I recently read a piece in Network Computing Magazine that was pretty disparaging of NAS devices, and with a hand-wave the author pronounced NAS dead, long live cloud storage.
Until now, storage has been pretty much immune to the type of hype that “The Cloud” gets. Sure, there have been some saying that we should use the cloud for primary storage, and others predicting that it will kill this or that technology, but the outrageous and intangible claims that accompany placing your applications in the cloud. My favorite, repeated even by a lot of people I respect, is that cloud mystically makes you greener.
Okay, I’ll sidetrack for a moment and slay that particular demon yet again, because it is just too easy. Virtualization makes you more green by running more apps on less hardware. Moving virtualized anything to the cloud changes not one iota of carbon footprint, because it still has to run on hardware. So if you take 20 VMs from one server and move them to your favorite cloud provider, you have moved where they are running, but they are certainly running on at least one server. Just because it is not your datacenter does not change the fact that it is in a datacenter. Not greener, not smaller carbon footprint.
But this column was awash with the claim that cloud storage is it. We no longer need those big old NAS boxes, and they can just go away from the datacenter, starting with the ones that have been cloudwashed.
The future is cloudy, cloouuuudddyyy
Okay, let us just examine a hypothetical corporation for a moment – I’ll use my old standby, Zap-N-Go. Sally, the CIO of Zap-N-Go is under pressure to “do something with the cloud!” or “Identify three applications to move to the cloud within the next six months!” Now this is a painful way to run an IT shop, but it’s happening all over, so Sally assigns Bob to check out the possibilities, and Bob suggests that moving storage to the cloud might be a big win because of the cost of putting in a new NAS box. They work out a plan to move infrequently accessed files to the cloud as a test of robustness, but that’s not a bold enough staff for the rest of senior management, so their plan to test the waters turns into a full-blown movement of primary data to the cloud.
Now this may be a bit extreme, Sally, like any good CIO, would dig in her heals at this one, but bear with me.
They move primary storage to the cloud on a cloudy Sunday, utilizing ARX or one of the other cloud-enabled devices on the market, and start to reorganize everything so that people can access their data.
On Monday morning, everyone comes in and starts to work, but work is slow, nothing is performing like it used to. The calls start coming to the help desk. “Why is my system so slow?” And then, the CEO calls Sally directly. “It should not take minutes to open an Excel Spreadsheet” he harrumphs. And Sally goes down to help her staff figure out how to improve performance. Since the storage move was the day before, everyone knows the ultimate source of the problem, they’re just trying to figure out what is happening. Sue, the network wizard, pops off with “Our Internet connection is overloaded.” and everyone stops looking.
After some work, the staff is able to get WOM running with the cloud provider to accelerate data flowing between the two companies… But doing so in the middle of the business day has cost the company money, and Sally is in trouble.
After days of redress meetings, and acceptable, if not perfect performance, all seems well, and Sally can report to the rest of upper management that files have been moved to the cloud, and now a low monthly fee will be paid instead of large incremental chunks of budget going to new NAS devices.
It’s Almost Ready for Primary Storage…
Until the first time the Internet connection goes down. And then, gentle reader, Sally and Bob’s resume’ will end up on your desk, because they will not survive the aftermath of “no one can do anything”.
Cloud in general and cloud storage in particular has amazing promise – I really believe that – but pumping it full of meaningless hyperbole does no one any good. Not IT, not the business, and not whatever you’re hawking.
So take such proclamations with a grain of salt, keep your eye on the goal. Secure, Fast, and Agile solutions for your business, not “all in” like it’s a poker table. And don’t let such buffoons sour you on the promise of cloud, while I wouldn’t call them visionary, I do see a day when most of our storage and apps are in a cloud somewhere. It’s just not tomorrow. Or next year. Next year archiving and tier three will be out there, let’s just see how that goes before we start discussing primary storage.
…And Ask Not “Are We Ready For Cloud Storage?” but rather “Is Cloud Storage Ready For Us?” My vote? Archival and Tier three are getting a good workout, start there.