The concept of the cloud arrived amid much hype, pledging to address the core problems of enterprise IT. For CIOs who managed to weather the credit crunch intact, the cloud has been seen as the next-generation platform of choice, by promising the scientifically impossible â to deliver more for less, a concept perfectly suited to CIOs with shrinking IT budgets and ever-growing demand from business.
The public cloud, however, was perhaps too next-generation for some of the enterprises, and so the private cloud arrived as a hero to the rescue. Private cloud technology does not sit in the public sphere, but rather is available internally, and appears to directly address the individual concerns of the collective CIO thought around the inefficiencies of traditional IT and specifically the inadequacies of the enterprise storage platform.
The cloud message is a powerful one, and IT is listening more intently than usual because of the increasing need to satisfy the beast at the gate â a demanding business and an almost insatiable appetite for storage capability.
Sell the dream
So how do storage vendors respond to this cloud phenomenon, in light of the needs of the CIO and a traditionally poor reputation for efficiency and meeting business requirements? Quite easily, in fact: they sell the cloud. A perfect match.
But is it? Is the concept of the cloud a reality when the underlying storage infrastructure is simply the traditional kit with a “cloud” component bolted on? Or is it just the vendor moving with the ebb and flow of the IT circle of life, where new replaces the old, or in most cases, where new is actually old with a bit more fluff, packaged in a new box?
In fact, a large number of new technologies, including the concept of the cloud as it applies in many cases to storage, have a lot in common with the recent scandal around repackaged chicken. When chicken has passed its shelf life, it is sometimes sent back to the producer for a quick cosmetic touch-up, repackaged and sent back out to have a final crack at the market that neglected it in the first place.
Passed its sell-by date
The reality is, however, that repackaged expired chicken is still expired chicken. Injecting it with saline, changing the date and freshening the packaging will not alter the fact that it is past its usable life and should be destroyed immediately. Consuming expired poultry is a serious health hazard. The same applies to IT and business â using repackaged technology can be hazardous to the health of the business.
So exactly how much of the storage products available today are like repackaged chicken â old, outdated products injected with a bit of cloudiness, rebadged and resold as a cloud product ready to deliver to the demands of the cloud business? I'd venture to say a significant portion of the traditional market falls into this category, with no inherent cloud capability at all, but sold with a cloud label for marketing and sales purposes.
One may indeed ask how it is possible for a traditional storage platform to transform itself so completely from being old and outdated to new and ready for consumption in a brave new world. Is it possible that the cloud platform requirement is largely the same as the traditional enterprise requirement, or are these market leader vendors doing the repackaging expired chicken trick?
In many respects, I believe the two offerings should be the same, since both are required to deliver the same benefits to the business. However, since traditional enterprise storage has not always been able to adapt sufficiently quickly to changes in business demand, a new class of storage based on the “cloud” and its requirements, has emerged to challenge the traditional offerings.
As much as cloud computing contains more or less the same building blocks as traditional computing, they are fundamentally different in design and capability, particularly on the storage front. In this particular area, demands are concentrated and accentuated on agility and the platform's ability to provide resources as and when required in a secure, available, scalable and cost-effective manner. This must all happen with the necessary elasticity to move in sync with business peaks and troughs â after all, it is the new economic world order of u- and v-shaped recoveries.
In fact, the storage-specific cloud capabilities are really where enterprise storage should have been all along, but since this is not the case, the visionaries have changed the game by creating new levels of expectations based on capabilities that matched features to business benefits. The storage cloud provider was born. Un-tethered from traditional convention and legacy, it was able to completely change the storage game, leaving the chickens on their terrestrial path of tradition while it tracked a celestial trajectory.
So perhaps it would be worthwhile for the CIOs of today to have a closer look at whether the storage vendors they are using are repackaging chicken, or indeed have a compelling, designed for cloud offering.
After all, it is only smart CIOs who actually know the difference.