Maintaining and accessing data kept remotely

Cloud storage enables applications to upload data to a network of remote, connected servers. Applications can then maintain that data and access it from anywhere. Applications access data using a web-based API that works with client applications.

Storage is available in four main types:

  • Personal storage: Services that enable individuals to store data and sync it across multiple devices.
  • Public storage: A cloud storage provider that fully manages data for an enterprise offsite.
  • Private storage: The cloud storage provider works on premises at an organization’s data center.
  • Hybrid storage: A mix of public and private cloud storage.

Why cloud storage

Icon for accessibility of cloud storage

Users can access data stored on the cloud from anywhere with internet access, from many different types of devices.

Icon for data recovery in cloud storage

Data recovery
By moving data offsite, companies can help ensure business continuity.

Icon for reduced costs with cloud storage

Enterprises can avoid the expense of buying their own storage equipment by using remote storage owned by cloud providers.

Considerations for cloud storage

  • Security Because data is accessed online, controls should authenticate applications and users. Companies may also require data encryption.
  • Storage space Cloud storage can become expensive with a large volume of data. Hybrid or on-premises solutions may help manage costs.
  • Bandwidth By using a service that offers multiple locations, load balancing manages network issues. Some storage may benefit from caching.
  • Management interface Providers offer different web-based control panels with their services. Enterprises should choose one with the options they need.

40 sextillion bytes of data

Storage software is predicted to overtake storage hardware by 2020, by which time it will need to manage 40 zettabytes (40 sextillion bytes) of data.

An IBM perspective: Three storage options in a hybrid cloud world

Photo of Steven Uniack, cloud adoption leader for IBM Cloud

Steven Uniack
Cloud Adoption Leader and Executive Architect, IBM Watson and Cloud Platform
Twitter: @suniack

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 or hybrid), scale, costs and a thorough understanding of the primary types of storage are important.

Block storage

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, the underlying storage is block.

File storage

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 appliances) 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.

Object storage

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 offsite, 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 the 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.

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