Today, cloud-based storage services are becoming increasingly prevalent in numerous industries, with cloud equipment alone projected to reach $79.1 billion by 2018. However, in order to keep these systems cost-effective, cloud service broker companies and their clients are beginning to test out new ways of combining this new technology with old standbys. One of the best examples of this is IBM’s new cloud system, which will reportedly combine the cloud with tape to allow customers in health care, social media, oil and gas, government and other industries to access their data no matter where it is stored.
At its Edge conference in Las Vegas in May, IBM plans to preview a new type of archiving architecture which can span all tiers of storage, allowing data to be moved to the best and most cost-effective tier any time enterprise policies require. Called Project Big Storage, this system puts all storage levels under one namespace, creating a single pool of data that users can manage through folders and directories. The system incorporates both file and object storage, and IBM says it can either be implemented on a company’s own premises, as a cloud service or as a hybrid.
While the inclusion of tape and object-based storage might make this system seem less innovative and high-tech than other cloud systems, IBM says Project Big Storage will be able to offer higher quality service than established providers like Google or Amazon for a lower price. IBM representatives say that the system’s tape component, which is being incorporated into a multi-tier, active cloud storage program for the first time, is central to these benefits. After all, tape costs less per bit of stored data than flash or hard drives, although it can take longer to deliver information. Project Big Storage will use several components of tape storage, some of which will be able to retrieve data in minutes, while others will take hours.
The company believes these waiting times won’t be an issue as long as the system works as intended: using IBM’s Scale software, a distributed storage technology, only data that is rarely needed should be stored in the tiers with the longest waiting times. This will also allow customers to use non-IBM storage products in the system.
Other benefits of the program include reduced costs for retrieving data from the cloud, while also making costs more predictable and easy to track. However, the system will first need to prove itself to potential customers: currently, the program is entering a pilot phase with a few select customers who will help to shape the final product. The pilot program is expected to take a few months, after which Project Big Storage will be offered throughout the IBM Cloud Marketplace and the BlueMix cloud development environment.