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The Storage Cloud, Currently

July 12th, 2008 Comments off

InformationWeek has a good article, Behind The Storage Cloud. This article gives something of the plumbing behind the available storage in the cloud. Something they didn’t talk about in that article are the limitations I have been running into using the cloud.

For infrastructure providers like Google or Force.com, who are offering a PaaS (Platform as a Service), the storage is built into the application. If you chose them to develop your application, that works out fine. However, if you are looking for archiving or storage scaling (grow storage as you need it), it’s not so good.

Amazon offers a different kind of storage. S3 is a web based storage system. It’s like a bucket for data. It’s the biggest bucket you’ll probably ever see, but it’s just a big bucket. When you create a new directory, you’re creating a smaller bucket in the big bucket. The namespace for the bucket is global. That means that your smaller bucket can’t have the same name as someone else’s bucket. That’s a huge limitation.

Another issue with S3 is that it is a web service and not a block device. That means you can’t directly attach it and use it as a file system. You need to make API calls. Even from within EC2 (Amazon’s Cloud Computing Environment), S3 is only accessible through the API using PUT and GET style commands. Amazon is working on allowing EC2 to attach directly and there are other projects working on the same thing, PersistentFS being one of them.

I haven’t found a good, cloud based attachable storage yet. I think Amazon, when they make S3 attachable will be the first (although that might only be attachable from within EC2). What is currently available is a plethora of archival solutions. For home usage, I don’t think anything beats EMC Mozy. For $4.95/month, you get unlimited storage for one PC. It’s slow to add new files (at least for me it is), but overall, I don’t think any of its competitors really compete. I tried two others previously and decided to go with mozy for its price/feature ratio.

For business archival, I don’t know that I would recommend Mozy. It’s not that I would recommend against them, I just think there are better options. Off site, tape backups are still cheap and reliable. For the SMB market, burning a DVD once a week might even be enough. Just depends on your workflow and volume of data.

As a side note, it would be fairly easy to write a custom application to automatically backup changed files to S3. At less than 20 cents per month per GB, that might be a fairly reasonable solution, especially if you frequently need to access the archived data. I might even write a free giveaway to do just that. Just a POC kind of thing.

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5 Reasons to Embrace Cloud Computing

July 10th, 2008 Comments off

Yesterday, I wrote about 5 Reasons to avoid Cloud Computing. Today I am turning that around.

  1. Scalability – Scalability is *THE* marketing buzz for cloud computing. To be able to dynamically add storage and computing power as needed, is a huge benefit to any business that needs scalability. Take note of that, not all businesses need that kind of scalability. If you are not presenting a web presence with a likelihood of viral acceptance, you probably don’t need this kind of scalability.
  2. Time to market – This is goodness for any business. You have your plan, your software, your domain name, whatever and you’re ready to go. Now you need to buy hardware, configure the hardware, find space for the hardware, get power to the hardware, staff up maintenance for the hardware…. Or, press a button on a web page, have your web guy load the application and be on your way. Obviously I exaggerate. That’s close though.
  3. R&D – have an idea? Fire up a cloud image and try it out. Doesn’t pan out? Throw it away. You’re only out a few dollars. No pesky unused hardware sitting around cluttering up your data center. Need a development or test instance? Press a few buttons on a web page, presto! Pay as you go. Scheduling dev and test hardware has now become painless for large organizations. Data refreshed? Thing of the past. Boot up a couple of images, load them up with data, throw them away when finished.
  4. Upfront Costs – Pay as you go is a wonderful thing. For most pieces of the cloud you will either pay per use or you will sign up for a subscription. I prefer pay as you go as I am a techie type and I only need it to do development or proof of concepts. Subscriptions work out well for businesses as it’s still very low up front and costs are very predictable in the long run. Like “rent to own”, pay as you go and subscriptions usually cost more in the long run. But like leasing, pay as you go does provide some guarantees for hardware.
  5. Buzzworthiness – Hey, if your widget doesn’t run in the cloud, it is so 20th century. You thought web 2.0 was big? Used to be. Naw it’s all about being SaaSy! Seriously, for at least the next few years, just being associated with cloud computing will get you additional bang for the buck. This applies to small/new players. If you have some stability, don’t trade that for cloud computing just yet.

LewisC

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5 Reasons to avoid Cloud Computing

July 9th, 2008 Comments off

I will follow this post with a “5 Reasons to embrace Cloud Computing”. I am actually very pro-cloud computing. I think it is the next big thing.

But, and there is always a but, there are reasons to avoid it right now.

  1. It’s immature – we don’t really know who the long term players will be. We can guess on MS, IBM, Google, Amazon. What about Mosso, GoGrid, Elastra, Rightscale and any of a dozen others. The market needs to mature and play out for a while.
  2. Security – is the cloud secure? I think it is actually. The problem is that I have yet to see any of the infrastructure providers offer any accounting or auditablity of that security. That is a barrier to compliance.
  3. No disconnected computing – what happens when the construction company fixing the road cuts your cable connection? Ok, probably the same thing as if you used a data center. But what happens if your cloud is based in the middle east, or africa? What happens when a ship’s anchor cuts a cable? It could be. Most providers won’t tell you where your data and applicatiosn are sitting.
  4. How much does it cost? We know how much it costs today but how much will it cost tomorrow? No one is offering long term contracts for infrastructure because they don’t know what it will really cost. Third party management and tools vendors are offering subscription pricing and that gives you some protection but if the cpu per hour cost at your provider goes up, what will you do with those subscriptions?
  5. SLAs! This is my particular peeve of the moment. Amazon offers a future discount for not meeting their SLA. That’s not adequate for most businesses. However, coughing up cash for a major outage could put a provider of business. I wonder if cloud insurance might be on the way in the future?

Those are my 5 reasons to avoid the cloud for now.

LewisC

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