A new Forrester Research survey of 1,200 IT decision makers found that only 8% of businesses (small, medium, and enterprise) have any current plans to utilize cloud storage and only 3% are using it now. These results suggest that, while there is a lot of potential for cloud storage (43% claimed some interest), concerns about privacy, security, and pricing are keeping most companies from moving data out of their data centers, at least as a primary storage option. There does seem to be more interest in using the cloud as a backup medium, which requires a much smaller leap of faith and is far easier to implement than remote primary storage.
This study seems to bode well for products such as CommVault's integrated cloud storage connector, which is integrated into its backup and archival software platform called Simpana. With de-dupe, compression, encryption, and indexing features, Simpana allows the backup administrator to simply select the cloud as a backup target. Moreover, the actual cloud can be hosted by Microsoft, Amazon, EMC, or several other vendors, making CommVault's additions to Simpana very compelling.
Ellison's cloud-related rant
Larry Ellison engaged in a semantic rant about cloud computing last week at the Oracle/Sun strategy announcement, saying that Oracle had been in the cloud computing market for years. His reasoning is that data centers are just a private cloud for enterprises and that nothing the cloud companies are doing is new — the companies are just rebranding their offerings as "cloud computing," making him a would-be cloud pioneer. If his network computer (a scaled down laptop without any local storage) had taken off, he would have gone down as one of the cloud visionaries.
Competition from local storage
The cloud is also getting some new competition from local storage. Intel and Micron just announced a new manufacturing process that will allow the companies to cram double the current amount of flash memory in the same space. The 25 nm process will drastically increase the amount of data that can be stored on smartphones and other mobile devices and will also increase the capacity while decreasing the price per megabyte of solid state disk drives. It will be late 2010 before the new memory will start appearing in devices on the shelves, but drives with more capacity, lower price, and data persistence will definitely reduce the need to store data in the cloud.
Hybrid storage models
I use cloud computing extensively. I have had a Web-based email account since before Microsoft bought Hotmail; this article is being written in Google Docs; and I have stored countless data files by emailing them to myself. However, enterprise computing has far more stringent requirements than I do. I can generally live with it if my personal email goes down for an hour or two or if my calendar times out because of latency. I think a company could save money and hassles by offloading storage to a company with a comparative advantage in that area. Google can store data much less expensively than even a large company whose primary business isn't data storage.
I see the pitfalls of using the cloud extensively in the enterprise, but I believe these problems can be mitigated. At this point, it is simply a matter of trust. CIOs of big companies don't trust that the companies providing cloud services can deliver the same level of service as their private clouds. For many companies, a hybrid model might be the best and that is the situation being borne out in the field today. Primary storage is kept onsite, while backups are sent offsite either on physical media or into the cloud, depending on the company's preference.
How extensively do you use the cloud? Do think hybrid models will make cloud storage more compelling to companies?
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