Cloud computing and cloud storage have become the preferred method for delivering information and online functionality. While some cloud services focus on providing consumers with a broad range of services and functionalities, including e-tail shopping, research, social media networking, entertainment consumption and protecting important digital documents, other cloud services focus on small businesses, large enterprises, governments and other institutions.
Various cloud services provide cloud storage to consumers at no charge, while others charge some type of subscription-based fee. There are also private clouds that are owned and controlled by an organisation, providing a secure network for sharing critical software and data. For example, hospitals can choose to use public archiving services for electronic medical records (EMR) and patient image data (using PACS), or they can create their own cloud archive solution. In addition, hospitals can pool their budgets and resources to create a shared private cloud consortium or group. Private clouds are created using hardware, software and other tools from different vendors, where the actual servers are managed either onsite or offsite. Hybrid clouds, as the name suggests, combine various public and private cloud resources into a service or solution.
At the core of all cloud services, products and solutions are software tools with three underlying pillars of functionality: tools for processing data and running applications (compute servers), moving data (networking) and preserving or storing data (storage).
This article discusses cloud computing and storage architectures, drawing on fundamental enterprise and IT data storage knowledge.
Background and Challenges
Cloud computing and cloud storage have become hot topics for addressing common IT problems and challenges, while also enabling new opportunities. For some environments, the primary goal is to cut costs, while for others it is to support growth. Additionally, some environments need to enhance service level objectives (SLOs) as well as meet service level agreements (SLAs) for availability, performance, security and data protection.
Common challenges addressed by cloud solutions include the following:
|Fixed or reduced budgets
||Do more with available budgets while still supporting growth
|Demand for new functionality
||Agility enabled by rapid deployment
|Support growth with stability
||Elasticity that supports growth with resiliency
|Information privacy and security
||Multi-tenancy for safe co-existence
||Flexible business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR)
|Enhance customer service
||Reduce time to market and enable new opportunities
|Lack of mobility or flexibility
||Enable anywhere access from different devices
What are Cloud Solutions?
Cloud solutions are tools for creating and storing content or information, as well as strategies for where and how to consume it. These solutions are used for creating virtual infrastructures for large and small organisations to host applications or business functions, as well as a place to develop and test new capabilities. Additionally, they include pay-as-you-go services or products (hardware, software and networks) and solutions that you can buy to install in your specific environment.
First, here are some common terms and phrases related to cloud solutions:
- Optimised and cost-effective: aligns resources to SLOs to meet SLAs
- Menu of service options to choose from: resource tiering aligned to cost and SLAs
- Elastic, scalable with stability: supports growth without adding complexity
- Resilient, flexible and dynamic: adapting to changing needs and delivering availability
- Rapid or self-provisioning: accesses resources and services quickly
- Secure and multi-tenant: safe separation of users while maintaining data integrity
- Metered and managed: metrics for reporting, analysis and service management
- Scale at density: exploit multi-tenant and economies of scale to cut costs
SaaS to PaaS and IaaS
Also, Software as a Service (SaaS) that is consumed via cloud solutions includes personal or consumer entertainment (Netflix), news and social media networking (Facebook, Skype and Twitter), photo sharing, file sharing (Dropbox), email, music and online backup services.
In addition to providing distinct functionality for consumers, large and small businesses also use cloud solutions for improving productivity. For example, document sharing (Google Docs), customer relationship management or CRM (Salesforce.com), expense reporting (Concur), payroll (ADP), email, file sharing, backup and archiving. In addition to presenting SaaS, cloud providers also have tools and environments for Platform as a Service (PaaS) to support development and creation of SaaS services, among others.
The types of storage layers for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) include capabilities such as web or virtual machines (VMs), storage for online file sharing, backup or archiving, database, search and development tools. These capabilities enable cloud providers themselves or third parties to create customised solutions by combining the various cloud functionalities or layers with services provided.
SaaS cloud storage solutions include file, document, music, photo and video sharing, backup/restore, BC and DR, along with archiving capabilities. Other cloud storage options include database, big data analytics (including Hadoop and map-reduce based services), cloud drives and other applications exploiting back-end cloud storage. Cloud storage solutions also extend to products and solutions used for deploying public, private and hybrid clouds.
