Tweaking Storage for The Cloud

As we keep more and more of our valuable content online, do we need a new type of storage? A crop of venture-backed companies — among them Storwize and Ocarina Networks to Gear6 — certainly seems to think so. These companies solve one of two problems: how to access the data faster and how to store it more compactly.

Unlike the previous storage paradigm, which focused on backing up relatively static enterprise data and storing frequently accessed database information, storage today must be more nimble. Everything from photo sites to online email companies are offering and even encouraging consumers to store more and more bits of data. At last count, there were 281 exabytes of data being created each year. Much like cramming clothes into a suitcase, the more information you can store on a given box, the less you have to pay for the boxes — as well as the infrastructure to keep them running.

Last year, large storage vendors such as NetApp and EMC pushed the concept of de-dupulication, essentially storing only the new files at each backup, rather than the entire system, to reduce storage costs. Ocarina and Storwize solve this problem by going further than ignoring previously stored files, with an appliance that unpacks each file and then compresses it using proprietary algorithms.

The flip side of storing more is accessing that data faster. We’ve written about Gear6 and Atrato before, which both use caching and software to keep frequently accessed files easily available. The end road for most of these startups, however, is an acquisition, perhaps by bigger storage players such as EMC, or maybe even by Dell, HP or IBM.

Photo of the First IBM disk storage system courtesy of the Computer History Museum

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