Cloud storage comparison: Public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud storage for VARs

In this cloud storage comparison, learn about the advantages and disadvantages for VARs in three cloud storage options: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud storage.

Most VARs probably aren’t ignoring the “cloud writing on the wall” and have already started selling at least one cloud solution. Public cloud storage, private cloud storage and now hybrid cloud storage offerings are all available for VARs to resell. This cloud storage comparison tip will look at these three variations on a theme and discuss what each may bring to a VAR’s line card.

Public cloud storage

Public cloud storage provides capacity at the end of the wire. Most also charge for the amount of bandwidth used, in addition to physical terabytes of capacity used. These are multi-tenant environments, where hundreds of clients may be sharing the same physical infrastructure. Public cloud storage offers a high degree of pay-as-you-go scalability, reasonably good disaster recovery protection and uptime, compared with the infrastructure a typical company would use to provide the same storage internally. But compared with that local data center storage, public clouds can suffer from latency issues as users attempt to pull data back from the cloud in large quantities. For many customers, public clouds may be best suited for more reference-based archives and data that’s less dynamic. 

From the VAR perspective, public clouds offer an opportunity to resell the cloud provider’s capacity, and they don’t require much in the way of investment, at least not compared with a private cloud solution. In some situations, customers also need application development to make them cloud-ready, which can mean professional services work and specialized expertise. But given the fact that other cloud storage solutions are available—cloud gateways, for example—that don’t typically require any of this development work, reselling public cloud capacity could simply mean a commission check from that provider.

For VARs focused on smaller clients, this may be OK, as they’re probably still selling their services to maintain applications and compute infrastructure. But for VARs that rely on the gross profit from selling components and especially professional services work generated by integration projects, the public cloud solution may not be very lucrative.

Private cloud storage

Private clouds are internal infrastructure that an IT organization runs to support multiple, often widely dispersed, users essentially via internal resources. Most of the major storage vendors have a private cloud storage offering, including “integrated stacks” of compute, storage and virtualization components. While some IT organizations may use traditional storage components to build their private clouds, more and more are turning to the same object-based architectures that most public cloud providers use. These infrastructures are typically very scalable, and some even run on more general-purpose hardware, helping to keep costs down.

Like public clouds, private clouds can also have challenges with latency, depending on the applications they’re supporting and distance and bandwidth constraints. The appeal of a private over a public cloud can be its security and control advantages, since a company’s own IT department is handling the cloud. Also, reliability and uptime should be better with a private cloud, since the IT department has control over the equipment, assuming the infrastructure is appropriate and well-run.

It’s probably not a surprise that most VARs would rather sell private cloud implementations than simply resell public cloud services. While the investment in engineering and the financing costs are real for project work like this, it’s the kind of business that most VARs cherish. Also, actually integrating systems puts them in a much stronger consultative position with their customers than does simply reselling cloud services.

The challenge for VARs can be finding customers that want to take on the complexity and expense of a private cloud infrastructure. Private clouds may be a better fit for larger companies and less appealing to the base of middle-enterprise customers that many VARs focus on. For these situations, hybrid clouds may be the best alternative.

Hybrid cloud storage

The final option in this cloud storage comparison, hybrid cloud storage can mean different things, including a combination of the public and private cloud solutions described above, with data being stored on one or the other depending on the use case. Perhaps a more common definition for a hybrid storage cloud is a storage appliance that sits on-site and provides a local copy of some or all of the company’s data set, with a second copy residing in the cloud. Examples would be products from Nasuni, StorSimple, Egnyte, Ctera and others. A hybrid storage cloud can be the solution to bandwidth and data latency problems that a public cloud often brings. And, since many of these solutions include deduplication and other data reduction technologies, the hybrid cloud option can mean better storage and bandwidth efficiency throughout the cloud process.

These hybrid solutions include storage appliances and cloud storage gateways, which have dedicated internal storage or leverage existing networked or direct-attached storage. They handle protocol translation with the cloud storage service providers on the back end, making the connection to the cloud seamless for the user, whether as a network-attached storage device or as storage for applications like database or email.

For VARs, hybrid cloud solutions can offer the best of both worlds. They provide users with the scalability and lower infrastructure costs of the public cloud but still result in a system for VARs to put in. Some cloud storage gateway products use existing storage so VARs can make a consolidation project out of their implementation and/or sell additional storage systems and networking components as well. And, since many are put out by independent companies, these solutions can provide VARs flexibility in that choice of components. The hybrid appliance itself is designed to go in easily, so it should be a relatively low-risk investment for VARs that are limited in technical resources.

Eric Slack is a senior analyst with Storage Switzerland.

This was first published in August 2011
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