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Five Opportunities - & Three Rules - for Cloud Storage

If virtualization was last year's hottest water-cooler topic, cloud computing has to be this year's. Vendors are scrambling to adapt their business models and "cloud enable" offerings to take advantage of an increasing willingness by all sizes of IT shops to use hosted services, including for storage. In fact, in a recent InformationWeek cloud computing poll, storage--including archiving and disaster recovery--was cited as the service category most likely to be outsourced to the cloud, ahead even of business applications.

But not all cloud storage offerings are created equal in terms of enterprise-class capabilities. One distinction is between private and public storage clouds.

"People think about cloud storage as Amazon S3, but whether you rent or buy, a cloud is a cloud," says Sajai Krishnan, CEO of cloud storage platform provider ParaScale. Krishnan suggests thinking in terms of private and public, with private cloud storage defined as using commodity hardware whose capacity you can expand on the fly. In contrast, public cloud storage can be thought of as a file system whose back end sits on the public Internet. (Find out more about two startups covering both sides of this model; see story, "Upstart Cloud Providers Challenge Status Quo".)

There may be little distinction from the perspective of an end user between public and private, but for IT there's a world of difference in terms of startup and ongoing costs, management, bandwidth use, and control.

There's also skepticism centered on the "private cloud" concept. Clearly, vendors are seizing on a hot terminology, but we see opportunity because commodity servers retired by virtualization efforts can be recycled as a clustered network-attached storage system, with the only startup cost being a software licensing fee.

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