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Evaluating Storage-As-A-Service Options

Cloud vendors respond to our request for information on the feasibility of storage services as an alternative to on-premises hardware.

Not All The Same
Cloud storage vendors come in different stripes. We divide them into four categories: pure-play companies focused on providing external storage services; generalists with broader cloud computing offerings of which storage is only part; specialty providers that offer a discrete set of services, such as remote storage for disaster recovery; and internal cloud vendors that sell platforms for cloud storage inside corporate data centers.

For all of the purported economic advantages of cloud storage and the improvements over earlier-generation services, some hurdles still remain. In April, McKinsey & Co. reported that, based on its analysis, cloud computing in general is more expensive than on-premises computing in some usage scenarios.

McKinsey's findings have merit, and they extend to cloud storage. The issues that make storage costly aren't directly addressed by the cloud model. From a cost of ownership perspective, the challenges of managing storage infrastructure are a key cost driver. Most storage array vendors differentiate their products with value-added software, embedding features on proprietary array controllers. A byproduct of that reality is that it makes storage management more difficult, especially when the infrastructure is heterogeneous.

Cloud providers may shield customers from the hassles of storage management, but the hassles remain. Most say that cloud storage management is a still-evolving story and one that they currently solve through the deployment of homogenous arrays that can be managed more simply using the selected vendor's tools.

This theme has helped define a second branch of the emerging market--technology for building internal storage clouds, offered by vendors such as ParaScale and Bycast. Internal cloud advocates assert that the security issues associated with storage across a wide area network haven't been mitigated as conclusively as external cloud service providers would like us to believe.

How Leading Storage-As-A-Service Vendors Stack Up In The Cloud
Company Service-Level Agreement Pricing Data Centers Customers
Amazon Web Services Service (S3) available 99.9% of the time during monthly billing cycle; credits of 10% to 25% for failing to meet commitment 2 to 15 cents per gigabyte, additional charges for data transfers and data requests United States, Europe sted accounts resell storage services
Iron Mountain Digital Service agreement specifies in detail how it provisions service, secures data, and transmits data on request; implementation and storage fees; and optional services Based on the number of locations, amount of data protected Not disclosed Not disclosed
Nirvanix Service available 99.9% of the time during monthly billing cycle; if it fails to meet minimum service level, customers are eligible to receive a service credit 25 to 94 cents per gigabyte per month, plus upload and download costs; discounts based on storage commitment and contract length United States, Germany, Japan Arizona State, Nero Software
Zetta Offers guaranteed levels of service availability, service performance, and data integrity/protection on a per-customer basis; 100% data integrity guaranteed for customers with replicated solution onthly pricing calculated as average daily peak utilization,starting at 25 cents per gigabyte, plus charges for bandwidth consumed (usually less than 20% of cost) Not disclosed Early adopters in manufacturing, online publishing, financial services

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