Cheapening the Cloud

Cheapening the Cloud

What's old is. . . well. . . still old.

When most companies think of the Cloud, they think of a high performance datacenter with crazy-good SLAs. To choose anything less than that would seem like shopping for Cloud processing and storage at a garage sale or in a Flea Market.

But, to battle the onslaught of the Cloud price war between Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, a couple vendors have taken to offering cheaper mediums to help drive down their own pricing. And, in doing so, these companies are quite possibly cheapening the intent of the Cloud.

A few days ago, Sony announced an advancement in tape cartridge technology. Yep, tape. That physical medium that most of us thought was dead long ago, is apparently still used in datacenters and corporate archives to preserve data. Well, at least Sony believes it still is and is investing engineering cycles to increase the square inch capacity. Made using vacuum thing film-forming technology, the upgraded tape storage can hold two gigabits per square inch and an entire cartridge can store almost 4,000 times more data than a Blu-ray disc. But, still…why the investment in a storage medium that degrades more quickly over time? According to the Tape Storage Council industry group, tape medium shipments rose by 26% in 2013. So, someone is buying it. I still think this falls under the "even though you can, should you?" category.

Recently, VMware announced that it is adding old fashioned hard disks (the kind that still have spinning plates and gears) to the company's Cloud service for storage options. Labeled Standard Storage, VMware is able to offer a lower-cost solution for storing corporate data.  Standard Storage is offered as part of the Dedicated and Virtual Private Cloud offerings in vCloud Hybrid Service. Standard Storage sits alongside the better performing SSD-Accelerated storage and when performance suffers, customers can improve the workload performance by moving data between storage mediums.

Obviously, for both Sony and VMware, the intent is to provide lower-cost solutions for customers, enticing them through the bottom line to use older technology. To me, though, it seems we're taking a step backwards. Both tape and "standard" disk have always had their inadequacies and we all know the pains all too well. They were both revolutionary and great for their time, but their time has passed. The more moving parts, the faster the path to failure.

When we talk Cloud (whether our company policies accept it or not), we are talking about a step up to a higher performing, more cost-efficient means of supplying IT throughout the organization. Employing older technologies may save costs up front, but I think there's a long term issue that will negatively impact any Cloud adoption, and at the exact wrong time.

What's next? Would you agree to use floppy disks as storage mediums if storage capacity were improved? How about a steam engine for a datacenter power supply or the resurgence of the Amiga computer as a Cloud server? A toothbrush, a paper clip, and a piece of chewed gum – that’s all MacGyver needs to be a Cloud provider.

Bargain basement prices are really just that: things you find in a basement and then stick a price tag on them. Just like a garage sale, one man's junk is another man's treasure, and I'm positive someone will find value in tapes and spinning discs.

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