What is Cloud Storage? An Outlook Report from ‘Storage Strategies NOW’.

An Outlook Report from Storage Strategies NOW.

This study is a comprehensive report on the state of the cloud storage market and of the storage services that are layered atop of it. It includes a definition of cloud storage, discusses how cloud storage is deployed, surveys users on their expectations of the cloud and provides a detailed look at the vendors and services users will deploy in the cloud.

What is cloud storage?

There are nearly as many definitions of cloud storage as there are providers of cloud services. In simplest terms, cloud storage is data storage or services hosted remotely on servers and storage devices on the Internet or a similar private network, usually hosted by a third party.

Cloud storage is a subset of cloud computing, in which the term cloud refers to the wide area network infrastructure, including switches and routers, for a packet-switched network. When capitalized, cloud usually refers to the public data network, including the Internet.

Cloud computing has probably been best defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

In general, cloud storage has the following attributes:

  • Resource pooling and multi-tenancy. Multiple customers can use the same storage infrastructure. Resources are pooled and multiple cloud resources (servers, storage and applications) are assigned and unassigned to customers as needed. Resources are location-independent and transparent to the user — in most cases the customer does not control or need know about the actual location of a particular resource. A customer‘s data is protected from access by other customers. In the case of private clouds, multiple departments or business units within an organization share infrastructure and applications.
  • Scalable and elastic. Virtualized storage that is for all practical purposes infinitely and immediately expandable. Storage can be expanded or contracted as needed easily and efficiently.
  • Accessible via standard Internet APIs and communications protocols including HTTP, FTP, XML, SOAP and REST.
  • Service-based. Customers typically have no capital costs (CAPEX) and pay for storage as a service (OPEX).
  • Pricing is normally based on usage. Customers typically pay a per-gigabyte rate for upload and download and a per-gigabyte fee for monthly storage. In addition, some providers charge for each data access request based on reads, writes, etc.
  • Shared and collaborative. Because cloud storage is usually accessed via the Internet it allows data access from multiple locations and multiple users.
  • On-demand self-service. Customers can typically manage their storage service using some sort of management console. Customer service agents are usually only needed for problem resolution and similar tasks.

From the customer point of view, the storage appears as one or more volumes or servers. As more storage is needed it is available, eliminating much of the need for buying new local servers and storage. Capacity planning shifts from capital expense (CAPEX) and staffing expenditures to operation expense (OPEX) for upload, download and storage costs. Staffing time can also be reduced with cloud storage, allowing the reallocation of IT staff to more strategic business initiatives.

Data is deployed to cloud storage either through Web-based applications or through Web services application programming interfaces (APIs). Web-based applications are often used for manual access to data or management functions, while APIs are used for more automated or transparent approaches. Since standard APIs and communications protocols are used, the physical location of the data becomes irrelevant, since it can be made available virtually anywhere via the Internet or private network. This also means that cloud data can be easily replicated to multiple locations for fault tolerance, high availability and other purposes, often without involvement of the customer.

 

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