One of the great theoretical advantages of cloud computing is the implied portability - users can move data in and among cloud resources easily, and the cloud itself may move data between and among resources without the customer being aware that anything has changed. In practice, cloud data can prove just as firmly rooted in physical location as any "traditional" data resource - but that could be changing with the rise of applications like NetApp's new Data ONTAP 8 cloud storage system.
According to Patrick Rogers, Vice President of Solutions Marketing at NetApp, the key market the company had in mind with ONTAP 8 was a service provider in the cloud. "This will enable partners to deliver infrastructure as a service," Rogers says. The tools to help the service provider include seamless data motion between physical resources, a global name space, an always-on infrastructure, deep integration of virtualization technologies and increased automation and charge-back features, which is perhaps most important for the service provider.
ONTAP 8 is the marriage of two previously-separate development streams: ONTAP 7G was the multi-tenant, virtualized code stream, while ONTAP GX offered single-system management, a global namespace, and a clustered file system. Brought together, the result is designed to offer management and scalability features across a highly-virtualized environment.
For a cloud environment, the data mobility piece - the ability to readily move data across both virtual and physical storage platforms - is vital. NetApp says that their Data Motion component allows data mobility with no downtime required for storage-subsystem expansion or scheduled maintenance. Rogers says that the reduced downtime is part of what makes the ONTAP 8 suitable for both service provider and enterprise organizations.
Asked about the type of cloud decisions he's seeing from most organizations, Rogers says, "Most enterprises are moving toward a hybrid model. Some apps might be more efficiently handled through a service provider, while some data needs to stay in house. Ideally you'd like to shift applications back and forth and have it integrated. It's not an either/or decision but how much of one or the other."