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Tech Insight Part I - The Evolving Cloud and How It Impacts Storage

Q&A with Wes Purdue on how Seagate plans to strengthen the cloud computing infrastructure and support its evolving requirements – at WHD Global 2012 in Germany.

Cloud computing is experiencing strong sustained growth across the industry, and the relevance of the emerging cloud market to storage and how the cloud infrastructure is evolving is consequently driving increased demand for storage products.

These Q&As address how Seagate, the world leader in storage devices, plans to strengthen the cloud computing infrastructure and how it will manage environmental operating conditions, workloads, data protection models, security and new storage requirements.    

Wes Purdue is the director of enterprise PLM cloud strategy at Seagate Technology. He recently spoke at WHD Global 2012 in Europa-Park Rust, Germany.

Q: How is the emerging cloud computing impacting storage, and why is the cloud space important to Seagate?

Wes Purdue:The whole cloud space is very important to Seagate. In fact, it’s a strategic imperative. Service providers do things just a little bit different than their traditional IT brethren. They push the envelope in a lot of different ways, increasing efficiencies and improving costs. And as a hard drive and solid state drive manufacturer, we’re trying to fully understand those differences and what opportunities exist to optimize storage devices for this space. That’s what it’s really all about and why this is really important to Seagate. It’s important to understand what these changes are and that it is driving a strong demand for storage devices.

Q: In U.S. dollars, what is the total size of the cloud market and what does it mean for storage?

Purdue: This year, worldwide cloud services revenue is a little bit over US$100 billion. In a couple of years, it’s projected to approach about US$150 billion (Source: Gartner, April 2011). We believe these services enable and drive new applications, and those applications need data, they need storage, and, of course, that is what we like.

From a worldwide perspective, the cloud services revenue breaks down to about 57% in the Americas, 19% in Europe, leaving about 24% in APAC (Source: Various – Gartner, CRN, Seagate, April 2011).

But if you had to point to a single area as far as where the strongest growth really is, it’s probably in APAC.

Q: How do tablets and smart devices factor into the growth of the cloud and storage?

Purdue: In 2015, Gartner Research is projecting that one billion smartphones and 326 million tablets will be sold. Think of those numbers in terms of this ratio Intel shared in their 2011 Investors Conference: for every 600 smartphones, you need a server, and for every 122 tablets, you also need a server. So you need 1.6 million servers to support those smartphones and you need 2.6 million servers to support those tablets. That’s 4.2 million servers to support this mobile infrastructure. And, again, these servers require storage.

Q: So how does this affect Seagate’s enterprise business?

Purdue: In 2011, 23% of enterprise capacity was used for cloud infrastructure; in a couple of years, that’s projected to be 39% (Source: IDC, Dec. 2009 Worldwide Cloud Services Storage System Capacity Shipped 2007–2013).

Now personally, I don’t believe all data is going to go into the cloud, because of the nature of some of the data that’s out there, and/or the culture of some companies out there. In particular, with public clouds, there are just going to be some data companies who don’t trust a third party to protect their data.

Q: How do you expect Seagate to achieve a leadership position in the cloud infrastructure?

Purdue: From a strategy standpoint, Seagate plans to be the market leader and the technology leader, and in large part, we will be doing that by developing strategic partnerships, engaging with key partners and, through that engagement, understanding what their challenges and issues are so we can bake that back into the product development process and optimize drives that better fit these applications.

Q: When you engage with potential strategic partners, what are some of the specific issues that are typically discussed?

Purdue: The first topic is usually data center infrastructure. You can have a 50,000 or 60,000 square meter data center, a huge build–out data center, or a very small, modular, container–type of data center, and what we’ve learned across the board is that it really doesn’t matter the type of data center. What really matters is the application and the architecture from a software standpoint that exists in terms of what storage device is needed for that application or a given set of applications in these data centers.

Secondly, and related to this, is the data center environment. The Tier 1 service providers, they're building their own data centers and just about all of them are deploying this free air or fresh air cooling economizers, and they are doing that for power and cooling. Power and cooling is probably the number one operating expense in a data center and they want to operate their data centers with free air–cooling more days out of the year, as much as possible.

Q: What are some of the most interesting and challenging infrastructure issues that your partners face?

Purdue: A lot of these infrastructures are virtualized in terms of workload utilization. As we talk to the cloud architects, a lot of them are in the process of revamping their file systems, their software stacks, and they want to improve the utilization of their key components. They are basically saying that the workloads one year from now will look nothing like they do today. They say that whenever a processor isn’t calculating, isn’t processing, we [the service provider] are not making any money. Whenever a hard drive is not reading and writing, the service provider is not making any money. So what’s ideal for them, what’s nirvana for them, is for the hard drives to read and write all the time, 24×7, with no idle time.

This is challenging because we use idle time to do background checks and to do some scans. So in addition to drives being used in harsher environments, they are going to be working harder in these harsher environments.

Read Part 2 of this article

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