It is an unfortunate fact that “the cloud” is still heavily overhyped to the point where a good deal of IT activity is devoted to convincing business decision makers that cloud computing is actually not some ephemeral science fiction story, but a legitimate way to augment and improve in-house computing capabilities.
This disconnect between hyperbole and reality has led many cloud implementations to fall short of expectations, usually as a consequence of cost savings that never materialize. Not incidentally, this focus on hand waving and cost reduction has also hurt the community of cloud vendors. Yet the story around cloud services is actually quite good.
Cloud storage, in particular, is well established and well on its way to being an important arrow in the enterprise IT quiver of solutions. In fact, this portion of the cloud market is estimated by some analysts to be in the $400 million range annually, according to Frost & Sullivan.
It is important to note that cloud storage solutions are not necessarily less expensive than simply implementing storage arrays in the data center. They do, however, confer a substantial amount of survivability to the business. In fact, cloud storage is more of an insurance policy than it is an alternative to reasonable levels of IT investment.
Storage has generally followed the Moore’s Law dynamic of delivering double the density at half the cost every 18 months. This means that even in the most extreme levels of data growth, if an enterprise simply waits a bit, it can be assured of being able to meet its data storage needs at a reasonable price. Storage is not simply about the physical capability of storing bits, however. Storage is often the central enabler of a business: It contains customer records, financial records and the intellectual property of the company. Loss of any of this information could be damaging, if not terminally so.
So it is ironic that cloud storage is often justified strictly on the basis of cost reduction. Many CIOs and cloud storage providers themselves pitch cloud storage solutions as a way to reduce enterprise IT costs. This is true to a point. After all, it can appear to IT planners that it would be expensive to deploy the infrastructure necessary to maintain a complete backup image of all current and archived data. But it is likely, for the Moore’s Law reasons cited above, that the cost need not be substantially more than simply over-provisioning storage in the first place.