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SSPs versus Cloud storage Services

by Hu Yoshida on Jan 11, 2010

While Cloud computing is touted as a new way to mask the complexity of the IT infrastructure and provide IT services as “a pay as you grow” service, these concepts were introduced over 10 years ago with the service providers of the late 1990’s. These concepts were so appealing that they helped to fuel the dot com boom, but disappeared in the dot com crash of 2001/2002. What has changed to make us think that a shared services model like cloud computing and cloud storage will be successful this time around? Key to the success of cloud storage providers, as with the dot com storage services providers (SSP) of earlier days, will be the ability to leverage their resources and be more efficient in managing the growth of storage compared to their end users.

Many dot com SSPs went bust because each new customer that signed up required dedicated storage resources to ensure security and quality of service which destroyed the business model based on shared resources. Others had to over provision storage resources in order to meet peak demands while most of the time the storage was sitting idle consuming expensive data center floor space, power and cooling, and cash flow dollars. The dot com storage service providers were ahead of their times, unfornately the technology to support their business model was not available. Many thought that the introduction of Storage Area Networks was the technology solution but they soon found out that SANs provided connectivity but did not solve the problems of shared resources and dynamic provisioning. So what is different today for cloud storage providers?

The new technologies that will help cloud service providers are server and storage virtualization and dynamic provisioning.

Server virtualization will enable the dynamic sharing of server resource by virtual machines in a safe multi tenant environment. Storage virtualization will enable the ability to dynamically add capacity, move applications to the most cost effective tier of storage, and simplify the migration to new technology platforms. In the HDS USP V, partitioning and port priority processing can be used to ensure safe multi-tenancy and QoS for applications. Dynamic provisioning is the virtualization of storage capacity which enables thin provisioning, dynamic provisioning of LUNs, load balancing, and wide striping performance. It also allows over commitment of storage capacity to meet peak requirements.

While these new technologies solve the old problems of shared resources that the SSPs had to face, there are new challenges that have to be solved. One of the new challenges is driven by server virtualization and faster processors and networks. The old service providers used single core blade servers that drove one operating system’s worth of I/O load over 1 GB FC. Today the cloud service providers will be using multi core processors with multiple virtual machines, over 8 GB FC or 10 GB FCoE. This will require storage systems that can scale up to meet the increasing I/O demands of the servers, applications, and networks. The USP V with its 128 processors that are tightly coupled through a global cache will have the power to scale up as well as scale out through virtualization of external storage.

So while the dot com service providers are a memory, I believe the future of cloud services will be viable if we choose the right technologies for shared resources, safe multi-tenancy, flexible configurations, and the ability to scale up and out.

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[...] Hu Yoshida of HDS points out in his blog, SSPs were not a raging success. But they were not the colossal failure many assume – just ask the [...]

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