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Building A Sustainable Cloud (And More Predictions)

I thought that the cloud was supposed to be about the aggregation of thousands of low-cost servers and disk drives, integrated together with a web services layer and a robust object store, all accessed as a pay-as-you-go service. Wasn't that how cloud service providers were supposed to make money--by using commodity components with their own "secret sauce" software on top? High-cost legacy infrastructure products are not congruent with building a long-term sustainable cloud.

In my opinion, knowing some history is a great way to understand the present and a good base of knowledge to help guide the future. The deceased storage service providers (SSPs) of the late-90s/early-2000s--like Storage Networks, Storability and Sanrise--all tried to build infrastructures using premium-priced, high-end IT gear from companies the likes of EMC, HDS, IBM and others. They failed. Why? Sure, bandwidth was a problem back then. However, they learned a hard lesson--that you simply couldn't make money selling storage services atop multimillion-dollar machines.

Yet these days I am again starting to see a parallel to the SSP world. You see, 10 years later, we have the advent of Vblocks, Vplexes, VSPs and V Series galore--just like we used to have Lightnings, Sharks and Symmetrixes. But I'm not entirely sure what kind of service providers can afford to build out an infrastructure on these types of premium-priced IT products and still hope to make a profit. If you look at the portfolios of the big storage vendors, they are all taking expensive, high-end storage gear and putting the word "cloud" in front of it. If you are a service provider, they all want to sell you a cloud tool kit so you can deploy your own cloud and then go lease out capacity on their premium-priced gear and try to make a buck or two back from your own customers.

You have to hand it to these vendors, which do a great job of obfuscating the real requirements of cloud storage. They're not talking about usage-based billing, billions of files and objects, storage consumed as a service, the elimination of maintenance fees and forklift product upgrades. They're still selling their proven enterprise storage model--pay me now for everything and at a premium price--into the cloud.

But the whole point of the cloud is economies of scale. That means you need to have IT systems that can be utilized to help you achieve economies of scale, not high-end enterprise hardware stacks. VPlex is for cloud? It's not even storage, and it costs more than storage.

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