Cloud Storage: 7 Key Considerations

Keeping data stored in a hybrid cloud requires careful planning. Here's what to keep in mind.

Jim O'Reilly

June 6, 2016

8 Slides

For most IT professionals, the cloud is today’s greatest challenge and also the greatest opportunity. Moving mission-critical tasks into the cloud is still viewed as risky, both from a loss of control point of view and -- let’s be honest -- from a job security perspective. This is leading companies to hybrid cloud solutions, where the public cloud complements a private cloud, which might either be in-house or hosted.

Learning how to build a hybrid cloud is an issue in its own right, bringing new skills challenges to the game, but the toughest problems are in cloud storage: Where to put it, how to move it around, how to protect it from the black hats, and how to ensure adequate performance.

Where data is stored and how to sync it across the clouds are closely related issues. We don’t live in an ideal world. WAN links are generally slow and telco continue to resist the roll-out of fiber. This means we need to segregate and manage storage datasets much more carefully, while looking for alternatives to brute force stacking of WAN links.  This issue may be the greatest inhibitor of hybrid cloud deployments.

Alternatives worth exploring are data storage at a third-party datacenter with dedicated fiber links to major public clouds, such as telcos can provide, or the use of data compression on all communications between clouds. But the first step in addressing the issue is to adopt a data-centric posture that determines what data is static or quasi-static, what is dynamic but can be handled asynchronously and, finally, what must be kept in sync to all users. Hopefully, the last category is small.

Cloud storage security is a massive issue, but it’s not just a cloud problem anymore. There’s a real reluctance to secure data properly at the source. Disk-based encryption is inadequate, but the issue is that servers aren’t yet equipped to encrypt at line speed. The industry will fix this in the next couple of years.

Performance is a bit of a mystery in clouds, which use shared IO exclusively. Instances that use solid-state drives will help, but there is still a premium for these. Private clouds have a lot more flexibility in balancing performance between compute, networking and storage and are roughly on par with in-house virtual clusters.

Cost of course is the major consideration for cloud storage. Using data compression can save a lot of cost, especially for colder data.

(Image: Wavebreakmedia)

About the Author(s)

Jim O'Reilly


Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.

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