Hybrid Clouds, File Sync Will Build Momentum in 2014
2013 was certainly an eventful year for the data center. Data center hubs continued to proliferate exponentially across the globe. Infrastructure extended to accommodate big data, cloud computing, mobility and other rapidly emerging technology trends. And in light of the public disclosure of PRISM and growing concerns surrounding the use of public cloud services, IT admins across all organizations took new measures to reassure the privacy of their data. I believe we will see the continuation of these trends and several others in 2014. Here are a few predictions for the new year.
1. Private, public and ‘virtual private’ cloud environments will flourish:The false dichotomy of private vs. public is now apparent to most. It’s not a question of either or – for many enterprises, especially the larger ones, it will be both. Another model that is rapidly catching on is ‘virtual private,’ whereby the enterprise uses a public cloud provider (externally hosted) but with its own private instance that is not connect to the rest of the public cloud. This model provides the same level of control as private clouds, but in an OPEX model.
Companies may currently choose to put some types of data on public clouds – for example less sensitive data – while keeping other types of data in a private cloud. Other reasons for using public clouds include extended geographical reach, pressure to reduce CAPEX, speed of deployment and lack of in-house expertise.
Ultimately, there will be true hybrids, with a centralized way of controlling what data goes where, and how to transfer data between various clouds. We’re not there yet, but we may see early adopters of enabling technologies (like EMC’s ViPR and IBM’s InterCloud) in 2014, which will make ‘public vs. private’ choices easier.
2. Enterprises will take a more holistic view of File Sync & Share (FSS):The ‘enterprise drop box’ phenomenon is far from over and will continue to drive consumption of cloud storage. While there are many vendors providing such solutions, the majority are SaaS providers, with only a handful allowing enterprises and service providers to use their own infrastructure for file sync. While some applications (such as CRM) have seen great success as pure SaaS, FSS will need to grow out of the relatively limited functionality that made Dropbox famous and hugely successful. CRM has been successfully migrated to SaaS because it offers a way to manage a complete process. FSS (for most) is currently just a way of easily sharing files in the cloud. Enterprises are questioning why some data would need to go to an external provider just for that, while other workflows remain in-house. The current scenario, of enterprises storing files in-house, then storing them again with a SaaS provider (and paying for both!) will not continue forever. Economically sensible management of data and storage resources will drive companies to either demand more than just file sharing from SaaS providers, or control the data in-house (private or ‘virtual private’ clouds) to make sure it integrates with other needs. Already many enterprises are unifying end-point backup with FSS, and this trend will continue and expand.
3. Nirvanix will be remembered (or forgotten) as a mere hiccup: By the end of 2014, the abrupt demise of cloud storage service provider Nirvanix will be remembered as a blip in the otherwise unstoppable rush to the cloud. Nirvanix chose the wrong business model and as a pure-play storage-as-a-service provider was doomed to fail, competing on price with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft without the economies of scale. The way it shut down, giving only 2 weeks’ notice to customers to vamoose, was a wake-up call for the industry and has already improved SLAs and what enterprises look into before committing their data to the cloud. It also highlighted that cloud “off-ramping” is just as important as “on-ramping”, something that can be achieved with cloud storage gateways, offline seeding services and cloud-to-cloud data transfers. But enterprises did not take the Nirvanix debacle as an indication that cloud storage as a whole is non-viable – rather, it’s been business as usual with the above adjustments. This is an indication of both the overwhelming value cloud storage creates, and that the industry is maturing.