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Google Nearline storage: How to develop a channel play

Google Nearline offers unique perks for channel partners that Amazon Glacier cannot, but deciding which cloud storage service to deploy for your customers depends on a variety of factors.

With big data growing at an exponential rate, especially as the Internet of Things (IoT) gains traction, it was only a matter of time before cloud providers came up with a cost-effective method for storing data with quick retrieval.

In March, Google launched Google Cloud Storage Nearline, touting Google Nearline as a low-cost, highly available storage service for online backup and disaster recovery -- and its answer to Amazon Web Services' Glacier service. Amazon Glacier is also marketed as a secure, durable, low-cost service for reliable cloud storage.

Channel partners see both the Google and AWS offerings as viable storage options for their customers. As with other technology offerings, there will be two types of channel partners that use them, observed Anurag Agrawal, analyst at Techaisle LLC, based in San Jose, Calif. IT consultants, service providers, managed service providers (MSPs) and partners in the business of hosting offerings or developing applications for cloud and mobility will prefer Amazon Glacier, "because they already have in-house expertise and experience in using AWS' other services."

Meanwhile, value-added resellers (VARs) and some MSPs that have been in the business of reselling Google apps are evaluating Google Nearline. "This is a very new type of business for channel partners. Most of them are used to reselling services that are already tailored, defined and priced by a larger channel or an IT vendor," Agrawal said. Both services, he said, "are actually challenging the channel partners to think [about] and configure their own branded solutions."

How Google Nearline fits into Cloud Sherpas' business

Cloud services firm Cloud Sherpas is using Cloud Storage Nearline as a storage platform for its customers because it has been using Google's technology since roughly 2008, said David Hoff, CTO and co-founder of Cloud Sherpas. "We have a very tight and deep partnership [with Google] and have been successful in deploying solutions on their platform."

Hoff called Google Nearline "much more of a modern workload that has high data volumes" and a perfect complement to Google's apps. "We no longer have to think about tapes and what to do with data over time,'' he said. "We've come to expect that data is going to stay around," especially with the number of apps people use on their smartphones. Nearline will also be ideal for storing the vast amount of data within an app like Gmail, he noted.

As data becomes stagnant, these services offer inexpensive online storage that is expected to always be there. "This is great for cold data storage when it's not being accessed or retrieved on a regular basis, [and] it's still active from the user perspective," Hoff said. Both Google Nearline storage and Amazon Glacier offer one cent per gigabyte, per month pricing. Google Nearline offers a three-second response time, while Glacier takes hours to retrieve data. With Nearline, there is also a storage retrieval charge of one cent per gigabyte, he said.

The use cases Cloud Sherpas has seen fall into two specific classes: If someone wants fully redundant copies of their data for disaster recovery purposes, "you don't have to have off-site tapes; we can simply create copies and stick it in Nearline," Hoff said.

The other common use case is for metadata that needs to be kept for compliance reasons, along with information on who is accessing it and when, but it isn't necessarily being used on a regular basis. In that case, "if it takes a few seconds, it's worth the cost to keep all this compliance data," he said. "Now, we have that capability without having to invest in infrastructure costs, and can keep it out there and available as needed."

Partners weigh cloud storage options

"[Google Nearline] arrived just in time for us, as it was introduced right at the moment when we had just begun offering cloud backup services to our customers using CloudBerry Backup for Service Providers," said Krastio Ivanov, co-founder and general manager of Solitex, an MSP and customer of cloud backup provider CloudBerry Lab. Ivanov said he researched a number of storage clouds and Nearline's price was the lowest.

The decision of which storage service Cloud Technology Partners (CTP) will use will depend more holistically on how a customer works with their cloud provider than on a specific product, observed John Treadway, CTP's senior vice president. "The features of something like Glacier versus Nearline will really matter if you're only doing one app or a small number of apps that are heavily dependent on that [type of] storage model," he explained. "So, if you're an individual SaaS [software as a service] provider or a solution provider focused on providing archival storage of people's data, then the difference between AWS Glacier and Google Nearline will be really meaningful."

If you're an individual SaaS provider or a solution provider focused on providing archival storage of people's data, then the difference between AWS Glacier and Google Nearline will be really meaningful.
John Treadwaysenior vice president, Cloud Technology Partners

If a cloud provider has a holistic, broad-based engagement with a client and is looking to replace storage capacity, then there would be other drivers as to what to use, assuming the job could be done with both services, he added. "The difference between them becomes a lot less interesting in the broad context of everything you're going to do with that cloud provider."

CTP has multiple clients using Amazon Glacier for archival storage. Treadway said if CTP doesn't have any on Google Nearline yet, it will soon based on the work it is doing. "It's more about the technical requirements than it is about pricing," he said. Pricing matters, but the priority is meeting the customers' operational requirements, such as the type of data they need stored, how often they need to access it and how quickly.  

Both Treadway and Hoff think Google Nearline storage will become a catch basin for some IoT data that organizations are collecting, but not if the data is being used for analytics purposes. In that case, the data needs to be in a "ready state where [you] can perform analytics on it," Treadway said. Nearline or Glacier services are better suited for data that is being kept for historical purposes, he said.

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