Thursday, September 19, 2013

Contingency Planning and a Fallen Cloud

This week’s news of Nirvanix shutting down has sent the cloud storage world into a flurry.  In the wake of the carnage, service providers are positioning their storage offerings as the new data safe haven while customers are reeling with renewed issues of trust.  

What does the Nirvanix failure say about the industry?  Should we interpret this as a sign of the overall health of cloud storage?

With literally dozens of potential cloud storage offerings ranging from local MSPs to major infrastructure providers, consolidations and failures are inevitable.  Working with such a wide variety of providers, we’re seeing offerings that are runaway successes and others that are struggling to land a few customers.  One thing is certain: overall, the cloud storage market is rapidly growing and the Nirvanix failure just signals the end of the land grab and time for organizations to focus on maturing their offerings. 

Should customers have seen the writing on the wall?  Possibly, but looking for signs is a weak indicator in many situations.  Who would have foreseen Google shuttering its Google Reader service with millions of loyal customers?

So with future failures and consolidations being inevitable, what can customers do to protect themselves?

Some argue the only way to protect against cloud failures is to avoid cloud services.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  Whether organizations care to admit it or not, most cloud providers are far better at delivering their specific service reliably and more cost effectively than any individual organization.  After all, it is their core competency and the way they make money.  In most cases, “going it alone” leaves organizations with far more exposure for loss and at a much higher cost than trusting a service provider.

Cloud services are built on the mantra of “everything fails”.  Each component of the solution is analyzed in the event it is lost and contingencies for it are added.  Your adoption of cloud services should be the same: What are the parts of my cloud storage solution (storage provider, network, cloud gateway, etc.) and what happens when - not if - each component fails.  How do you recover?  What if that piece will never come back? 

All of these are solvable problems depending on your specific requirements and tolerances:
  1. Ask the hard questions of all providers that make up your storage solution – it’s not just about how your data will survive a technology failure, but also a business failure.
  2. Look for storage providers with physical Import/Export services.  FedEx and its competitors are the only multi-TB/s networks around, in case you need to make a rapid change.
  3. Know your migration options.
  4. Work with multiple storage providers or keep an internal copy of data
  5. Leverage gateway and other supporting technologies that do not lock you into proprietary data formats.
If this week’s news of Nirvanix has shown us anything, it is that cloud services can fail like any other service.  To plan for success, you must prepare for failure along the way.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Maldivica Storage Connector 1.3.3 Update

We are pleased to announce the release of the latest version of the Storage Connector, version 1.3.3, available for immediate download from the Maldivica Portal.

Release Highlights:
  • S3 API Support
  • Connect to AWS S3 or other object storage platforms supporting the S3 API
  • Multi-part upload support
  • Simplified configuration for synchronizing multiple Storage Connectors against same storage repository
  • Support for multiple regions in OpenStack Swift
  • Support of renaming objects greater than 5GB in OpenStack Swift
  • Added support for additional video, image, and scientific data file formats for metadata extraction
  • Collection of performance enhancements
  • Bug fixes described in product release notes
If you are an existing customer, you can upgrade your deployments directly from the WebUI or CLI - please see the Knowledge Base in the Maldivica Portal for details.  Enterprise customers, please contact for the installation ISO.

Please visit the Maldivica Portal or contact for any questions regarding the new release or inquiries about upgrading to the Enterprise Edition.

Not yet using the Storage Connector?  Sign up on the Maldivica Portal and try it out today with a free 30 day trial.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us, leave a comment, or send us a tweet!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Public Cloud Storage – Gold Rush or Great Bust?

Depending on your source, public cloud storage offerings are growing with wild success or look more like the average boat investment. We work with a wide variety of cloud storage providers, ranging from the world’s largest installations with many petabytes under management all the way to local MSPs with well less than 100 TB usable capacity. While scale may help with unit cost, it is far from the best measure or predictor of success. We know providers where storage revenues aren’t covering the power bill to keep their disks spinning and others that can’t add capacity fast enough to satisfy growing demand. 

So what separates the pack?

