EMC’s “very massive” storage cloud

As Amazon struggles today with the first big outage to afflict its popular S3 data-storage service, it looks like it will also soon be facing a big new competitor. The storage giant EMC looks like it’s gearing up for a major move into “the cloud.” Like other traditional IT component suppliers, EMC sees cloud computing as both threat and opportunity. On the one hand, it could put a large dent into individual businesses’ demand for on-site storage systems, EMC’s bread and butter. On the other hand, somebody has to build and run the storage cloud, and EMC has the scale and expertise to be a big player in this new business.

EMC has already rolled out Mozy, a backup service for individuals and small businesses, but that represents only the tip of its ambitions. Indications are that the company wants to build a vast online storage system able to fill the needs of the largest companies. Yesterday, a top SAP executive, Doug Merritt, told Reuters that his company was partnering with EMC to provide its complex business applications over the Net. That would be quite a deal for both companies. Apparently, though, Merritt jumped the gun with his announcement. An EMC spokesman, quoted today by the Boston Globe, says that reports of the partnership are “only speculation.” But whether or not the SAP linkup comes to pass, EMC’s move into the cloud is, as Robert Buderi writes today, a matter of when, not if.

The clearest indication of what EMC has in mind came in a post by EMC blogger Chuck Hollis last month. He wrote:

Some people seem to associate this webby, cloudy stuff with some of the more popular offerings from folks such as Amazon and Google, e.g. web 2.0 storage is simply cost-effective storage over the web. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not particularly interesting …

Cloud storage is massive. Very massive. We’re routinely encountering new requirements where terms like “gigabyte” and “terabyte” are not useful, the discussion starts at “many petabytes” and goes up from there.

We tend to think of all this stuff sitting in a data center somewhere, but for this model, it just doesn’t work. Nobody can afford a single data center that’s large enough to put all this stuff into (no, not even Google). More importantly, no one can afford the network pipes that’ll be needed in a single place to feed everything into, or out of.

No, what you’ll need is the ability to place these devices in locations around the world, and have them operate as a single entity: a single global name space, and – more importantly – the ability to ingest content from anywhere, and move content to popular places depending on traffic and interest …

The environment must be self-tuning, and automatically react to surges in demand. It must be self-healing and self-correcting at a massive scale – like the internet, no single scenario of failures can bring it down.

With the big IT vendors moving in, the cloud is about to get mighty crowded.

7 thoughts on “EMC’s “very massive” storage cloud

  1. Andrew Biss

    I recently started using the Mozy backup service as a second cloud-based backup service alongside JungleDisk/S3 (which I have been using for a long time). Funnily enough, I was not able to connect to the Mozy servers this morning. This was right around the time that reports started to come in of Amazon’s S3 being down due to a massive server failure. Hopefully EMC/Mozy is not outsourcing their storage service to Amazon/S3…

  2. Sergey Schetinin

    Nick, EMC is a manufacturer of storage appliances among other things. They recently released a number of new (hardware) products and reportedly have more in queue, so this announcement is probably referring to one of those. However if EMC is going offer a viable alternative to AWS — that would be great.

  3. Sergey Schetinin

    Just to clarify, I believe EMC wants to sell “shovel-appliances” to the “cloud-goldminers” here. That would explain the direction of this pitch.

  4. Peter Secor

    One approach to this is to provide software that allows anybody to take part in the storage grid as long as they follow certain rules. In return for providing storage on your local hard-drive for other people, you may store data in the cloud. By sufficiently replicating pieces of your (encrypted) data to many thousands of other machines you will end up with a very reliable and available source for your data that cannot be taken out by any one service or company.

    In addition to data availability, one of the other design requirements for many individuals and businesses is data security. It is extremely important that a person or business knows how well their data is protected both from the company offering the storage service and from theft. By automatically encrypting your data before it leaves your computer, you then do not have to rely upon an external company to provide data security for you either.

  5. Greg Ferro

    And yet, while everyone talks about storage, no one is discussing the network. Storage is only fifty percent of the solution, Connectivity / Network is the other half.

    S3 is more likely a network problem than a storage problem because thats where the complexity is.

  6. Mike

    EMC bought a potential cloud player in 2003 with VMWare’s virtualization technology. With RSA’s security expertise they’d offer a highly trusted grid.

    Trust. Isn’t that the key?

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