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Cloud Storage For IT

Cloud storage is beginning to settle down and move past the hype wave and early adopter stage and into a real market. We are seeing the adoption of cloud storage architectures begin to move beyond just something that an external provider will use and into something that IT organizations want to take advantage of. 
It is true that the term 'cloud storage' gets overused and that it seems every new release from a storage company is their "cloud release". Just because you call it cloud storage doesn't mean it is.
Cloud storage is a broad term that typically defines a storage system as highly scalable, can be deployed for internal or external use and typically uses some form of clustered or grid based storage. It may or may not have a host of other features like geographic dispersion, retention capabilities and hardware independence. The importance of these features will vary between users but are not required to be a cloud storage system. The truth is there likely will never be one architecture that we can reference as cloud storage, no more than there is one architecture that can be referenced as the best way to implement a SAN or NAS.
When used internally cloud storage architectures matter, especially when you have specific problems to solve. When IT looks to cloud storage they are looking to solve the problems of meeting performance demands, dealing with massive data growth, overworked IT staffs and escalating storage costs. Each of these challenges will have a different weighting within the organization and that organization is going to select an architecture that best addresses them. The weighting of the importance of the above challenges will vary between organizations. If it is secondary data, then cost and scalability may be a bigger issue than performance. If it is primary data then performance may be the top priority. 
IT organizations are starting to see internal or private cloud storage as an ideal target for unstructured or file based storage. Initially this may be as a secondary storage platform using software from ParaScale, Bycast and others but with yesterday's FileStore announcement from Symantec, internal cloud storage may be suitable for performance demanding primary file based storage as well.  
IT organizations that choose to use public or external cloud storage of course will be focused on cost reduction. Can the provider store the data cheaper and more reliably than they can internally? Cost is just one aspect of it however. Companies that for example are storing email archive data or medical images in the cloud are going to be very concerned about data authenticity, rapid delivery and data protection. They may also want to know if the provider has an API set that they can integrate their application into like those offered by Amazon, Nirvanix and Iron Mountain
As cloud storage intrudes its way into the data center, cloud storage infrastructure providers had better be able to communicate what problem their solution solves. IT is less concerned about how "cool" the solution is but is more concerned about which storage challenges it solves.