At the risk of being cliché: “Knowing your audience”. Just like it’s the difference between a standing ovation and everyone staring at their smartphones in public speaking, success depends on delivering a well-articulated, targeted message (and offering).
  1. Not a field of dreams – If you’re counting on brand new customers to drive revenues for your storage offering, save yourself a lot of time and money and pack it in now. If you build it, they won’t come.  There are far too many offerings in the market to be successful with your version. Seriously, unless your core business is cloud storage and you are dedicating every last company resource to it, you will not be successful.

    However, a new cloud storage offering as an enhancement for your existing customers can be very lucrative. The average organization is facing immense storage problems and there’s a lot of money out there for helping to solve these issues.  You need to already have the trust of your customers to start the necessary conversations to help them.
  2. Verticalize – While not an absolute requirement, there are much stronger adoption rates for cloud storage in certain verticals than others and for often very different reasons.  Targeting verticals that already are considering cloud storage will save you immensely in wasted marketing dollars and dead-end conversations. 
  3. Create Packages – Offer packages built around common cloud storage use cases that are relevant to your customer base. It will help your customers understand how they can use your offering and frame discussions for your sales team to engage with. Cloud storage truly is the Swiss army knife of data storage; it’s pretty good at a lot of things. But like a Swiss army knife, until you figure out those first couple of important uses, it will just sit in a drawer rather than being in your pocket wherever you go. 
  4. Partner with a Storage Gateway provider – Self-serving point, perhaps.  But regardless of which provider you choose, teaming up with a storage gateway is critical to be successful.  Cloud storage APIs are new concepts to most organizations and modifying applications and business workflows to use them is time and resource consuming. Getting the changes into production can literally take years and glossing over this with customers will quickly lose them before they even get started. And that flashy Web UI and trusty CLI tool you have may demo great, but it’s a long stretch to fit these into most customer’s existing workflows.

    Storage gateways remove these challenges upfront and dramatically simplify a business’s ability to get started with cloud storage. We’ve spent years designing and building our products to fit seamlessly into existing environments and start solving customer problems immediately. Storage is extremely sticky.  Once customers solve a real problem with your solution using a gateway, there are many more opportunities with them that will follow.
  5. Be transparent – Let your customers know how your offering is built.  Cloud “standards” are far from being standard (see my previous post).  Being upfront with your customers on how and why your offering is built the way it is will go a long way in starting a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. Security is invariably cited as the number one inhibitor to cloud storage adoption. While protecting bytes is obviously part of this, security is largely business speak for trusting the provider.
Demand for public cloud storage is growing rapidly. Capturing your piece requires a clear, targeted offering that your customers can understand and start using to solve their problems immediately.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

An API by any other name

Amazon S3 and OpenStack Swift have emerged as the two application programming interface (API) “standards” that cloud and object storage providers have centered around. Nearly every vendor has released or is in the process of developing an interface to their storage platform according to one or both of these APIs. Even tech giant Google provides a fairly comprehensive compatibility API to Amazon’s S3. But what do these “standards” really mean?

Unfortunately, it just means customers have to ask a lot more questions. How do you handle large files? What is a large file in your system? How is metadata updated? How is authentication handled? What about storing content in multiple regions? Is the underlying S3 compatible platform from EMC, Scality, someone else? Is your Openstack API from Swift or Ceph? Even within the same platform, there are differences. Is the storage system running OpenStack Swift with the Essex or Grizzly release? Think it doesn’t matter? Guess again…

We spend a great deal of time with cloud storage service providers, object storage vendors, and our customers working through compatibility issues. At least at the moment, the only thing “standard” about different implementations of these APIs is the name. Learning the differences has been anything but straightforward. For completely unknown reasons, some cloud storage providers are reluctant to disclose which underlying storage platform they’re using. Some object storage vendors are requiring secret handshakes to get the internal compatibility matrix to these API “standards”. 

There’s absolutely no shame in being different. Anyone who’s worked with any of these APIs at length knows there’s good and bad in all of them and frankly, supporting only a subset of one can actually be a benefit. Understanding the differences is the only way customers can make an educated decision on adopting your service or platform.

