IT Services is investigating cloud storage, a specialized variant of off-site storage. It can bring value to existing on-premises storage environments by leveraging its architectural advantages, with software designed for versioning, metadata, and auto-replication, and a namespace that makes large amounts of data and servers look like a single system. It also provides geo-diversity that mitigates risk associated with storing all data in a single location and is deployed on a scale that can result in compelling lower costs. It may offer technology features that integrate well with the storage consumer and are not yet available on site, and rapid deployment capabilities that are beyond the ability of the status quo. Many providers are new and unencumbered by legacy infrastructure, since their environments are often deliberately built for cloud operations.
However, there are also some general disadvantages. There is the question of what the exit strategy will be to migrate data away from a cloud storage provider. Storing data off site brings up security concerns and the need for security audits of technology and processes as well as provisions for sharing access logs. And then there are operational concerns: what is the level of customer involvement in quality assurance (QA) processes and change management.
IT Services has investigated cloud storage, but not in a meaningful way that impacts our services. In the research conducted by IT Services, cloud storage is actually an umbrella term that encompasses many technologies:
- Web application storage: storage that is accessible by leveraging a set of programming methods within a service that exists on the Internet. Marketplace examples include Amazon S3, Rackspace, and AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service.
- Remote file storage: storage that is accessible by using capabilities installed by default on Windows and Macintosh systems. Commercial examples include Zetta and Nirvanix.
- Private cloud: software and hardware solutions aimed at customers who wish to build a storage cloud on-premises. Parascale is an example of a commercial software-only product, EMC Atmos is an integrated software and hardware product, and Eucalyptus is an Amazon S3-compatible open source software-only offering.
- Broker: Because of the high number of cloud storage providers and newness of the technology, it can be confusing to integrate with cloud storage. Several companies, including Storsimple and Nasuni, offer cloud storage integration tools.
The massive scale and intensive competition in this marketplace should lead to cost-savings that are difficult to realize on a much smaller scale on campus. Many university services have considerable storage demands, and cloud storage can be made a part of new service design and improvement of existing services. IT Services' clients want to leverage the cloud, and IT Services must have expertise in this area to maintain relevancy.
As IT Service proceeds in this space, it will be keeping the key principles of IT Services in mind. The solution must be scalable: The overhead associated with security auditing of the external system and the new body of operations must be dramatically outweighed by the benefits. It must be secure: Storing university data off-premises must not put the information at risk. And it must be integrated: Cloud storage is only relevant if it is tightly coupled with the application or service that leverages the data to deliver value.
- Temporary surge space in lieu of acquiring and deploying on-premises storage.
- Third or fourth copy of data that already exists in two locations on site.
- Bleeding-edge technology testing.
- Identify a use case for prototyping. One likely candidate: Integrate cloud storage with BARS by storing a third encrypted copy of data with the external provider.
- Formulate evaluation criteria for choosing providers.
- Formulate evaluation criteria for choosing data or services that are candidates for cloud storage.
- Create a financial model.
- Create a repeatable security review process.
- Create an automation process that copies data, reports on usage, and monitors the cloud’s health.
Measures of success
- Inventory all services with a significant storage, backup, or archive footprint, and map against the evaluation criteria for cloud storage usage.
- Prototype a mock service with benign data with a chosen provider.
- Significantly lower service rates for BARS.