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Don’t Count Out the Cloud for your Storage and Compute Needs

The past few weeks have been a bit tumultuous for the cloud industry.  You haven’t had to look too hard to see the thunderheads on the horizon.  An AWS glitch took some news sharing and social networking sites offline for the better part of a day (see Ashish Nadkarni's related post, "What We Should Learn from the Recent Amazon Outage").   Iron Mountain announced that it will be exiting the commodity-oriented, public cloud storage business over the next couple of years, although the company will continue to provide enterprise-class cloud storage services to business customers.  A number of small vendors are struggling to gain traction, and one quietly laid off a large number of its staff last week.

Taken in isolation, these developments could be interpreted as a sign that cloud technology is not ready for serious business use and that the cloud market is hitting a proverbial wall.  But that would be a mistake.  Yes, cloud hype has consistently been out in front of reality, as many established vendors have re-labeled their wares to be “cloud-centric” and investors have rushed to participate in this “next big” opportunity.  At the lower end of the market, a number of cloud-oriented start-ups are struggling to survive and build footholds in niche markets.  And yes, major service providers have suffered significant outages that have temporarily impacted website and services availability, likely shaking the confidence of many users.

But consider the brighter side of what’s happening.  The cloud market is in a very early stage of development, and yet large players are already making significant investments in new cloud technologies and offerings.  Dell, HP and IBM have recently committed to broad cloud development and marketing initiatives, joining Cisco, Microsoft, VMware, and a whole host of other infrastructure providers.  A number of smaller, cloud-focused players are already finding success in the market.  As one example, cloud pioneer Nirvanix is enjoying steady and robust growth.  In addition to having a full suite of offerings spanning the public/private/hybrid spectrum, Nirvanix is servicing the needs of enterprise customers, with capabilities such as secure multi-tenancy and 5 nines of availability.  TwinStrata is building a strong cloud storage gateway business that can facilitate things like backup and DR, while another start-up, StorSimple, is helping customers gain control of large sets of distributed, unstructured data by surrounding it with a full complement of data storage lifecycle services.  Each week brings news of a new use of cloud technology to improve productivity or solve a real business problem.  Indeed, the positive developments in cloud computing and cloud storage are far more than a silver lining.

In this nascent market, a whole host of small cloud vendors are fighting to build both revenue and relevance, and it’s only natural that some will struggle and even fail.   As the newsmakers of the day, they take the spotlight off vendors that are steadily growing and satisfying customers.  But we shouldn’t forget about these success stories.  And while it’s troubling that a large service provider such as Amazon could allow a technical problem in one data center to disrupt so many sites and users, they are not claiming to serve the production-level cloud needs of the business (let alone enterprise) market.

Three to four years out, we’ll likely look back at this era as the “wild west” phase of cloud market evolution.  That’s not bad, it’s just the normal – albeit highly publicized – growing pains of a promising early-stage market.

  • Premiered: 04/28/11
  • Author: Jeff Byrne
Topic(s): Nirvanix StorSimple TwinStrata IBM HP Dell Amazon Cisco Microsoft VMWare Cloud


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