Storage in the cloud: Requires a different mind-set

One of the fundamental requirements for any IT professional deciding whether to embrace or dismiss cloud computing is to first understand it. IT pro Rick Vanover highlights the big picture offerings of storage in the cloud.

In traditional computing infrastructures –- brick-and-mortar IT if you will -– storage is fairly simple to understand. There are two main areas of management -– data and disks. In regards to cloud computing, the data management doesn’t go away. In fact, I would argue that the data management requirement increases with the cloud. But the all-encompassing disk management requirements go away when cloud storage is used.

There are two fundamental types of cloud storage. I will explain their usage implications and how they can be applied to organizations as they consider cloud architectures.

API-based storage

In the case of Amazon Web Services, this is the more common storage option available through the Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud. Accessing S3 is different than traditional storage in internal infrastructures as it is accessed through a Web service via the S3 API. The beauty here is that organizations can write their own applications through the well-defined S3 API or organizations can utilize partner solutions that adhere to the specification.

Direct storage

Again with the Amazon cloud offering, cloud solutions can be provisioned storage on a direct-attached basis for extra storage. The Elastic Block Store (EBS) cloud is a provisioning mechanism to allocate direct storage to an instance in the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). An EC2 instance can include familiar entities such as a Windows Server 2003 or a Linux system. The EBS storage provisioning is comparatively much quicker than the API-driven S3 architecture.

Doesn’t it always just depend?

The best selection for storage in the cloud will depend on many factors, but these two fundamental differences can highlight how storage can be provisioned in the cloud. S3 is better for multiple inbound and outbound points due to its collaborative nature. EBS, on the other hand, would be better for singular I/O intensive activities that go along with a system or application.

Cloud computing is a reality, and infrastructure professionals need to understand the details to justify their pro or con cloud stance above all else. Share your comments below on cloud storage technology (leave security and compliance out for now -– that is coming in another series of posts).