The decision to move to a private cloud storage infrastructure requires careful planning, as the transformation often involves a major IT project and can bring significant change to the way IT resources are delivered.
Beth Cohen, a senior cloud architect at Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners Inc. (cloudTP), has worked with major corporations to plan and deploy private cloud infrastructures in which the company’s end users gain self-service access to IT resources such as servers and storage.
In this podcast, senior writer Carol Sliwa talks with Cohen about the nuts and bolts of creating a private cloud storage environment. Cohen explains why object storage may present the best option for a private cloud storage infrastructure, and offers additional tips on the key decision points when building a private cloud.
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SearchCloudStorage.com: Under what circumstances should a company think about deploying private cloud storage vs. a traditional storage infrastructure?
Cohen: There are a number of factors that companies should be thinking about. Of course, the paramount factor is always to save money, and there are a number of ways the private cloud offers that opportunity. One is that you’re deploying on commodity hardware rather than the specialized hardware that most traditional storage systems run on. It also allows for a greater degree of horizontal scalability. It’s architected to scale up to petabytes of data easily and transparently, so you don’t have to worry about running out of capacity. And of course, the major consideration is self-service. That’s the real buzzword for any kind of cloud, which is that you don’t have to be deploying those storage modules. You can just have your users go to a dashboard and sign up for it. They can set up their own volumes without worrying about going to an administrator.
SearchCloudStorage.com: What types of storage work best with a private cloud?
Cohen: The three types of storage that you typically see are traditional block storage and object store and, of course, you can have filer storage as well. What I typically see is that the images are managed under block storage or filer storage, and the object store is used by the applications. So, for example, a retailer might store the catalog information in the object store. But the [virtual machine (VM)] images might be stored in the block storage.
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SearchCloudStorage.com: What are the advantages and disadvantages of object storage for a private cloud?
Cohen: The advantages are that the storage itself is extremely cheap so you can store the typical files in great quantities without worrying about expensive hardware. But there are disadvantages. I don't recommend object storage for high-speed transactional databases where every little nanosecond counts. That’s not a good fit for a private cloud object store.
SearchCloudStorage.com: How essential is it for an IT shop to build a private cloud compute infrastructure in connection with creating a private cloud storage infrastructure?
Cohen: You can build them together, although they are actually two separate concepts. I would say that, in many cases, they are built together, but I have also seen situations where they are completely separate. Typically, if you’re building a compute farm, of course you do need some storage to manage the [VM] images and the instances, and typically that is cloud storage, and there are a number of different options that you have. But, you can certainly build private cloud storage independent of the computes.
SearchCloudStorage.com: Do you think it’s essential to have object storage for a private cloud?
Cohen: No, it’s not essential if you’re only using the private cloud for compute. But, in many ways, I think private cloud storage that’s being used for application, for data, it's best if you use object storage. It’s far more cost efficient than block storage.
SearchCloudStorage.com: What’s the most important tip you would offer to someone considering private cloud storage?
Cohen: You really need to understand how you’re planning to use the storage. There’s a huge difference between storage that’s going to be used for managing the virtual machine instances as compared to the storage that’s going to be used for the data. The characteristics of the data are also going to have a major influence on the architecture of the storage. If it’s going to be a large number of small files, it will have one characteristic. Or, if it’s streaming media, it will have other characteristics.
This was first published in May 2012