Moving cloud storage to primetime requires new tech

Vanessa Alvarez (Forrester Research), Val Bercovici (NetApp),  Dheeraj Pandey (Nutanix), Andres Rodriguez (Nasuni), Dave Wright (SolidFire) - Structure 2011New types of storage technology will be needed in order to shift cloud storage from a backup service to a primary function, according to a panel made up of storage entrepreneurs and execs at Structure 2011 in San Francisco on Thursday. New storage technologies include more widespread use of solid state drives, new storage architectures in data centers and new storage pricing models that take performance into account.

The problem is that while cloud-based storage is commonly being used to back-up companies’ data, the cloud is not being used widely yet as the primary place to store all of a company’s data. That’s because of various concerns by companies that the cloud can’t meet the performance, security and cost needs for primary storage.

But entrepreneurs like Dave Wright, CEO of startup SolidFire, say that solid state drives, which use Flash and have no moving parts, in contrast to traditional hard drives that use spinning discs, could help cloud-based storage become more primetime. SSDs can provide far better performance with a smaller footprint, and can easily scale up, said Wright, whose company has built an SSD-based storage product.

However, one of the barriers to SSDs has been a higher cost — that’s largely why more companies don’t buy them. But Wright and Val Bercovici, Senior Director for NetApp, said that in specific cases SSDs can help lower costs. Bercovici said “When you insall SSDs correctly, they can be less expensive. For performance-centric applications you will save money. It’s almost a no-brainer to deploy it for the right applications.”

There’s also the benefit that SSDs are more energy efficient. The growing energy consumption of the cloud is becoming an increasingly important problem for both web companies’ energy bills, but also for rising carbon emissions. Bercovici said that he doesn’t think the problem of how to deal with the rising energy consumption of the cloud has been solved yet. Dheeraj Pandey, CEO of Nutanix, which builds a data center in a box, thinks that data centers need to shrink dramatically to help deal with the power problem, but also to help move primary storage into the cloud.