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Evaluating Storage-As-A-Service Options

By Jon William Toigo, InformationWeek, May 9, 2009 12:01 AM
(From the May 11, 2009 issue)

Disk storage is already one of the data center's biggest expenses, the cost of finished arrays keeps rising, and IDC predicts that companies' storage infrastructures will grow 300% by the end of the decade. Amid this backdrop, there's growing concern that businesses will drown in the expense of storing data.

Enter cloud storage--network-accessible storage infrastructure that evangelists promise will prevent the apocalyptic scenario envisioned above by IDC in its "Exploding Data Universe" report (sponsored by EMC). Proffering largely untested claims about huge capacity cost reductions, the elimination of labor required for storage administration and maintenance, and just-in-time provisioning of capacity on a pennies-per-terabyte basis, cloud storage providers are getting the attention of businesses large and small.

To storage industry veterans, cloud storage doesn't feel like a brand-new model. The core concepts are derivative of service bureau computing paradigms advanced by IBM and others in the 1970s, of Sun Microsystems' "the network is the computer," and of application service providers and storage service providers of the 1990s.

What's different this time? The economy, of course. With on-premises storage costs already high and growing in many IT departments, interest in alternatives is strong. Storage-as-a-service vendors say they can lower costs by taking on the burden of storage management and insulating customers from related costs like hardware upgrades. If cloud providers can capture economies of scale by using the same pool of storage capacity to meet the needs of many customers and pass along the cost savings, the price of spindle capacity should be well below what companies would otherwise pay for their own storage.

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