Gartner: The pros and cons of storage as a service

Cloud-based storage services can save money but bandwidth limitations, latencies can hurt

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gartner this week offered some cautionary advice on storage as a service, saying that while services available do "offer a low-cost tier of storage," there are sometimes drawbacks to them, such as long latencies and limited bandwidth.

"Bandwidth charges can exceed the monthly storage costs," said Gartner analyst Stanley Zaffos, speaking on the topic of the storage cloud during this week's Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Management Summit here.

He said there are public cloud storage services available from Amazon S3, AT&T, Nirvanix, Zetta, and newer entries Dell and HP, among others. But some vendors have also exited cloud-related businesses, including Iron Mountain, EMC, VaultScape, Cirtas, ParaScale and Seanodes. "It's storage market chaos," said Zaffos, adding, "it's a difficult market to make money."

Cloud-based storage offers a low-cost metered storage method, and potential customers tend to compare it with the costs they incur in storage on their own corporate premises today. Gartner's estimate is it runs about 75 cents to $1 per gigabyte per month on premises storage, whereas cloud services run as low as 3 cents per gigabyte per month, Zaffos said.

While that makes cloud storage look attractive at first glance, there are a lot of variables to consider, he pointed out. The first question is whether certain corporate applications should go into a cloud environment anyway, and the answer is often no for those that are heavily transactional, or are I/O sensitive or involve sensitive data, he said.

Zaffos suggested some alternative routes. One would be making the decision to build a private cloud, noting there are a number of vendors supporting products for this, including EMC, IBM, Mezeo Software, Scale Computing, Caringo, Symantec, Coraid and Cleversafe, among others. He noted it's also possible to go the "hybrid" route of private/public storage, and vendors supporting that type of architecture include Ctera, Panzura and StorSimple.

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