Big Tin

Big tin: IT infrastructure used by organisations to run their businesses. And other stuff too when I feel like it…

Cloud transfers made easy

transfer

Transfers made easy

A while back, I wrote about the problem of consumer trust in the cloud – in particular, the problem of what happens when your cloud provider decides to change the T&Cs to your detriment, and how this can erode the trust that consumers, already alert to the technology industry’s much-publicised failures, are in danger of losing.

The issue that prompted this was the massive capacity reduction by Amazon for its cloud storage service – Cloud Drive – from unlimited to a maximum of 5GB. The original price was just £55 a year but Amazon’s new price for 15TB, for example, is £1,500.

So at this point, unless you’re happy to pay that amount, two solutions suggest themselves. The first is to invest in a pile of very large hard disks – twice as many as you need because, you know, backups, and then become your own storage manager. Some excellent NAS devices and software packages such as FreeNAS make this process much easier than it used to be, but you’ll still need to manage the systems and/or buy the supporting hardware, and pay the power bill.

The alternative is to retain some trust in the cloud – while remaining wary. But this is only half the solution; I’ll get back to that later.

This individual has found another cloud provider, Google G Suite, which offers unlimited storage and a whole heap of business services for a reasonable £6 per month. Google requires you to own your domain and to be hosting your own website but if you can satisfy those requirements, you’re in. Other cloud providers have deals too but this was the best deal I could find.

Cloud-to-cloud transfer
So the problem then is how to transfer a large volume of data to the new cloud service. One way is to re-upload it but this is very long-winded: using a 20Mbps fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connection it will take months, it can clog up your connection if you have other uses for that bandwidth, and for anyone on a metered broadband connection it will be expensive too. And if you don’t run a dedicated server, you’ll need a machine left on during this time.

Cloud-to-cloud transfer services exist to solve this problem, – and after some research, I found cloudHQ. For a reasonable fee – or for free if you blog about it (yes, this what I’m doing here) – cloudHQ will transfer data between a range of cloud services, including Google, Amazon (S3 and Cloud Drive), Gmail, Box, Basecamp, Office 365, Evernote and many more.

CloudHQ does more: it will backup and sync in real time too, forward emails, save them as PDFs, act as a repository for large attachments, and a range of other email- and scheduling related services for Google and other cloud providers.

The basic service is free but this is limited to 20GB and a maximum file size of 150MB – but the next tier up – Premium – costs £19.80 a month and offers pretty much everything the power user could want.

Hybrid clouds and backup
So is cloudHQ the solution to the problem of cloud-to-cloud transfers? Yes, but putting your data in the cloud still leaves you with a single copy without a backup (I said I’d get back to this). So either you need another cloud service, in which case cloudHQ will keep them in sync, or you create a hybrid solution, where the primary data lives under your direct control and management, but the off-site backup lives in the cloud.

This hybrid setup is the one that businesses are increasingly opting for, and for good reason. And frankly, since your irreplaceable personal data – think photos and the like – is at risk unless you keep at least two copies, preferably three, then using both local and cloud storage make huge sense.

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Filed under: Cloud computing, Consumer, data protection, Servers, Storage, Technology, , , ,

Seagate’s new KOS disk drives aim to entice cloud builders

Among the most interesting conversations I had at the storage show SNW (aka Powering the Cloud) in Frankfurt this year was with Seagate’s European cloud initiatives director Joe Fagan, as we talked about the company’s proposed Kinetic Open Storage (KOS) drives.

The disk drive company is trying to move up the stack from what has become commodity hardware by converting its drives into servers. Instead of attaching using a SATA or SAS connector, Kinetic drives will have – a SATA or SAS connector, not an RJ45. But the data flowing inside the connector will be using IP not storage protocols, while the connector remains the same for compatibility purposes.

The aim is to help builders of large-scale infrastructures, such as cloud providers, to build denser, object-based systems by putting the server on the storage, rather than, to paraphrase Fagan, spending the energy on a Xeon or two per server along with a bunch of other hardware. Seagate argues that KOS could eliminate a layer of hardware between applications and storage, so data will flow from the application servers directly to storage rather than, as now, being translated into a variety of protocols before it hits the disk.

Fagan said two cloud builders were interested in the technology.

Behind this is, of course, a bid to grab some of the cash that enterprises and consumers are spending on cloud applications and services.

There are a few ‘howevers’, as you might imagine. Among the first is that every disk drive will need an IP address. This has huge implications for the network infrastructure and for network managers. Suddenly, there will be a lot more IP addresses to deal with, they will have to be subnetted and VLANned – did I mention that Kinetic drives will use IPV4? – and all this assumes you can summon up enough v4 addresses to start with.

Another concern is that mechanical disk drives fail relatively frequently while servers don’t, as of course they have no moving parts. So when a drive fails – and in large-scale deployments they surely will – you have to throw away the internal server too. Could be expensive.

And finally, there’s also a huge amount of inertia in the shape of today’s installed systems and the expertise needed to manage and operate them.

Is that enough to halt the initiative? Seagate clearly hopes not, and hopes too that other drive makers will come on board and develop their own versions in order to help validate the concept. It has provided APIs to help app developers exploit the concept.

As ever, time will tell. But will you find these drives in a server near you any time soon? Don’t hold your breath.

Filed under: Data centre, Storage, , , , , , ,

Cloud means gloom for hardware vendors – or does it?

Maintaining a good relationship with hardware vendors is an essential element of any cloud or service provider’s daily process. The problem is that, if some recent gloomy predictions come true, there will be fewer of them. That’s the line from Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technology officer, among others, according to this piece on ZDNet. But is it true?
Vogels reckons that, as enterprises aim to reduce capital expenditure by buying in an increasing number of services, hardware vendors will suffer a squeeze in sales, and so revenues.

The rest of this article can be found here.

Filed under: Business, Cloud computing, Enterprise, Technology, , , , , ,

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