Our industry has long since given up on tempering Marketing’s zeal to claim all things to all people. We get it, at Internet speed and today’s competitive environment; being caught with yesterday’s capabilities is a real risk.  And besides most towns do look the same at 39,000 feet, but you still need to pack a very different bag if you’re landing in Albuquerque vs. Anchorage. With more and more adaptations of these “standards” coming out almost monthly, every organization owes it to customers and prospects to clearly disclose what their implementation really means. Trust me, everyone will thank you for it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

SNW Spring 2013

We're here at SNW in Orlando with the HP Cloud Services team.  Please feel free to stop by the HPCS Booth (#107) to check out a demo of our Storage Connector with HP Cloud Object Storage.  See you there!

Monday, March 25, 2013

What happens when we break up?

That’s right, not if, but when. Nobody wants to enter a relationship thinking about the end, but with business technology, it’s an inevitable. Applications evolve, business needs shift, employees and their preferences change. Vendors establish long term, but ultimately transient relationships with customers. About the only thing that is expected to last forever is your data, which is why this is such an important question when it comes to Cloud Storage Gateways (Cloud Storage Controllers).

Many Cloud Storage Controllers store your data in a proprietary format in the cloud. This creates a closed system requiring you to access your data through its interface. During normal operation, this may or may not be a big deal. You simply deploy another Controller at each and every location you want to access your data. But what happens when it’s time to make a change?

Let’s look at the case where a business has 50TB under management of a Cloud Storage Controller and they want to change. They’re happy with cloud storage, but no longer want the Storage Controller. In order to switch, they must make two complete migrations of their data: one to get their data out of the proprietary format, and another to put it back into cloud storage.

What will switching cost at today’s prices?
  • An entry-level storage platform with 50TB of usable capacity will run $20,000-25,000
  • ~6-8U of rack space plus required power in your data center
  • Outbound bandwidth for 50TB from the storage provider will run ~$5000
  • 3-4 months of total data transfer time (assuming ~100Mbps sustained)
  • Same amount of time for an administrator to babysit the process

All in, a business with 50TB under management would be looking at close to $50,000 (a full $1/GB, or about a years worth of cloud storage) just to change Storage Controllers.

But just for argument's sake, let’s say this truly is that match made in heaven. Even then, has the vendor guaranteed backwards compatibility with the format they are currently using? How long before the technology and format evolves? Ever wanted to read that old LTO-2 tape with an LTO-5 device? Typically you’re forced to maintain outdated hardware or undergo a migration to the updated system.

On the other hand, the Maldivica Storage Connector provides an open system, storing data in its native format and ensuring you are always able to access it. In fact, because we store content in its native format, any authorized application (ecosystem tools, custom applications, etc.) that uses the storage API can access your data directly without requiring an instance of Maldivica being deployed as an intermediary, saving time and money as your applications evolve. Even content encrypted by Maldivica uses industry standard AES256 encryption meaning you are able to decrypt it without needing the Maldivica platform. Storing data in its native format means you will never be required to undergo massive data migrations or face daunting forklift upgrades.

So what happens when we break up?

We still hope that never happens, but when your needs change and Maldivica is no longer necessary in your environment, you shut down our Storage Connectors, close your account, and move on with your business. Your data remains safe, intact in the storage platform you chose and entirely under your control.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Product Release News - Maldivica Storage Connector 1.3.0

We are pleased to announce the release of Maldivica Storage Connector version 1.3.0, available for immediate download from the Maldivica Portal.

Release Highlights:
  • Active Directory integration for CIFS shares (Professional and Enterprise Editions)
    • Integrate the Maldivica Storage Connector with your existing Active Directory domain
    • Create CIFS shares that are limited to specific users or groups
    • Persist primary file permissions to cloud storage with CIFS shares (NFS already supported)
  • Support for server side copy of files within cloud storage shares
  • Added support for sending file metadata to ElasticSearch index/search engine (Enterprise Edition)
  • Bug fixes described in product release notes

If you are an existing customer, you can upgrade your deployments directly from the WebUI or CLI - please see the Knowledge Base in the Maldivica Portal for details.  Enterprise customers, please contact for the installation ISO.

If you're already a Starter Edition customer and you're interested in upgrading, you can upgrade to Professional Edition by downloading and deploying the Professional Edition from the Maldivica Portal. Please visit the Maldivica portal or contact for any questions regarding the new release or inquiries about upgrading to the Enterprise Edition.

Not yet using the Storage Connector?  Sign up on the Maldivica Portal and try it out today with a free 30 day trial.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us, leave a comment, or send us a tweet!