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Enterprise cloud storage evolves

As cloud adoption continues to soar, it is important to realize that cloud computing is not the same for every enterprise and barriers need to be addressed.

A recent report from research firm Gartner found that the global public cloud computing services market is expected to surpass $180 billion by 2015. In 2012, global spending rested at $111 billion, with it expected to reach $131 billion by the conclusion of 2013, an 18 percent increase.

"Initial resistance to public cloud has begun to subside and customers are beginning to realize its efficiencies as the solutions mature," said Gartner Research Vice President Ian Marriott, Business Standard reported.

As the Gartner study demonstrates, cloud storage for business is on the rise, but as GigaOM contributor James Urquhart recently noted, cloud computing is not the same for every enterprise. He explained that many cloud vendors have enterprise cloud computing products that are largely targeted at companies that develop their own software. However, Urquhart emphasized that there is no single path to cloud adoption and urged service providers to take special care about using generalized terms to discuss cloud storage for business.

Targeting cloud services at the right end user
Urquhart noted that vendors trying to sell cloud infrastructure and services to the enterprise as a whole are likely wasting time, since most medium businesses are not involved in software development. While virtual private clouds can be used for computing purposes in almost any organization, Urquhart stressed that they are unable to "revolutionize the use of IT" for these companies in the same capacity that they can with software developers. Rather than market such SaaS offerings at all enterprises, vendors should instead focus on delivering the more valuable common business systems and platforms. He also said that most medium-sized businesses and even some larger corporations operate in a way that makes it difficult to adopt enterprise cloud storage successfully.

"The scary thing about the transition from a server- or infrastructure-centric operations model to an application-centric model for businesses that don't do software services development is how radical the shift in required skills will be from one model to the other," Urquhart wrote. "Most IT departments were created and staffed (from the client-server era on, at least) to do one thing first and foremost – make sure there are computers available on which to run software that the business requires."

Ranajit Nevatia, vice president of marketing for Panzura, also explored this topic in a recent article for Data Center Knowledge, referring to the problem as "the cloud storage gap." He explained that the cloud holds potential value for practically any business, whether discussing SaaS or IaaS. This is because storage is something that every organization has to grapple with, and as data continues to accumulate, companies of all sizes can be enticed by the idea of cloud computing storage as a way to reduce IT spending. In fact, Nevatia noted that the top driver of cloud storage growth is that storage in general is not a common core competency of the average large organization.

Even so, barriers to adoption exist. The main barrier that Nevatia discussed was the need to translate files to objects so that they can be stored in the cloud. This means that many companies would need to re-write applications first in order to migrate them, which can be particularly costly. While some cloud vendors have released tools to help convert files and spur business adoption, Nevatia explained that these are limited and often inadequate for meeting the needs of larger corporations. Other barriers include security, availability and performance concerns.

Nevatia explained that that one way to eliminate the conversion challenge is with cloud storage controllers, which are systems that reside in corporate data centers and translate files for the cloud.

"Aside from translating files into objects for storage in the cloud, the most basic function of an enterprise-class cloud storage controller is to provide a standard enterprise-grade file system that is scalable into millions or billions of files spanning hundreds of terabytes or petabytes," Nevatia wrote. "The file system enables enterprise applications to transparently integrate with the cloud storage controller as if it were a local storage device."