In my recent series of entries for Byte and Switch, I attempted to categorize cloud storage. Various companies are delivering sub-sections of cloud storage that when stacked together form the solution. There are cloud storage developers that deliver to the customer facing applications, cloud providers that provide the facilities and cloud manufacturers that deliver the physical equipment which the providers would use. Some cloud storage companies that are providing all three of these categories from a single company. As the industry evolves, most companies will likely specialize in one aspect or another.
Each of these categories have sub-categories. For example, in the cloud manufacturers' category, you have three sub-categories: hardware only, software only and turnkey hardware with software. Each has its own pros and cons. A sub-category I missed was in the cloud storage developer category.
There are at least two types of cloud storage developers. There are companies that write the entire application and leverage the cloud as the back end to their software; backup, collaboration and archive are good examples. These can come with or without an appliance to do local caching, as I discussed in a recent entry at Information Week.
There is another type of developer: those that are using the cloud as an extension of what they already do. These are typically pre-cloud companies that are taking their existing solutions and extending it into the cloud. Examples are backup and archive software companies like Symantec and Atempo that use the cloud as a secondary repository for either backup or archive data.
Another example is the collaboration between LiveOffice and Mimosa that allows local presence email archiving users to push that archive to the cloud under given conditions. Taking what should be two apparent competitors (local email archive vs. cloud email archive) and having them work together offers their customers the best of both worlds. Along these same lines Tarmin's GridBank has partnered with Nirvanix to leverage the Nirvanix API set. They can now replicate data from a local data storage repository to storage in the cloud as opposed to another GridBank, once again transforming competitors into partners.
The value of cloud as an extension is that it allows larger organizations to begin to dip their toes in the waters of the cloud without having to do a complete change out. By leveraging API sets, existing on-premise suppliers of storage and storage software can enable customers to move or replicate data off-site, and in some cases, eliminate the cost of redundant systems by using the cloud instead. Essentially, the cloud is merely an extension of an existing, trusted process as opposed to something entirely new.
The challenge is that we have competing API sets from the different cloud vendors and so software suppliers are either going to need to support all of them or some standard will have to evolve. We look at some of the potentials for cloud API standardization in an upcoming entry.