Products and solutions are the most common cloud storage service building blocks of physical storage systems. Private cloud and public services from SaaS to PaaS and IaaS exploit tiered storage, including solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disc drives (HDDs). Similar to traditional enterprise storage environments, cloud services and solution providers exploit a mix of different storage technology tiers that meet different SLO and SLA requirements. For example, using fast SSDs for dense I/O consolidation — supporting database journals and indices, metadata for fast lookup and other transactional data — enables more work to be performed with less energy in a denser and more cost-effective footprint.
Using a mixture of ultra-fast SSDs along with high-capacity HDDs provides a balance of performance and capacity to meet other service requirements with different service cost options.
With cloud services, instead of specifying what type of physical drive to buy, cloud providers cater for that by providing various availability, cost, capacity, functionality and performance options to meet different SLA and SLO requirements.
At the heart of legacy IT, hosting, managed service provider (MSP) and clouds are common building blocks, which include networking, processing and storage technologies.
Different types of servers, networks and storage technologies meet various cloud computing and cloud storage requirements (for example, dense rack and blade servers with different numbers of sockets and cores at various GHz speeds, threads, amount of memory and I/O expansion capabilities). Networking options include fast 40GbE and 100GbE for backhaul or trunk circuits, along with the more common 10GbE and 1GbE for virtual private networks (VPN) and bandwidth optimisation.
Data storage options or tiers include ultra-fast SSDs, as well as fast medium- and high-capacity HDDs. Storage management features include data protection — high availability (HA), backup (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) — as well as footprint reduction (DFR) for space optimisation, such as compression, deduplication and thin provisioning, which enables more information to be stored for longer periods at lower costs.
Software tools are also very important in creating services and solutions, and include APIs, middleware, databases, applications, hypervisors for creating virtual machines (VMs) and virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI), along with cloud stackware, such as OpenStack, and associated management tools. Examples of VMs and VDI hypervisors include Citrix/Xen, KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, Oracle and VMware ESX/vSphere.
In all three cases, data storage is configured into storage systems, storage appliances and compute servers.
Public clouds are services accessible at no charge or for a fee, providing different functionality, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Docs or Seagate® EVault® data backup software. Public clouds are controlled by their respective owners, whose customers choose to use their services. Private clouds, on the other hand, are owned or operated and controlled by organisations and are similar to legacy IT services delivery. However, note that private clouds built using publicly available components or services, and existing offsite in different cloud provider locations, are referred to as hybrid clouds.
Seagate and Cloud Storage
Seagate is the leader in enterprise storage and, not surprisingly, is also at the heart of the cloud infrastructure. Exploiting decades of experience in high-density, large-scale enterprise, institution, government, managed services and co-location environments, Seagate extends that knowledge to public and private cloud environments. In addition to industry-leading storage technology, Seagate has decades of experience working with various partners and their respective storage solutions, packaging, chassis and enclosures, testing and verification processes.
As a key supplier to private and public cloud and managed services providers, Seagate technology is found in enterprise environments and cloud data centres, and is used by managed service providers to small businesses and consumers. In other words, Seagate has been enabling cloud computing and cloud storage from the data centre to your pocket for some time!
Storage options for cloud computing and cloud storage environments from Seagate include the Pulsar® family of ultra-high performance SSDs. Complementing Pulsar drives are high–performance, 2.5 inch Savvio® 10K and Savvio 15K HDDs for higher-density scenarios, as well as energy-efficient Constellation® HDDs that can support a multiple terabyte configuration.
Table 1 shows how and where Seagate enables public and private cloud computing and cloud storage.
Table 1. How Seagate enables the Cloud
|Data Centre: Public, Private, Hybrid
|Mix of high performance and capacity
||Cost-effective, high capacity, energy saving
||Local and cloud storage
||Local and cloud storage
|Pulsar® (SSD), Savvio®15K and Savvio 10K 2.5 inch performance-optimised drives
||Constellation® and Constellation ES capacity-optimised drives
||GoFlex® Home network storage, Backup Plus personal storage and Satellite™ mobile wireless storage
Summary and Next Steps
There are many cloud solutions, each offering different services, functionalities and capabilities. Clouds services and functionality, including computing and storage, are combined to enable Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in public and private cloud solutions. These capabilities can be delivered as a service, as a product or as a bundled solution, also known as IT as a Service (ITaaS). In addition, cloud services are joined across public and private infrastructures to create hybrid clouds to meet your specific needs and requirements.
The creativity to address your various information needs and requirements is determined by how you or your service provider exploits cloud resources.
Learn more about cloud computing and cloud storage topics in the Solution Centre.