platform, first introduced back in 2008.
It uses an object interface, coupled with strong policy automation and rich metadata to create geographically dispersed cloud storage services. It takes people a bit to wrap their heads around what Atmos is all about, but – once they do – they appreciate the fact that it’s quite unique, and there’s not much like it out there today. You don’t see it much in traditional enterprise settings, but do you see a lot of it underpinning a variety of online services.
So what’s new and interesting?
For starters, Atmos got a lot faster ingesting objects. Read speed was never an issue; just about any outbound performance level could be achieved using a combination of speedy storage media and replication policies.
But a few customers wanted to ingest a *lot* of objects, and very quickly please. Ingestion speed is now 5x the previous version, resulting in the capability of ingesting up to half a billion objects per day.
And, yes, there are uses cases like that out there …
The other interesting Atmos news is future API support, now including the popular Amazon AWS S3 API – perfect for customers who have applications written for this environment, but might be looking for an alternative – either for an internal deployment, or from an ever-expanding selection of qualified service providers.
Throw in a new GeoProtect feature, a cool new SDK that targets Centera/XAM applications among other things, and a nifty new Window-based client – and there’s a lot to like here.
GeoProtect, in particular, is worth a moment. It carves objects into distinct segments, and geographically disperses them using a variant of parity protection. Not only does this approach cost less that simply making additional copies, it offers superior protection from multiple node (and location) failures. Maybe we should be talking to the AWS guys ...
But what about making cloud-based storage useful for the majority of enterprises?
EMC Cloud Tiering Appliance
For most enterprises, external cloud storage can be thought of as just another tier in the grand scheme of things. Enter the new EMC Cloud Tiering Appliance.
Working with, say, an EMC VNX, it can automatically target files to be moved to an external cloud service, while still retaining visibility and control of not only the data, but the movement process as well. Atmos-based external services are the first target (naturally), but there’s significant effort to qualify a variety of others as well.
Since this new offering uses a healthy dose of EMC’s previous File Management Appliance functionality, this product can also be used for automated file migrations – from, say, a NetApp box to either VNX or Isilon.
If you've been fantasizing about a world where you can dynamically move "hot" workloads here and there without disruption, or have been thinking about a near-zero RPO/RTO world, or actually cloud-bursting meaningful enterprise workloads at a distance, your wishes are starting to materialize.
The enterprise storage geek in me has been continually fascinated with the evolution of VPLEX, now adding active/active caching features at asynchronous distance. If you handle enterprise data at scale, and are thinking cloud-like workload mobility, this one's for you.
Combined, It’s Significant
The increased use of external cloud storage services seems inevitable, especially when taken in the long view. Like any external IT service, there’s an increasingly strong rationale for externalization to a specialist server provider.
In some sense, you can see the first two announcements as working both ends of the ecosystem: increasing the robustness and capabilities of cloud-based storage services through service providers, and making these same services easier to use and control in a variety of enterprise settings.
At the other end of the spectrum, VPLEX Geo is changing how we think about demanding enterprise workloads: beginning to give them the ability to move non-disruptively.
And that's a big deal from my perspective.