Cloud Computing: Cloud Standardisation

Stephen Foskett has been posting some interesting commentary over the last week relating to cloud standards and today discussed the Zend API for PHP.  In previous posts, he’s mentioned the SNIA initiative amongst others.  Have a look at this great post he wrote on why standards aren’t needed.

Now, it’s no secret that I’m keen on the idea of Cloud Computing (and to be more precise, cloud storage in particular), so the concept of evolving standardisation is extremely exciting.  Last year, I discussed RAIC (here and here) — the concept of using multiple clouds to form a redundant repository.

Too Early?

Whilst on the one hand I agree with Stephen that it may be too early for standards to be set, I would also contend that for certain pieces of the cloud storage infrastructure we do need standards, for example security and authentication.  It would be useful to have a consistent authentication model to be applied across cloud storage infrastructures, especially if in the future the ultimate evolution of cloud storage (and for that matter cloud computing) is the ability to dynamically switch workloads and data locations based on service quality (i.e. cost and performance) and availability.

Of course, there will always be the eternal tradeoff between standardisation (which suits the customer) and proprietary interfaces and functionality (which suits the vendor).  Get a customer hooked into proprietary technology and the inertia to change becomes much increased, so even if another vendor does offer a better solution, the cost and effort of change is too great to make the savings/benefits worthwhile.

New Business

Does this mean initiatives like Zend and Cloudloop offer an insight into new business opportunities?  I think they do.  Most, if not all of us will not interface directly with Amazon S3, Nirvanix, Atmos, Rackspace and the others that will spring up.  These companies are infrastructure, not application, providers.  Taking the UK as an example, do I care where or how my electricity is generated or where my gas comes from, as long as it is available when I need it?  No.  Whether the cloud storage infrastructure providers (CSIP) choose to standardise isn’t important.  The future is how easily we can interface into the cloud, and how services such as the following can be easily delivered:

  • Create/Retrieve/Update/Delete (CRUD)
  • Search
  • Index
  • Migrate

and of course the influencing factors will be:

  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Performance

Today there are plenty of companies offering services based on cloud storage — exclusively targeting the consumer market or limited business features such as backup.  As things evolve, we’ll see opportunities to move into the Enterprise space.  These will take advantage of extending the data space into the cloud, giving us new and interesting ways of managing data.  Here are some ideas I want to explore in upcoming posts:

  • Extending the Global Name Space into the Cloud
  • Block-based array tiering and the Storage Cloud
  • Using the Storage Cloud for data migration
  • Archive, Backup and the storage cloud

Anyone have their own ideas they want to share?

About the author

Chris Evans

Chris M Evans is an independent consultant with over 20 years' experience, specialising in storage infrastructure design and deployment.

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