Storage growth continues at a significant rate, driven by new workloads such as analytics, video, and mobile applications. While storage demand is increasing, most IT organizations are under continued pressure to lower the cost of their IT infrastructure through the use of shared cloud computing resources.
It is vital for software designers and solution architects to match the specific requirements of their workloads to the appropriate storage solution or, in many enterprise cases, a mix. Enterprises adopting a hybrid cloud strategy may want to use a mix of on-premises dedicated storage with off-premises shared storage. Regardless of the combination, careful consideration of not only the location, deployment model (private, public, hybrid), scale, costs, and a thorough understanding of the primary types of storage are important.
Block storage continues to be the foundation for most enterprise applications. Block storage can come in a variety of forms with corresponding performance and availability attributes — from host-direct attached storage, with its high IOPs and low latency for data intensive workloads, to virtualized block, with medium/low IOPs for more general purpose or ephemeral workloads. While the use of block storage by developers (via an operating system) is declining with the use of higher-level application platforms such as Bluemix, the underlying storage is block.
File storage, also referred to as network-attached storage, has long been the mainstay for sharing files across users and application architectures. The very nature of file storage protocols such as NFS and CIFS makes the adoption of cloud-based storage easier than block. Yet there are higher network latency and throughput considerations, depending on the distance between your application and cloud storage provider. Cloud providers such as IBM offer file storage options that can be combined with traditional on-premises storage systems to build a hybrid storage solution.
Using a cloud storage gateway is one alternative to provide virtually endless storage to an existing on-premises application. Cloud storage gateways are devices (physical or software appliance) that reside locally in a data center and attach to cloud-based object storage. This can be an effective means to introduce a hybrid cloud storage solution without the need to significantly redesign an existing application.
Many of the new “born on the cloud” applications are using object storage as their primary storage mechanism. Using simple HTTP REST-based APIs is the perfect developer-oriented storage solution, without file systems or other low level operating system calls to contend with. Object storage is not just for new applications but can be used to meet additional requirements for existing ones. It can also be used as an effective solution for backup and disaster recovery as a replacement for off-site, tape-based solutions, reducing the time to restore data.
The future of hybrid cloud storage is expanding as enterprises develop new applications and extend existing ones for public and private cloud solutions. In addition, the adoption of software-defined storage is evolving as enterprises increase virtualization, automation and scalability of their storage environments. The key to adopting the right solution is to build a storage strategy that fits in one’s cloud journey and match storage solutions with the requirements of the workload.