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Just how solid is cloud storage in 2014

Airy-fairy vapour or something firmer?

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The AGA players - Amazon

Amazon gained massive additional credibility as a cloud provider in general by winning a large - $600m - CIA cloud project in the face of strong IBM opposition. This credibility edged higher again when Dutch regulators said financial institutions in Holland could use AWS at the end of July.

It increased its edge locations around the world to 42 in July by opening two new ones in India, in Chennai and Mumbai.

It's obvious that Amazon is the biggest CSP and also the most determined to grow. In September its AWS boss and founder, Andy Jassy, criticised private clouds for inadequacy, as a futile attempt by legacy IT vendors to build sand-bagged walls trying to hold back the rising tide of the public cloud. Like King Canute's feeble attempt theirs too will fail.

Jassy said: "To build a private cloud from scratch now is ill-advised. It's not cost effective, it's arcane and it's not the way the world is moving." He said AWS would be developed to appeal more to enterprises.

We wrote, "Jassy did not provide details but promised more features to connect existing data centres to Amazon servers and manage enterprise workloads across them as one. 'We know many enterprise have data centres on premises, and they want a way to use the on-premises data centre footprint with AWS... that's we are doing and are providing.' "

He highlighted these AWS services for big customer appeal:

  • RedShift, the data-warehouse-as-a-service released in February, which Jassy reckoned was the fastest-growing service in the history of AWS.
  • Glacier to archive and back up data
  • CloudHSM to manage data encryption certificates and keys

All the legacy players rushing to the cloud look like the AWS of 2008; they are that far behind, and Amazon said the current state of AWS was only the beginning.

Cloud dream

The Cloud dream - data up in the cloud for ever.

Google

Google has a great consumer cloud opportunity with its Chromebooks and Android-powered mobile devices but does it understand web-scale, enterprise IT as well as Amazon which has honed its expertise with years of running its retail operations?

Our impression is that Amazon is more ferociously focussed on AWS and business customers than Google is on its cloud, with corporate focus diluted by Google Glass, driverless cars and the various Chrome and Android initiatives. However Google is determined, ingenious, and can afford to be a strong Amazon competitor.

Microsoft and Azure

Microsoft spent the year playing catch up with Amazon and trying to smother it in the same sort of way it smothered Lotus, Word Perfect and Netscape in the past. It's playing a long game but, almost for the first time in its history, it's met an opponent that may already be too big and too nimble to be knocked down.

So it's looking to partners for help.

In September Microsoft and Oracle agreed to play ball to try and stop AWS or slow its runaway train down.

With the agreement developers can provision the Oracle Database, Java Platform Standard Edition, onto Windows Server, and Oracle WebLogic server onto Windows virtual machines running on Azure. But Linux was included too, with Microsoft offering bring-your-own-license Oracle Linux VMs running Oracle Database and Oracle WebLogic.

This is still catch-up. We wrote: "Oracle's technologies are also available on the Amazon Web Services cloud, though licensing is not wrapped in and the support is less broad. Amazon has, however, been running Oracle tech for several years."

Redmond has an almighty job to do to get on a level playing field with Amazon, let alone accelerate past it.

Tornado sucks data

So where are we?

We can say that nothing fundamental in the technology sense happened to cloud storage in 2013. But the move of backup and archive data to the cloud, as well as the move of unstructured data to the cloud seems unstoppable. It’s reminiscent of the early days of backup-to-disk when deduplication arrived and an irreversible move from on-premises tape to on-premises disk backup started.

It is very early days still. Gartner said in September no public cloud was truly enterprise class in its view. Amazon was closest to that target, with Azure second and Rackspace third.

Despite cloud outages and cloud supplier failures cloud storage as a market grew strongly in 2013. It was helped by cloud storage functionality extensions - like Splunk offering analytics as a service using Amazon's cloud - and price-cutting and, the largest factor, intense competition between Amazon, Google and Azure, with Rackspace joining in too and, latterly, Verizon.

After Larry Ellison's sniffy dismissal of cloud computing some time ago Oracle is now jumping tight into the cloud idea.

We think Oracle’s strategy is to sell Oracle application services to its customers in its public cloud and not be a generic cloud compute and storage supplier. Effectively it’s an Oracle app-only cloud with Oracle not wanting its customers to go to Amazon or other public cloud providers to run Oracle software.

It’s main cloud enemy is Amazon and it’s partnering with Microsoft to help that struggle.

The AGA trio dominate the cloud storage landscape and Amazon, with Bezos as the Aga Khan so to speak, dominates this threesome and everyone else. Can anyone catch it?

The cloud storage market has only been around for a very few years and the total addressable market is huge. It is far too early to call out a winner here. Amazon is in the lead now but who knows what might happen?

Microsoft has a new CEO, Satya Nadella, and the cloud is a major focus for him. Google has an almost bottomless purse and the cloud is critical to it. All three think they can build a significant and enduring cloud presence, which means good prices and good service for customers as reliability and security issues get addressed.

Look for cloud storage to boom in 2014, with Amazon setting the pace and both Google and Microsoft following very close behind. ®

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