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Virtually Scalable – Sourcing Storage in the Cloud

Company’s with large stores of unstructured data are cautiously but strategically looking for secure and reliable cloud storage.

For some this means subscribing to services like box.net or dropbox. These early cloud storage services understood that most people want simplicity, reliability and ease of access. They want low or zero investment, and pay as you go service. Some may have underestimated the importance of security initially but are hopefully much clearer on this point now.

The catch is that although services like these are fine for sharing files among a distributed work force, you would not use them for large scale archiving or application related storage. Even for inter / intra office file sharing, services such as these become cost prohibitive at a couple of terabytes of data (which really isn’t that much these days).


Infrastructure as a Service

For larger stores of unstructured data Amazon and Rackspace are of course the logical next step. These cloud service providers offer a more scalable and flexible solution. They sell storage as a service (staas) and Infrastructure as a services (iaas) too so they can host your application as well as storing the related data. However, although this pay as you go service is cost effective and scalable for your average corporate user, it is evident that even they have their limits. The truth is that margins are high in this industry. If you need processing power for your applications – they have it, but at a price that cost conscious businesses find hard to stomach.

And then there is the question of downtime. OK recent misadventures aside – their SLA is far from bullet proof. EC2 offers guaranteed uptime of 99.9% which allows for up to 9 hours of downtime per year. And even S3 only offers a 99.95% uptime, which equates to about 4.5 hours of downtime per year. If they fail to meet these unimpressive guarantees they will reimburse you a whopping 10 – 25% of the cost of the service for that period. (they are explicitly not liable for lost business or damage to good will caused by outages or errors).

They don’t offer a bullet proof SLA because if you really need them to be accountable for guaranteed uptime, then you simply are not their target audience.

The fact is that user created content – also known as unstructured data, is growing at 50 – 75% per year and users expectations with regards to data accessibility are evolving quickly too. The bottom line is that if you have 10TB or 20TB of data today and you need low cost and high availability, it is very likely that your company will brush up against these limitations in the near future.

Serving Mission Critical Big Data

So what’s beyond Amazon? Well there is good news and bad news. There are specialist cloud services providers who are natively scalable. That is to say that their business model, pricing policies and their infrastructure are designed to accommodate fast growing, large scale data storage customers.

But they are few and far between. Most clouds will tell you that they can scale to accommodate increases in your storage needs – and indeed to a limited extent most can. However those limits are lower than you might imagine. Scaling a SAN server past about 50 TB becomes very tricky.. And by the way that isn’t 50TB of your data, that’s 50TB across all the customers and all the virtual servers sharing that infrastructure.

After that they are going to be either:

a) Running into some serious challenges to grow and maintain their system (and keep your system up and running reliably)
b) Installing some seriously expensive hardware to scale up beyond standard SAN norms (which no doubt will ripple through into your fees) or
c) Incorporating new natively scalable object storage infrastructure

Natively Scalable Object Storage Infrastructure

Object Storage is a parallel storage architecture, that is natively scalable, hardware agnostic, and supports wide area distribution of data across multiple data centers. Gartner Research confirms that Object storage solutions afford unparalleled scalability and reliability at large scales, far more so than any SAN or NAS system.

scality ring

When a cloud service provider is choosing between them they have to take into account the type of applications that they and their clients are running, the type of data they are storing, the number and size of files they are serving and of course budget.

What does this mean to you?

If you are looking to store about a petabyte of data (or are likely to in the next year or two),
If you have performance sensitive applications
If your applications need guaranteed up time
If it’s possible that your files might exceed file size limits
If you need to keep costs down
Then you have probably had an urgent problem

With a lot of content that is growing alarmingly fast you need someone with a fast and reliable solution to a sticky problem:

The technology solution to this problem is something called Organic Storage. An evolution of object storage that is natively scalable without compromising performance or operating costs. At the time of writing the only cloud infrastructure product available in this category is RING Organic by Scality.

This is cloud storage infrastructure at its most scalable, reliable and cost effective. In true ‘cloud’ style it is considerably easier to manage and administer than traditional storage technologies like NAS or SAN. Its parallel architecture and autonomic characteristics resolve or obviate many of the common limitations and challenges associated with other unstructured data storage technologies. And because it allows the administrator to mix different types of hardware and swap out components at any point – it allows data centers to use the most technologically appropriate and cost effective hardware available at any given time.

So if your storage needs fit into this group you have three choices:

1) Ask your preferred cloud services provider if they use or would be open to using Scality RING
2) Find one that does
3) Forgo the convenience of outsourced cloud services, and build your own private cloud. Even if you go with option three you can always outsource the integration, maintenance, and support of your Organic Storage system – to Scality.

Author Bio:- Monique Shefer is a technology analyst and strategic consultant to the software and software as service industries. Shefer is currently working for Scality – Storage System Pioneer and developer of RING Organic Storage.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Reseller Hosting

    June 22, 2011, 9:18 pm

    drop box work fantastic, just the problem is they cant host site. 🙂


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