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Always-On With Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) continues its steady growth, attracting storage users from the startup to the enterprise. But many are concerned about putting all their eggs in the S3 basket, and other companies are rising to the challenge. Recently, Nasuni and Gemini briefed me on products that might ease the concerns of Amazon S3 users. Although they take very different approaches, each allows enterprise cloud storage customers to balance their storage between multiple providers.

Gemini recently introduced Cloudian, a cloud storage software product that is intended to be API-compatible with Amazon S3. This product enables service providers to deploy cloud storage services that can easily be used by existing Amazon customers. Gemini intends to keep up with Amazon's development of S3 and be as feature-complete as possible.

A service provider would deploy Cloudian to create its own cloud storage service offering. Customers could then point any Amazon S3-compatible application to this cloud storage solution. Although Gemini suggests customers will use this as an alternative to Amazon S3, I suspect many will see it as a high-availability or disaster recovery solution, using it alongside S3 for production or development.

But how would a customer use multiple cloud storage platforms at once? Some could code their applications to point to both, and S3 compatibility makes this much simpler to implement. Off-the-shelf applications could also plug into Cloudian service providers, assuming they allow customers to plug in proper credentials.

Although other cloud storage enablers exist, Cloudian is the first I have heard of that mirrors Amazon S3 so closely. Solutions like Mezeo, Scality and Cleversafe include their own APIs, as well as a connector with S3 compatibility. OpenStack is perhaps the closest alternative, implementing a subset of S3 functionality along with compute and disk image storage. But the prospect of an alternative service that implements the entire S3 solution is intriguing.

However, not all applications are coded to use cloud storage at all. For them, the Nasuni Storage Controller is a good alternative. An on-site, scale-out NAS appliance, Nasuni uses cloud storage for high-availability and disaster recovery behind the scenes. It can transparently mirror local data to a number of cloud storage solutions, including Amazon S3.

Nasuni can already mirror data to multiple cloud storage providers, regardless of their API. This has proven popular with enterprise users who are unsure of the long-term viability of their vendors, as well as those who inherently mistrust the cloud. Nasuni’s built-in encryption helps add peace of mind, too.

Things certainly get interesting when a cloud service provider is no longer available for use. In the event of a disaster (or even if a service provider exits the business), Nasuni can redirect data access to another provider. This is possible because its Storage Controller maintains the "mapping" between local data and the cloud. Some have even used Nasuni to migrate data from one service provider to another using this capability.

After all, customers are not so concerned about Amazon that they're willing to put all their eggs in someone else's basket. Rather, they want to balance their risk by using multiple providers, and Nasuni and Gemini could become components in just such a solution.