Storage Failure in the Cloud

Is storage in the cloud a failure? I’ll answer that further down…read on.

It started with a story in the Boston Globe on March 21, 2009:

That spawned a series of threads on the failure of Cloud Storage. Carbonite’s CEO, Dave Friend posted a note to their blog:

But isn’t the real issue here how cloud storage is strategically used? Those that have managed storage in data centers know that disk drives are mechanical devices. They fail. Terms like MTBF (mean time between failure) become metrics of interest. But in the end, there are still drive failures.

Knowing that, processes are put in place to mitigate the risks. Logical and/or physical redundancy is a common means of mitigation. Storage vendors have built technologies around this very issue. When building systems in data centers, designs take these risks into account.

When evaluating storage providers (cloud or otherwise), why not ask questions about their systems? What class of services does it provide? Can you use the ‘trust buy verify’ model to validate their claims? If there is concern about their ability to provide the robust service you’re looking for, why not duplicate the data?

In addition to logical redundancy (ie: RAID, etc), physical diversity (ie: geo-diversity) can also play a role. It is possible for the storage vendor to provide geo-diversity. But that locks you into one vendor’s service. What happens if they have a failure? The question should be no different than if you’re talking about your own internal data center’s storage sub-system.

Why is Carbonite taking all the heat? Maybe they did make some poor decisions. I can’t validate that. But as a customer, I’d be asking other questions before I placed all of my eggs into any vendors basket.

So, that gets me to the root issue: Is the right strategy being used when considering cloud storage? I don’t think so. Which then answers the next question: Is storage in the cloud a failure? No. But there is much to consider before proceeding.

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