All the major computer software vendors are rushing to get onto the “cloud”. What this means exactly depends on who you talk to. The classic definition of “cloud” means to store data and run applications in an offsite location using a third-party to house this data and operate the servers and operating systems needed to host and run the customer’s application. The data and software is housed in data centers which can be thought of as extensions of the internet albeit with increased security. Amazon.com has for years been quietly building up this idea and is considered to be the leader in this industry. Now other technology vendors are rushing to get into the cloud market lest their offerings seem inadequate.
Ask another company what they mean by the “cloud” and they will describe for you what traditionally has been nothing more than locating one set of servers and disk storage in one location and another set in another location. The two are tied together by dedicated transmission lines, like T1, instead of using the public internet. The companies use the word “cloud” to describe this configuration, because the word has a certain panache and marketing appeal. For the old giant companies like Oracle, SAP, and IBM, it shows they are keeping up with their more nimble competitors. But from the perspective of the client, not much has changed.
Now that you understand the difference between the varying definitions of cloud storage, you can make the choice of where to store your data. Should you keep it in the Amazon cloud, use cloud offerings from other vendors, or buy your own equipment?
If you are a small company or a large company looking to reduce computing costs you can go to Amazon.com and use their cloud-based storage and be up and running in days if not hours. Cloud-based storage too is available for the small office and individuals. Google has Google Drive. Microsoft has the SkyDrive. Norton has Zone. Even pictures and video can be stored in the cloud. Flickr.com is the most widely-known cloud storage mechanism for photos and YouTube.com for videos. But none of these are suitable for enterprise data storage.
The alternative to using the cloud is to buy your own database storage systems from Oracle, EMC, IBM, or others and hire system administrators and programmers. Oracle of course bought Sun so that Oracle storage systems are those highly-respected systems which were formerly manufactured by Sun. EMC has been the market leader for many years for high-performance and fault-tolerant data storage but at a steep price.
To further complicate matters, the Oracle database is no longer the de facto standard for data storage. Their traditional design, which is almost 40 years old, of storage data in rows and tables is being pushed aside in certain sectors by what is known as “BigData”. This refers to databases designed to store complex data like videos, photos, and instant messages, data which does not fit so easily into an Oracle rows and columns. So vendors like Panasas have sprung up to specialize in providing solutions for this.
Lynx Technologies is one company whose target is traditional row and column enterprise data storage albeit at a price lower than the traditional vendors. Their data storage systems, like the other vendors, include SAN storage (”SAN” means “Storage Area Network”) connected by fiber optic cable to provide ultra-fast response time and solid reliability.
So, the decision of where to store the data, on the cloud or in the data center, and from whom to buy the hardware is governed by price, changing technology, and marketing from the vendors. It’s best to evaluate not only your storage needs, but you IT resources, when deciding which way to go.