Some quick impressions from the SNIA cloud storage symposium.

Not everyone believes in economies of scale
At least one presenter questioned whether there are economies of scale that justify the higher latency and lower bandwidth of cloud storage. I recently wondered about that myself.

But since then I’ve checked James Hamilton’s work on cold bulk storage. I’m now comfortable that there are significant economies of scale – at least for rarely accessed data – in a well-architected and managed large-scale data center.

There’s one more problem with economies of scale: some strategists and analysts are unclear on the concept. “Why can’t any enterprise do what Amazon or Google do?” they ask.

If 500 petabytes costs less per GB than 10 PB does, then the economic pressure to build 500 PB data centers is constant. If your company only needs 10 PB you will never be as cost-effective as the 500 PB data center.

Every class A data center has its own diesel generator set, but they get 99% of their electricity from the power company. Why? Because it’s cheaper.

ZFS flagged
Several presenters mentioned Sun’s ZFS as a significant enabler of cloud storage, none more enthusiastically than Joyent’s Ben Rockwood, author of the excellent Cuddletech blog. Ben made a compelling point about OpenSolaris: given Solaris’ industrial strength and many cool features – like Dtrace and ZFS – why wouldn’t you use it instead of Linux?

Most surprising company
You know the cluster storage software company with hundreds of customers, the leader in healthcare image storage and archiving, whose resellers include HP and IBM, with 10s of petabytes under management? Me neither.

Meet Bycast. They’ve been in business 10 years. Coolest feature: you can set it up so you don’t have to back up the data. Yes, people are doing that in production today.

The StorageMojo take
Ever since Google built a huge, low-cost storage infrastructure from commodity parts, the proprietary array business has been living on borrowed time. Optimized for structured transactional data, traditional cached RAID arrays will be around for many years to come, but expect a long decline.

The growth in file data, especially consumer digital content, has made data both cooler and massive. As network bandwidth improves, remote storage becomes more attractive.

There are 3 key elements to the cloud puzzle:

  • Economies of scale. The steeper the slope the faster data will migrate to remote storage.
  • Network bandwidth. A faster network makes remote storage more compelling.
  • Component, product, solution? People don’t want to buy storage – they want save and protect their important data.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. Get copies of the presentations here.