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Nicos Vekiarides

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A recent topic of discussion in cloud computing has been the notion of the cloud broker as an emerging business in the evolving cloud ecosystem, a “middleman” of sorts in the same sense as a real estate broker or a mortgage broker. A Gigaom article by Stacey Higginbotham entitled “Future of cloud computing … more clouds. Seriously” cites a Forrester report on the topic and delves into what such such a service might look like. The article suggests capabilities that include Cloudbursting, or instantly moving applications and data from one cloud to another, and in an interesting twist, it even suggests brokering human IT resources on a seasonal basis.

The concept sounds novel, albeit even futuristic, but I’d like to examine it from the point of view of cloud storage since business adoption is growing and many of the principles apply. An automated infrastructure that decides where data gets stored based on a set of policies and attributes ought to be appealing. In fact, the idea is not really new. It sounds quite similar to automated storage tiering (see Rick Vanover article), or auto-tiering, which enables the movement of data across local storage tiers or subsystems. The main difference is incorporating the choice of private cloud storage providers as well as a number of public cloud storage providers.

Since auto-tiering is available today, you may be wondering if there is an easy way to incorporate cloud storage. It turns out there is. A cloud storage gateway or appliance, like TwinStrata CloudArray, allows multiple cloud storage tiers from one or many providers to seamlessly integrate with existing auto-tiering products. It also offers a way to test drive and benchmark storage from a number of cloud providers first hand. This would be in addition to researching cloud providers on paper, on the basis of attributes such as price, performance, service level agreements (SLA), certifications, etc.

With auto-tiering able to make real-time decisions on data placement across both traditional and cloud storage, where does that leave the future of the cloud storage broker? Well, perhaps the cloud storage broker will do a better job of accounting for fluctuations in market price and even find favorable pricing based on peaks and valleys in supply and demand. Another value might be tracking provider SLA compliance over time, which may be more informative for prospective customers than just the text of the SLA itself. Perhaps there are other real-time attributes specific to the individual cloud providers that a broker can track — and lest I forget, there is also the potential for managing seasonal needs for people resources.

Do you see potential value in a cloud storage broker? Let us know.

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Nicos Vekiarides is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of TwinStrata. He has spent over 20 years in enterprise data storage, both as a business manager and as an entrepreneur and founder in startup companies.

Prior to TwinStrata, he served as VP of Product Strategy and Technology at Incipient, Inc., where he helped deliver the industry's first storage virtualization solution embedded in a switch. Prior to Incipient, he was General Manager of the storage virtualization business at Hewlett-Packard. Vekiarides came to HP with the acquisition of StorageApps where he was the founding VP of Engineering. At StorageApps, he built a team that brought to market the industry's first storage virtualization appliance. Prior to StorageApps, he spent a number of years in the data storage industry working at Sun Microsystems and Encore Computer. At Encore, he architected and delivered Encore Computer's SP data replication products that were a key factor in the acquisition of Encore's storage division by Sun Microsystems.