What Does Everything’s a Service Mean for Storage?

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Recently we are hearing of just about Everything as a Service (XaaS). There is Software as a Service (SaaS), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), and the less used Storage as a Service (STaaS?) and the commonplace Backup as a Service, which for some reason no one bothers to call BaaS. So if it’s all about throwing storage into the cloud, why bother to have any storage in house?

Colm Keegan, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, thinks that some enterprises could transition all internal storage to the cloud. In that case, he said, the storage manager’s job would be as an overseer of providers, verifying that applications have enough storage capacity and staying on top of costs.

“The storage manager would act as a liaison between internal business users and the cloud providers,” said Keegan. “It would be up to them to translate business needs into a technical capability.”

Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, agrees that some environments, big and small, will eliminate their data centers altogether. They will move their storage and applications to an out-sourced, managed or cloud service. Others, said Schulz, will adopt a hybrid model using a mix of their own and cloud storage services.

In the hybrid case, storage managers will still be challenged to remain relevant. There will be a continual push towards outsourcing more and more functions, not to mention departments going rogue and setting up their own cloud services. It’s up to IT to set up its storage and backup services so they are as easy to access as the cloud.

“The key will be how they can revamp their service offerings, enabling portals for their service catalogs along with metrics that inform users of service delivery costs, benefits and levels of reliability so they can make informed decisions about when to deploy service in the cloud and when to use in-house services,” said Schulz.

In order to make that happen, there has to be elasticity between the cloud and the data center to bring about a seamless transition between the two. Ideally, the storage manager would deploy tools that can work with both. The VMware hypervisor, for example, includes tools that let you manage VMs in house or externally.

Joshua Bauer, Assistant Director, Network Operations at Acorda Therapeutics, uses EMC Syncplicity to manage file sharing between the cloud and on premise. It has a primary data center in New York State that has 20 physical servers, 17 of which are host servers for its virtual infrastructure consisting of 360 virtual machines (VMs). It also includes two Storage Area Networks (SANs). The second data center serves applications specific to its manufacturing, lab and business operations in Massachusetts. It has 30 physical servers and 12 virtual servers. The company runs some applications in the cloud and others on premise. Cloud apps include project management, expense reporting, payroll and sales reporting. On premise apps include Syncplicity for file sharing, manufacturing systems, lab operations, document management, clinical trial management and drug safety.

“Many applications will likely stay on-premise for the forseeable future due to the nature surrounding the sensitivity of the data and compliance requirements,” said Bauer. “Any storage and server that connects with physical components, such as our lab or manufacturing operations must stay on-premise. For everything else, they will likely be transitioned to the public cloud.” 

Bauer predicted the trend toward XaaS will continue until it reaches around 80% of all data hosted in the cloud. The remaining 20% will be for environments that are heavily regulated or tied to custom hardware such as manufacturing operations or any systems that serve custom-built processes and need storage as close as possible.

Keegan doesn’t see in-house SANs, disk arrays or flash arrays going away completely. There will always be a business case for having storage locally to feed key applications. You can pack a lot of flash, small density disk drives and multicore processors in a 2U form factor these days, he said.

“You want to have your that storage as close to the application as possible, otherwise you have to make calls to a remote resource which leads to latency,” said Keegan.

ESG surveyed enterprises to see which applications will remain in-house and which ones are most likely to be sent to the cloud. Online transaction processing systems, financial applications, accounting, human resources, project management and anything bound by regulatory compliance will remain in house. Non-core workloads that are not directly material to business revenue like email, end-user productivity applications and CRM will increasingly be outsourced to SaaS providers.

Even test/dev will most likely find a home in the cloud, said Keegan, with some organizations opting to run some of these newly developed applications on-premise in their private clouds, while leveraging public cloud provider resources as a way to augment their private data center environments.

“We will most likely see hybrid cloud computing emerge as the preferred method for traditional enterprises to manage their business application workloads – mission–critical apps on-prem and non-core apps off-prem,” said Keegan.

Storage Relevance

With the cloud looming in every storage manager’s future, the challenge is remaining relevant. Schulz advised them to learn and even poach some ideas from cloud providers.

“Become and be seen as a flexible business enabling asset instead of a cost overhead barrier to productivity,” he said. “Develop a services catalog which includes cloud and on-premise services with costs for each and metrics for performance and capacity, as well as portals for self-provisioning.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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