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Merciless Cloud will slay storage arrays - Nasuni chief

Cloud storage gateway firm talks up, er, cloud storage

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Nasuni has a message for enterprise storage vendors: Your days are numbered.

Nasuni CEO and co-founder Andres Rodriguez has said that enterprise data centres with enterprise storage arrays are going to be hollowed out. Hot primary data will go into local flash storage, he says. Everything else – the not-so-hot, the nearline and the cold online data – will go off to the cloud, the public cloud, because its costs will be so low and its reliability enterprise class, Rodriguez says.

According to the CEO, the only trace of the enterprise storage arrays that remain – the block access SAN arrays, the file access NAS arrays and the object storage arrays – will be the upper level storage array software and it will talk to the cloud storage vaults pretty much as it used to talk to backend storage enclosures in the arrays. In effect, the enterprise storage array will be replaced by a cloud storage gateway controller.

It's in Nasuni's interests to push this message, as it is in the cloud storage gateway business, as well as to emphasise that cloud storage can be reliable in the enterprise sense.

No-win low-margin cloud games

Rodriguez said that he thinks that initiatives by enterprise storage vendors such as HP, Symantec and others to establish their own public storage clouds are doomed to failure, because Amazon knows how to operate with skeletally thin margins and they do not... A cloud storage facility operates with massed ranks of low-cost storage enclosures, basically JBODs with intelligence to cope with basic storage operations and failing disk drives.

Rodriguez says cloud storage is like hard disk drives. The mainstream storage vendors don't make hard drives; they buy them in on an OEM basis. That's the way they should treat cloud storage, as capacity to be bought in and supplied out on an OEM basis.

Efforts by enterprise storage giants to establish their own public storage clouds are doomed to failure, because Amazon knows how to operate with skeletally thin margins and they do not ...

An enterprise storage vendor has margins of 60 per cent or more: around three times those of Amazon. To compete with Amazon, Google and even Microsoft's Azure, an enterprise storage vendor's public cloud storage business would have to have similar margin levels – and that means that they could not afford the usual sales, marketing and support infrastructure. The usual return on capital investment rules would also have to be dramatically slashed, according to the Nasuni CEO.

If the vendors were to decide to sell cloud storage gateways – a transformed NetApp V-Series, for example, or an EMC VPLEX or IBM SVC – then revenues from that would be far lower than current array revenues. Even if they combined shared flash array functionality with these cloud storage gateways, a combined EMC Thunder + VPLEX, their net revenues would still be less.

Rodriguez says he believes these vendors will see their enterprise storage array businesses hollowed out over the next decade-and-a-half.

Of course, this depends on the enterprise-class public cloud storage suppliers really being enterprise class. With Azure's latest crash and Amazon's crash history, that seems still to be a risky proposition.

No one wants drills; they want holes

But Rodriguez says that even if they were to develop the ability to develop rock-solid public cloud storage services with fast and reliable-enough network links to gateway controllers like Nasuni's, substantially cheaper $/TB storage with local flash caching providing fast access could well spark a steady migration of data out of enterprise data centres to public cloud ones.

The mainstream enterprise storage vendors might be well advised to consider the possibility and work out what to do about it. As Black and Decker once said: "Nobody wants electric drills; they want holes."

In the same way, nobody wants to buy and operate enterprise storage arrays; they want their data stored, secured and accessible. Today VMAX, VNX, 3PAR, Compellent and ONTAP boxes are the best way to do that. But tomorrow, and the day after, cloud enterprise storage might be better. Rodriguez is betting his company that that will be the case.

They might have to follow in IBM's PC-shedding footsteps and get rid of what will become lower and lower margin businesses, while pursuing higher-margin storage-related business higher up the stack. Lucky EMC with VMware. ®

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