Cloud storage appliances and applications are evolving rapidly, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's been keeping a close eye on how organizations are managing their information. For small and midsize businesses and large enterprises alike, data requirements are becoming more demanding and unpredictable, straining the legacy infrastructures these companies have long relied on.

New data requirements, applications create need for cost-effective storage
In this context, organizations need cloud storage solutions that are efficient, scalable and economical. Even as IT budgets remain mostly flat, data volumes are growing tremendously. A Sepaton study revealed that half of organizations with at least 50TB of data under their management expect their amounts to grow 15 percent or more year-over-year. Nine percent stated that they would probably see 25 percent growth. The stakes are high for finding a cost-effective answer to this new storage reality.

To this end, rather than simply throwing additional capacity and money at the issue, some IT departments are streamlining cloud infrastructure through the use of industry-standard hardware and open source software. Others are looking into modular technologies so that they can position themselves for uncertain spikes in demand without having to invest too heavily in new data centers.

"To meet unprecedented and unpredictable storage and processing demands, companies are turning to modular design techniques in their data centers – or even modular data centers themselves," explained Biztech's Melissa Delaney. "This could mean constructing one small building and leaving space for an adjacent one in a few years; building a large data center but equipping only a small portion of the space and filling it as needed; or going the modular equipment route."

As Bernard Golden recently pointed in CIO, the move toward flexible infrastructure responds to a paradigm shift in application development, in which software now has to account for erratic workloads, a multitude of devices and variable costs. Having fast compute, networking and storage setups is more important than ever, and many organizations may choose the public route to get the resources that they need.

But neither modular technology nor the proliferation of public infrastructure-as-a-service means the end of the data center as we know it. New approaches to storage and networking are giving rise to software-defined facilities that repurpose existing appliances and equipment and turn them into highly scalable data management tools.

At the same time, advances in server hardware have opened up additional possibilities and facilitated better interaction between infrastructure and software. Seagate and its partners have been at the forefront of these developments in the enterprise cloud, providing solutions that make it easier and more economical to deal with rising data volumes.

Achieving lower-cost, high-performance cloud storage
In late February, EVault, a Seagate company and member of the Cloud Builder Alliance, announced that it would discuss using Seagate's Kinetic Storage technology for its cloud archiving services. The breakthrough Kinetic technology enables a direct connection between an application and the storage medium, obviating the need for the storage server/array parts of the stack. As such, it facilitates lower latency and costs while still supporting high-capacity workloads.

Moreover, Kinetic may enable further innovation on top of the Open Compute Project, the standards-based data center hardware initiative started by Facebook to create energy-efficient custom appliances. The vanity-free designs of OCP equipment enable dramatic monetary and power-related savings. Facebook executives recently stated that OCP and similar projects had saved the company $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs over the past three years.

For individual organizations, the advent of OCP and Kinetic has led to increased utilization of storage, better energy efficiency and reduced costs.

"Seagate's Kinetic technology has enabled us to further innovate on top of the Open Compute Project system design and allows us to increase storage density and reduce performance bottlenecks," stated Steve Ichinaga, senior vice president and general manager at Hyve Solutions. "This new open storage platform is another great example of the innovations arising from the Open Compute Project community allowing us to better address the needs of our scale-out storage cloud customers."

Going forward, the possible integration of Kinetic technology into EVault's services will give organizations even more options for maintaining the integrity of data over the long haul. Solutions such as EVault LTS2 already provide decades-long retention of assets with the ability to immediate access archived data as needed. By enabling more direct access to storage and lower infrastructure costs, Kinetic could make EVault services increasingly germane to the current data center environment and business requirements.

NexentaStor 4.0 points way to more efficient software-defined storage
One of the key achievements of Kinetic and OCP has been the demonstration that organizations don't have to rely on specific pieces of hardware to support operations. Proprietary appliances can be a drag on costs, and these initiatives remove some of that pressure.

Overall, the roll out of software-based offerings means that it's increasingly feasible for data center operators to mix and match hardware and software. For example, Seagate partner Nexenta recently announced version 4.0 of its NexentaStor SDS solution, which permits customers to choose any operating system they need regardless of underlying hardware.

NexentaStor's highly scalable, 128-bit file system and self-healing ZFS technology ensure that storage systems are flexible and resilient against data corruption. Unlimited snapshots and copy-on-write clones make it ideal for sudden, unplanned volume growth, while high-level techniques such as inline deduplication and native compression reduce the primary storage footprint.

By better utilizing hardware and system memory and reducing latencies for users, NexentaStor enables a high-performance, cost-effective approach to data storage. Nexenta and EUROstor have teamed up to present at CeBIT 2014 at the Deutsche Messe in Hannover, Germany, from March 10 to March 14., demonstrating how enterprises can address current technical and budgetary challenges in storage.

"With software-defined storage making the headlines recently, we are ahead of the wake with our customized storage server based on NexentaStor," said Wolfgang Bauer, Technical Director at EUROstor. "Our customers are looking for a solution that has not only great performance but also comes within budget. NexentaStor is the benchmark for software-defined storage and we are excited to show visitors what it can achieve for them."

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