Exploring Gartner’s Top 10 Cloud Storage Trends

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Tuesday, June 25th 2013 — Categories: Cloud Hosting, Hybrid Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Cloud Storage, Disaster Recovery

A recent Gartner webinar discusses the top 10 cloud storage trends in 2013, ranking survey results from “Very Hot” to “Neutral” based on feedback from cloud providers and users. The types and implementations of data storage included are wide-ranging. How can these different cloud storage types help your business?

Cloud storage can help organizations meet a variety of infrastructure requirements. Every employee, potential customer, partner and supplier creates more and more data every day across the globe. This data needs to be stored, accessed, shared and modified for many different reasons, and cloud servers are one of the best ways to do so. We’ll take a look at Gartner’s trends in order of popularity and explore how they impact specific businesses.

The Most Popular Cloud Storage Trends

These are ranked “very hot” in Gartner’s report, meaning cloud providers are seeing a ton of interest.

IaaS – cloud storage for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) only makes sense at the top of this list. Cloud hosting is categorized by several models but IaaS is at the heart of them all. Every IaaS deployment needs some form of storage attached so the virtual machines have somewhere to stash their information. Most cloud instances include some level of storage, whether DAS (direct attached storage), SDS (software defined storage) or NAS (network attached storage). Disk-based hard drive arrays and newer, faster flash based hard drives are both common.

Cloud Archive – Archiving is distinguished from several other similar categories below (namely Backup and Recovery as a Service) but only barely. In all cases, cloud storage is used to keep data, but with an archive the data is generally intended for long-term storage. This is information that is rarely used, if ever, and could be original files rather than a copy (as in the case of backup).

File Sync and Share – One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing has been the ability to quickly and easily share files. Whether using Software as a Service solutions or in-house tools, companies can install their own cloud-based file sharing service in order to avoid Bring Your Own Device or Shadow IT problems, where users are leveraging Google Docs, Dropbox or another service that is not officially supported, causing headaches for the IT department. File sync and share allows users to easily keep specific data instantly copied to the cloud where others can collaborate and access it.

It’s Complicated: Big Data Analytics

Gartner ranks Big Data Analytics as “complicated” in their list. Despite its status as one of the top 10 cloud storage uses, Big Data remains a fuzzy category that many businesses have been slow to adopt. It is a strong buzzword, and for good reason. Analytics have been put to use to improve web marketing, create better business operations, streamline manufacturing processes and anticipate customer demand, among many other things. But Big Data is just that—a ton of data! Because almost every action and item involved in a business can be measured, Big Data can quickly become cumbersome or overwhelming, and some companies just don’t know how to approach it.

The Middle Ground of Cloud Storage

Now we get into the areas Gartner ranks as “hot”, with providers and users expressing interest but not as high of adoption rates.

Cloud Backup - As mentioned above under Cloud Archive, a cloud-based backup solution consists of companies storing their data in the cloud. It could be customer records, design documents, e-mails, or anything. A backup solution is generally data that could be referenced at any moment, but not “mission-critical” or vital business data that would need to be restored instantly in the case of a disaster (that’s where Disaster Recovery comes in). Backup solutions can be as simple as a hard drive with remote FTP access or include user friendly web-based UIs.

Storage Gateway - Interest is rising in storage gateways as cloud storage catches on. Gateways solve a problem: cloud-based storage often uses REST or SOAP interfaces which are not compatible with most applications’ block-based or file-based interfaces. Storage gateways can be a physical or software based tool that converts protocols so data can be stored directly in cloud storage formats, often with security encryption built in.

The Least Trendy Cloud Storage Trends

Finally, at the bottom of the stack are the trends providers and users had a “neutral” reaction to in the Gartner survey.

Data Center Consolidation – Consolidation of data centers means just that – using less compute resources to complete the same amount of tasks. In the storage world, this frequently refers to shutting down or consolidating several in-house data centers in favor of a cloud solution. This isn’t really distinct from the more general “cloud storage” or “backup”, but it can be a driver of cloud adoption. When organizations run out of space or money to spend on their own infrastructure, they turn to the cloud for their storage solutions.

Compliance and Regulatory Needs – many cloud providers offer hosting that is compliant to regulatory standards for sensitive data like payment or health information.  These standards – HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SSAE 16 Type II, to name the most common – signal that infrastructure meets any legal requirements for security and other factors. Companies that deal with this information on a regular basis often turn to data centers who are already compliant rather than going through the (often expensive and time-consuming) compliance process. If a hospital needs to store a few thousand patient files, for example, contracting a HIPAA compliant cloud provider for storage can be an easy solution.

Object Storage – object storage is a newer type of storage system that forgoes file systems. As opposed to NAS (network attached storage), which includes a file system that adds significant bulk to every file in storage, object storage only assigns a small portion of metadata to each file, kind of like a digital fingerprint. This is the type of storage that storage gateways must translate to typical interfaces.

Recovery as a Service – organizations seem to not be as interested in disaster recovery as they are in backup, at least according to this Gartner report. However, Recovery services are essential for most any business, allowing them to restore their critical systems and data almost instantaneously. When other infrastructure fails, a recovery solution allows this stored information, by nature copies of the originals, to return to service very quickly.

Storage ties to almost any cloud service, as data in the cloud must be kept somewhere. How could your business take advantage of the cloud to store your information? That all depends on how you use your infrastructure, but there’s bound to be a cloud storage model for you.

Posted By: Joe Kozlowicz

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