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Why Enterprises are Considering Cloud

While the term “cloud storage” is relatively new, any IT manager knows that the concept has been around for a long time. Any time users called the help desk because they couldn’t access their project files on the “G drive” or to complain that their email inbox was full, those users were probably using cloud storage without even realizing it.

The idea behind cloud storage is pretty straightforward; instead of using a local hard drive, users access files remotely, either over the Internet or the company’s private intranet. The explosion of publicly available cloud storage solutions and the need for users to access data via mobile devices, however, have pushed this issue to the forefront.

Still in Fashion

According to Barbara Read, an opportunity manager with IBM’s IT Optimization Consulting practice, client interest in cloud storage strategy has picked up again after a brief lull. “It’s interesting because it was all the rage back in 2010 and 2011. We saw it lag a little bit in 2012 and then pick up again in the latter part of 2013, with a lot of interest in 2014,” Read says. “Certainly the evolution from cloud to software-defined environments (SDEs) has injected some new life into the cloud conversations we’re having with our clients.”

Phil Gilmer, an information infrastructure consultant in IBM’s IT Optimization Consulting group agrees. “At this point, a lot of our clients are still—especially from the large enterprise perspective—just exploring possibilities. Most everybody wants to better understand what cloud storage is about and how they might best leverage it for their business.”

Optimization Is Key

Cloud storage solutions remain in vogue because clients are looking for operational efficiencies and cost reduction when it comes to storage infrastructure. When Read and Gilmer talk to clients about cloud storage, they’re doing so as part of a larger effort to help companies optimize their environments through consolidation, virtualization, rationalization and automation by leveraging structures such as IBM’s SDE. It’s a construct that enables compute, network and storage resources to more quickly adapt IT infrastructure to changing business application workload needs.

Say a company has assets in spread-out data centers—whether located throughout the country or on one campus—and wants to consolidate management of those centers without moving the hardware.

“The key lever in any kind of optimization effort is to consolidate those capabilities into combined resources that then can be managed more efficiently and effectively through economies of scale,” Gilmer says. “To the degree you’re managing that with software you’ve defined within what we call templates or patterns of IT deployment, you are in a position where you’re not having to custom build and dedicate specific pieces of an IT infrastructure to meet specific workloads. It’s kind of a tiered systems approach that can support mission-critical workloads that require high performance, high availability, specific security requirements or data to be retained in a certain way—as well as other workloads with distinctly different requirements.”

Choosing the Right Cloud

With cloud implementations coming in various forms, businesses first must determine their best path. Should they use public or private clouds or perhaps a hybrid? Should they handle storage in-house or find a partner?

Sometimes clients opt for public cloud storage. Major players in the market—including IBM SoftLayer* or Cloud Managed Services (formerly SmartCloud* Enterprise+), Amazon S3, Google Storage and Microsoft* Azure—offer solutions that might be a good fit for application software sandboxing and other test environments, for example. Other clients will look to the public cloud for archiving or disaster recovery support.

Joel Keller is a freelance writer who started his career as an IT specialist at IBM, where he worked for nine years before leaving to follow his passion for writing full time.



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