Mapping the cloud: Protecting cloud investments

DataCore Software likens recent issues with cloud outages (think Amazon) and shutdown of storage services (think Iron Mountain) to the banking industry: The financial world has the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect consumers from bank failure, but where is the data protection from cloud meltdowns?

We talked with Augie Gonzalez, DataCore Software’s director of product marketing, about how IT pros can take the risk out of cloud computing.

What are the advantages of a private storage cloud?

Clearly to shave substantial costs in people and gear by sharing storage resources managed centrally and dynamically across multiple tenants. Done right, it shifts the day-to-day caretaking to a small, better- prepared set of IT professionals with some stake in the collective whole. The members also gain a lot more buying power and say over the priorities without that uncomfortable loss of control that some fear in public clouds.

What does it replace—storage in the public cloud or on-site, or both?

I see the private cloud replacing standalone datacenters unable to sustain critical mass of IT skills and equipment. Look at it like a wine or coffee cooperative: The members come from modest families (smaller data centers) unable to muster the proper equipment or expertise to reliably process their data individually, so they pool efforts and, as a group, hire the right skills. Winemaking cooperatives date back to the 19th century, but really took hold after the Great Depression when times were particularly tough. Sound familiar?

What sizes of companies can benefit from this method? 

Private clouds are particularly appealing to midsize institutions clustered around a close geographic range, especially when loosely affiliated under a common central umbrella. Think school districts, municipal government/police/fire departments, services firms. They are more likely to have joint interests without concern over intellectual property theft from other co-located tenants.

What’s unique about DataCore’s approach?

We run counter the prevailing winds that suggest tying your cloud to unique pieces of equipment. Instead, our device-independent storage virtualization software insulates the behavior of the cloud from the underlying hardware. In doing so, customers can roll disks and disk arrays in and out without depending on any one model or brand. That gives the cooperative lots of leverage to shop around for the best storage value when it comes time to refresh and expand storage, laying it out in appropriately priced tiers. Transitioning to a private storage cloud with DataCore is pretty straightforward and managing the end result is quite intuitive—with lots of automation to help novices.

Is there still certain types of data and information that shouldn’t be trusted to the cloud—even a private cloud?

Yes. Not so much for technical reasons. The security boundaries established for the private cloud ultimately determine its suitability. Considering the classes of institutions that are more likely to rely on private clouds, the decision is largely driven by comfort and politics. Until they are reminded that left to their own devices, the chance of information being mishandled or lost could be far greater.

What do all these outages and security issues mean for the future of public cloud options? 

I suspect some hesitation while the news simmers, yet clearly a better service level in the future. The cloud service providers are taking three corrective steps that will help restore confidence: First, more serious modeling of failure scenarios. Second, revised cutover policies that fence off segments to prevent wild alterations of workloads and traffic (much in the way that bulkheads are used on ships to contain a leak without flooding the entire vessel). And third, for extra precautions, some public clouds will add man-in-the-loop to intervene during the really hairy circumstances. People tend to place extra trust when a person with good judgment is in charge of the big switch.
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