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There must be more to storage than this

What makes for good cloud storage? At a time when our customers are seeing significant business benefits realised through investment in resilient storage, reports and industry insights have emerged, shedding some light on the topic of storage.

A recent report* has brought out Microsoft Azure as the winner against Amazon S3 and Google as cloud storage providers. The biennial report on cloud storage providers’ speed and availability was based on tests on providers’ ability to handle large numbers of write, read, deletes for availability and scalability, at speed. Bear in mind, these tests were for public cloud storage. The results give a valid indication of performance, though it is clear that the difference between Microsoft and Amazon are small. However, the tests were in actual fact very limited in scope: No tests on private clouds by the same providers were included, nor were assessments of value-add services or cost comparisons.

The result of the test is somewhat surprising for anyone who has been following industry news, where recently and in 2014, Azure’s reliability has been called into question when outages have been aired in the public. To say that IBM could not be tested because of too many scheduled outages is interesting, considering Azure suffered more unplanned outages than its competitors in 2014. The high profile Azure outage in 2014 was cause by a flighting process not being followed, which shows that no organisation is immune to human error.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting report, showing negligible difference in performance metrics between the top two. So you might ask – does a nanosecond matter? And if not, what does matter? The cloud can be used for a range of storage needs and not all of them benefit from speed. It really depends on what you’re putting out there, and it depends on what type of organisation you are – when you start thinking about how you would like to get your data back from the cloud.

There really is more to storage than read/write/delete. There are recovery time objectives, and recovery point objectives. Aside from security and compliance concerns, users look at factors such as

  • what administration is involved;
  • what uptime and availability can be expected;
  • what SLA’s are offered

to name a few. While growing industries requiring high performance systems lead the way to the cloud, many would not choose Azure, AWS or another cloud storage provider owing to a variety of factors. Regulatory and compliance requirements on online operators mean that their concerns are ultimately not addressable by public cloud service providers, requiring specialist providers. Businesses are choosing very carefully what to put into the cloud, with 63% of businesses now reportedly having a hybrid cloud strategy.

One of the objections that is often heard in the same breath as ‘cloud’ is security. Yet, security does not seem to trouble the 38% of businesses who are sending live, production primary data to the cloud. These figures, and many more in Techtargets’s survey clearly indicate that there is an increasing level not only of cloud storage adoption but also of comfort in cloud security. Looking at the most commonly used applications for cloud stage services, the question remains whether read/write/delete and speed thereof are deal-breaking performance measures when cloud storage is typically used for backup and DR. When are fears about security in the cloud going to disappear? Reservations around fit-for-purpose security, resilience, and performance in turn highlights the need for skill in the design of a resilient, compliant and secure private cloud, architected for interoperability using skills that are rarely in-house.

It seems that what is standing in the way of progress here is not the read/write/delete speed, but the fear and the unwillingness to rely on outside expertise in achieving more than a half-decent hybrid model. What do successful storage stories tell us?

  • Our clients ask for more than read/write/delete stats in their cloud deployments, and so should you. Consult your provider to ensure your business objectives are met.
  • Reputable service providers offer proofs of concepts, which allow you to try before you buy.
  • You don’t have to rely on extensive and irrelevant tests on an extremely limited shortlist of vendors, but you should absolutely look for niche vendors who
    • take a tailored approach to your business needs, and
    • offer you storage solutions and metrics which your end users will feel the benefit of, and that includes
    • a price point which makes sense

The most reliable comparison report is of course the providers list of accreditations: Cloud service providers with niche expertise are able to maintain enough focus to adhere to industry regulatory requirements as well as ensure their business processes adhere to IT service management standards and ISO compliance requirements. Couple these with a try-before-you-buy and you’ll know if the provider is right for you.


Sources/further reading:

*Report published by Nazuni:


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