Cloud
2/10/2009
11:37 AM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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Cloud Storage's Killer App... Geographic Collaboration

Cloud storage can be used for backups, archives, and extra disk space, but the ability to collaborate on documents, even if it is in a sequential process, could be the most significant.

Cloud storage can be used for backups, archives, and extra disk space, but the ability to collaborate on documents, even if it is in a sequential process, could be the most significant.I don't want to minimize cloud storage's use as an archive storage area, but the archive storage market has well-established players in it. Where cloud storage vendors like Bycast, EMC, and Cleversafe have an advantage with a cloud storage specific infrastructure is with their ability to geographically disperse data, as discussed in an earlier entry.

This geographic dispersion of data then leads to the next obvious use case for cloud storage...geographic collaboration. In today's corporate world, knowledge workers no longer sit across from each other in cubes or can huddle up for a quick review in a conference room, they are spread out across the country and the world.

Up until now the primary way to handle collaborative work on documents was to send out an e-mail to the team, wait for edits or changes to a document, and then try to merge all those changes together. Some were organized enough to send to one person, let them edit, and have that person forward to the next in line. These methods are time consuming, lead to multiple copies of a slightly similar document, and obviously jam e-mail systems.

Geographic collaboration, on the other hand, stores one identity of a document but disperses multiple copies of that document. When a user opens that document it is done so from the closest geographic location. When the user is done editing the document, the other copies of that document can be updated throughout the cloud. As a result, when the next person has time to make edits, that person has the latest copy and it is also served from their closest storage location.

This collaboration works in both private and public cloud storage models. In a private setting, the geographic nodes can be physically available at each remote site but managed centrally via the cloud storage console. In fact, the private-use case may be better because the user always has the feel of local performance. With public cloud, the geographic nodes would help with performance but the advantage of the geographic location may not be as noticeable.

The technology and the hardware is there, but until the software matures you need to be careful. A consumer example is Dropbox. This service allows you to keep certain folders in sync with other users and as soon as a change is made the file is synced back to the main service. It works amazingly well.

In the corporate world, the software that will run on top of these cloud storage infrastructures needs to mature. Capabilities like check in / check out and commenting need to be added to the offering to make sure that two people don't edit the same document at the same time. There is no need to wait for that software -- the infrastructures as they exist today are far better than e-mailing the same document around the organization 15 different times.

View our Web cast on cloud storage infrastructures to learn more.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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