What Are Clouds, Anyway?
What I continued to find a bit disturbing was the lack of a refined definition of what exactly cloud storage (or cloud anything) is. Is it middleware? Is it simply a recasting of the old storage-on-demand services? Without a strong Web services standards hook, I fail to see what I can do with cloud storage that I can't do internally with storage virtualization software like DataCore's complemented with CA XOsoft for data replication across a WAN and Virtual Instruments for enhanced visibility and management of my Fibre Channel fabric.
I crossed swords with a few internal storage cloud vendors on this point. I would argue that true cloud storage platforms must be able to support multitenancy and SLAs, but not all vendors who adopt the cloud moniker do that.
Also, I was dismayed by an almost myopic focus either on cheap storage or on reduced risk among the vendors I interviewed and the RFI responses we received. The cheap storage play may be valid, but cost isn't the only component of business value; similarly, backing your mission-critical data to a service provider (or doing any replication at all for data protection) may lessen risk of a cataclysmic interruption of your business, but this alone isn't a comprehensive business case for technology.
Harvard Business Review has a penchant for triangles, using them to explain just about everything. In the case of business value, the triangle is bounded by cost containment, risk reduction, and top-line growth (an amalgam of improved user productivity, greater nimbleness, improved information support for decision making, and ability to adapt to changing markets). As many IT practitioners have discovered, you had better have a story to tell in each category or your initiative is unlikely to get funding. The same applies to constructing a compelling business value case for cloud storage: It must tell a persuasive story in all three categories, or DIY is probably not going to buy into it. Our interest in understanding the core business value case was incorporated into the RFI, but only one respondent addressed it.
Until a business value case is fully articulated, funding of cloud storage initiatives will be hard to come by. As the old saw goes, "No bucks, no Buck Rogers."
Jon Toigo is CEO of storage consultancy Toigo Partners International, founder and chairman of the Data Management Institute, and author of 13 books.