Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Cloud Storage: Future Directions

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Cloud storage, once a straight-forward commodity, has increased in complexity as companies rely on it more heavily. As cloud computing itself has become the dominant model, cloud storage is now expected to perform tasks ranging from disaster recovery to artificial intelligence pipeline.

To discuss the current state of cloud storage, I spoke with Andres Rodriguez, CTO and founder of Nasuni, an enterprise cloud storage provider. 

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Rodriguez, formerly CTO of The New York Times and for Hatachi, has been on the front lines of cloud storage as long as anyone.

We spoke about the current state of cloud storage, how an effective cloud storage enables AI. Lastly, we discussed the future direction of cloud storage, and how the key word will be optionality.

Scroll down transcribed highlights

Edited highlights from Andres Rodriguez:

How Storage Drove the Move to the Cloud:

“If you’re in a media company, like the [New York] Times, you see that everything goes digital and then the files get more numerous and the files get bigger. And so what starts to happen is all of the on-premise infrastructure starts breaking at the seams. And so, a lot of these companies have now moved in the last five years from, ‘Cloud, what? What the hell is it?’ to ‘Cloud first,’ to, more recently, ‘Cloud only.’”

“Now, companies “want all of their unstructured data managed as a service. And I think that’s really opening the doors for what they can do with the data after you resolve the basic problems of not having to worry about the scale of the system. Not having to worry about protecting the data because it’s being done as a service. And being able to do these very scalable synchronizations of the unstructured data around the globe.”

On the Trend Away From the Data Center

“The infrastructure that an Amazon AWS or a Microsoft Azure can bring to the table is just vastly more scale than even the largest companies can, so that’s the reason. So as long as you can execute it, I think no one wants to stay in the real estate data center ‘buying tin’ businesses.”

Cloud Storage and Enabling Strategy

“The architecture of the cloud is one of scale, that’s the beauty, and it’s one that automatically scales. It doesn’t require anyone to re-architect the system. So, what we see is once IT organizations can get out of the basic plumbing business of having to worry about doing backups, and worrying about capacity, once all that is gone, IT becomes far more strategic.”

The Cloud and a Global Infrastructure

“So many companies have gone global, and I hear this over and over again, but their infrastructure isn’t global. Even some of the biggest companies in the world remain rather provincial when it comes to infrastructure: Headquarters is in one city and that’s where all the data centers are, and everyone is happy around that.

“But as you acquire more companies, as you try to go where talent is, as you try to go where your clients are, all over the world, the infrastructure starts being the bottleneck. Now you try to continue to bring everyone back to headquarters to offer these powerful infrastructure services. The cloud globalizes all that, so that you can have infrastructure that you can deploy very quickly, very lightly anywhere.

“I heard many years ago from a CIO of a semiconductor company. He told me, ‘The great thing about SaaS is that it allows us to deliver, in a simple way, a known and acceptable quality of service across our entire organization, and it doesn’t matter where they are.’ It’s the same advantage [now] with infrastructure.”

Cloud Storage and AI

“Because the data is logically centralized, that means that I can now plug the engines that are going to feed my AI from a central location.

“And the challenge, of course, is scale. Anyone can plug into a file system that is a few terabytes and you want to build a text index, say an easy thing, build a text search engine on a basic file system. [But] it’s a very different proposition when you’re talking about, say, hundreds of terabytes or petabytes and you’re talking about hundreds of millions of files that you’re trying to index.

“That’s where scale and the ability to have these file systems that have all of your unstructured data, with the right access control, will be able to plug directly into the core cloud services for analytics.”

Cloud and GDPR

“If you’re doing GDPR compliance, there are two ways to do that:

“The hard way is: you put in an engine that’s trying to enforce compliance on every single file system that an organization has – lots of silos, lots of locations, lots of different file systems.

“The easy way is: you bring all that file system information to the cloud and you plug the engine in one place, one logical place in the cloud. And then at scale, you worry about the compliance for the entire organization.”

Future of Cloud Storage: Optionality

“File systems have always been about optionality. That is, I don’t want to be stuck with any one format.

“My data is mine, and I want to be able to share it across multiple applications, I want to be able to share it with external clients. I don’t want it stuck in one particular application silo.

“I think that as we look forward at the cloud: this is what I’m seeing a lot of large clients, that are now making the move, and they’re thinking, ‘Well, okay, what happens in the next five years?’ Optionality across the board is what matters most to them.

“They don’t want to have a single Microsoft or a single Amazon or a single Google strategy –  they want a combined strategy for two reasons. One is: You never want to be stuck with just one vendor, because of vender lock-in.

“Second, you don’t want to be limited by the capabilities of any one of these vendors. Each one of those vendors is good at some things, and not great at some others. And so, you want to be able to mix-and-match according to the capabilities that are provided by the large vendors.

“And remember, each of them is building a large ecosystem that supports their services. So you want to make sure that your data is available to all of those systems.

“And so, you want to be able to have optionality in terms of where the data is stored. I want to be able to store my data in Microsoft or in Amazon in a combined way, or in Google. And present it all to my users as if they were from a single provider, from a single pane. The user shouldn’t care about where the data actually is.”

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