The notion of standardizing access to object-based cloud storage across vendors and cloud providers is not new but promises to have a positive impact on cloud storage users and overall adoption. In his recent article, A Call for More Cloud Storage Standards Support, Mike Vizard calls for IT organizations to help hasten vendors toward compliance with the CDMI standards currently in draft.
The benefits of standards compliance are tangible, alleviating vendor lock-in due to proprietary cloud storage interfaces and enabling tighter integration of cloud storage with applications and operating systems, all while maintaining a choice of cloud vendors. What this translates to is customer “freedom of mobility” between different public and private cloud providers and investment protection for infrastructure or solutions that depend on cloud storage.
With standards still in progress, many cloud storage customers have discovered cloud storage mobility and freedom through cloud storage gateways, like CloudArray. These gateways eliminate vendor lock-in by using already standardized storage protocols, such as iSCSI, offering compatibility with the vast majority of operating systems and applications presently in use. Gateways make cloud storage compliant with today’s standards and bypass vendor lock-in concerns. Does this mean that gateways deem CDMI unnecessary? Not for every case. Customers unwilling to trade object-based interfaces for today’s standard block or file interfaces would still make a valid case for the CDMI standard.
On the other hand, consider that gateways provide a number of additional benefits that standards will not address, particularly when augmenting on-premise storage environments with cloud storage. These include:
- Local caching and optimized cloud layout to improve performance. See John Bates’s write-ups on how gateways can vastly improve cloud storage performance here and here
- Data reduction to reduce the amount of data stored in the cloud by eliminating duplicate data
- At-rest encryption to ensure all data leaving the on-premise environment is fully secure
- Improved data mobility using “cloud to cloud” migration rather than inefficiently moving data between providers via an on-premise hop
These features, along with others, are highly desirable with or without cloud standards in place. Even customers preferring to use object-based interfaces to cloud storage may choose to utilize a gateway that offers access via the CDMI standard to enjoy these added benefits – perhaps a roadmap item for future gateways.
While cloud standards promise native cloud storage compatibility, gateways provide an easy and practical entry to cloud storage today, offering cloud provider interoperability and a wealth of benefits that will continue long after standards are approved.