Cloud storage or storage-as-a-service (STaaS) took a body blow last Fall when Nirvanix, the company behind IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise (SCE) initiative, pulled the plug, giving more than 1,000 customers two weeks to move their data elsewhere. This week Big Blue was back with a new approach, SmartCloud Data Virtualization (SCDV), as well as a new(ish) partner, Actifio, and a $1.2 billion bankroll to boost its cloud storage services.
The reason IBM and virtually every other vendor that can spell storage is going after the STaaS market is just basic math: while data continues to explode at 50%-plus per year, and multiple copies of that data continue to proliferate, IT budget growth is languishing in the low single digits. IBM is targeting a $100 billion market with this initiative, but that’s only a small slice of the overall opportunity.
While everything cloud has been drawing increasing attention, cloud storage really started to take off back in 2012 when Amazon Glacier reduced cloud storage costs from $0.08/Gb to $0.01/Gb. “It’s cost effective,” said Rich Faris, Director of Product Management, Riverbed Whitewater, in a September interview. “The pricing has been driven to a level where it’s time for people to take a look.”
Amazon, the cloud storage leader, is engaged in a race-to-the-bottom pricing war with the industry in general, and Microsoft in particular. This year started off with Amazon slashing its S3 (Simple Storage Service) and Elastic Block Store (EBS) cloud storage service prices by 22%, which was followed a week later by Microsoft, which followed suit by cutting the price for Azure by up to 50% to keep up.
In making a number of announcements last month, including enhancements to its ViPR Software-Defined Storage platform, EMC, “ the 800-pound gorilla in storage”, said customers are looking for three things: lower operating expenses; more choice; and a bridge between today and tomorrow’s storage needs. “Data growth is absolutely out of control for everybody,” said Chris Ratcliffe, VP of Marketing, EMC Advanced Software Division. “This is a great thing for EMC because people want to buy storage, but it creates a ton of problems.”
Enterprise applications will move to the cloud en masse, and the data center will become more like the cloud, with STaaS playing a growing role, according to Zadara Storage, a provider of enterprise-class private cloud storage that charges by the hour. While the latest disk numbers showed a 5.6% decline year-over-year, cloud-based StaaS is expected to continue to see high double-digit growth, it said.
A few weeks ago Zadara expanded its service in Asia Pacific. Enterprises are embracing ‘as a Service’ approaches and the company wanted to extend its ecosystem to become the ubiquitous platform for enterprise cloud storage, with data centers available everywhere in the world, stated Nelson Nahum, Zadara CEO.
In a recent interview with IT Trends & Analysis, he said cloud storage is gaining customers because companies don’t like on-premise storage anymore, mainly because of the inflexibility. “I can’t really predict how much more storage I’ll need in the future, except it will be more…”
A key differentiator for Zadara is that it doesn’t share drives among customers. Each customer gets their own physical spindle, so problems like Nirvanix don’t arise, said Nahum.
“In the event we cease to exist our customers can get their physical drives. No other provider does that.”
The second, and more important difference is philosophical, he said. “The value of data is in the ability to access and process it.” Nirvanix only stored it, which was a fatal flaw, he said. “Everything we do is physically adjacent to the compute cloud.”
Looking ahead, the company plans to add more locations, more partners, and more customers. In addition to broadening its focus to industry verticals like media and entertainment, legal, financial and healthcare, Zadara will be adding more and more features to bring down the cost per gigabyte and in the cost to operate it.
Under The Hood
Zadara Storage iSCSI (Block) & NFS/CIFS (File) STaaS features include:
-control: your GUI, build an array in < 5 min; shared for clustering; single-tenant experience at multi-tenant price;
-performance: dedicated cores, cache, disks, network; scalable to 1000s of storage nodes, 100s of PB of storage capacity and beyond;
-security: authentication, CHAP secret, VPN, Dedicated Drives Encryption; and,
-flexibility: cloud economics, pay by job, by month, expand and contract anytime.