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12/16/2009
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Global CIO: The World's Largest Private Cloud: Who's Number One?

Its 13 petabytes include archived data from the world's top banks and pharma companies, and it's growing rapidly. The owner's name starts with A -- but it's not Amazon.

Leaning hard into the cloud-computing phenomenon that has become the major business-technology theme for 2010, Autonomy Corp. is claiming to be King of the Cloud by virtue of its massive Digital Safe archiving system, which spans 6,500 servers across seven data centers and handles 3 million new files per hour.

(This is the second installment in our series called "The Cloud Imperative" in which we'll analyze how IT vendors are accelerating their cloud-computing strategies, and how CIOs are taking advantage of those new offerings. A link to our first installment is in the "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)

And that private-cloud beast is only in the early stages of an astonishing growth spurt: just 8 months ago, it was at 10 petabytes. And Autonomy CMO Nicole Eagan says the surge to the cloud for archiving has only just begun.

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"We're seeing the same thing: customers are getting past the fixation on cost-cutting and are asking, 'What's our new strategy? What's our new approach to growth?' " Eagan said at Autonomy's San Francisco headquarters late last week. And a key element of their answer has been the need for speed to keep up with customers and their shifting requirements, and the need for less complexity in how they store, archive, and extract meaning from the mountains of data they're accumulating.

So the cloud, she says, offers an ideal technological platform, and Autonomy's Digital Safe private-cloud solution owes its growth to the desire for companies in multiple industries to find better, faster, and more-effective ways to deal with regulatory and compliance issues such as E-discovery and other issues involving highly sensitive data.

"Law firms are moving beyond keywords to concepts because it makes their discovery processes more effective," Eagan said, "and so we looked and that and figured other types of businesses could benefit from that as well and we applied that approach to other industries and it's worked and we feel we can go to more and more: not just E-disovery and compliance but also mortgages, credit cards, pharmaceuticals, the public sector, and on and on."

As part of that progression, many clients have elected to offload to Autonomy not just the application but also everything else that goes with it, resulting in what the company says is the largest private cloud in the world.

A company press release says the cloud-based Digital Safe offers these advantages:

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