Monday, July 7, 2014
How Zadara Is Putting The Enterprise In The Storage Cloud
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
While Internet and startup companies have widely adopted the cloud for both their computing and storage needs, enterprise companies are only now starting to widely adopt cloud services. However, there's a number of startups--including Irvine's Zadara Storage (www.zadara.com)--which are making easier and easier for enterprises and other businesses to adopt the cloud. We caught up with Nelson Nahum, a longtime storage industry veteran and CEO of the company, to learn where Zadara fits and how it's helping to move enterprise customers to the cloud.
Explain what Zadara's products are about?
Nelson Nahum: What we do, is enterprise storage as a service. Basically, what that means is we create software that runs on servers, which forms a cloud storage service. The unique capability of that cloud, is of course, to be a cloud storage solution. You can create a SAN or NAS array on the fly, and have the same capabilities of a traditional SAN or NAS array with dedicated drives and a dual controller, but with cloud economics. We can create that instantly, you can pay for what you use, and we manage all of the hardware. We also are connected to the public cloud, to services like Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Dimension Data, and others, and can provide both on-premise private clouds. In a nutshell, it's enterprise, storage-as-a-service, where you can pay per use, and get great scalability of the cloud.
Speaking of the enterprise, where are those enterprise customers in trusting the cloud?
Nelson Nahum: Our customers, in general, have already decided to move to the cloud, especially for some of their workloads. Some of them are very big customers who obviously already have their own data centers. However, they are already moving projects to the cloud, initially to public clouds like Amazon or Azure, and also to other different clouds and colocation facilities. They really like the model of pay-as-you-go and instant provisioning. They don't need to buy hardware, they don't have to configure hardware anymore. Someone else is doing all of that for me, and I only pay for what I use. We also have customers doing this on-premise, where they are building private clouds using the same model.
Is there a big cost savings using cloud storage?
Nelson Nahum: The main advantage is the flexibility. I wouldn't say it's much cheaper, but it depends on what you are doing. A good example, is six months ago one of our customers called me and said, Nelson, I need two new SANs, each one with 18 drives, because we have a new project. One would be for test, the other for production. Five minutes later, we had them up and running, and he used those for three weeks, eventually deleting the test one and keeping the production SAN. So, when you say how much cheaper is cloud storage, if you kept things in production and weren't going to chang eit for many years, it might cost you more in the end. But, if he had to buy stuff just for testing for three weeks, cloud storage is substantially cheaper. That takes into account the flexibility and agility of cloud storage. If you have a new customer, a new project, it's just a couple of clicks and you're up and running, as opposed to having to purchase harware, and configure things, which instead of five minutes might take five weeks or more. Many of our customers are software-as-a-service companies, and don't know upfront how many customers they will have. They get a new customer, and want to be able to provision them immediately with a few clicks. The way, traditionally that they did this in the past, was to build big infrastructure upfront and wait for the customers to come. Obviously, that's much more expensive.
Where are customers now in adoption of the cloud?
Nelson Nahum: I would say form my experience, compared with when we started in 2011 and now, three years later, it's been a big difference. It's a huge difference. When we started, for example, we went to the OpenStack private cloud summit, and there were only a couple of hundred people. We were the first storage company to go to the OpenStack summit. Now, the last summit had over 5,000 people. At Amazon's cloud conference, in the two years since we launched, it's gone from companies mostly in the Internet area and social networking, to companies who are financial institutions, manufacturing companies, the whole spectrum of projects moving to Amazon. I think that cloud adoption is very fast, much faster than other trends in IT.
What's the biggest complexity you had to handle in developing this service?
Nelson Nahum: This is where we are unique. We had to completely separate one customer from another. In storage, usually with SAN or NAS, it's a shared resource. That works great in the data center, but not in the cloud. Customer A might be using storage to run a database, and customer B might be using the same storage drive to stream a movie. That interferes with each other. The main work we did, was to be able to separate those customers and create dedicated resources, and quality-of-service for each user. That's quite complex, and totally different from normal storage, because everything is shared.
Finally, what's next for you?
Nelson Nahum: Aside from working on adding more functionality and getting more customers on board, we are prelaunching what is called on-premise storage, which is on-premise, storage as a service. In the same way we can provision storage from the public cloud, we can also ship our customers hardware, and let customer pay per-use. It's quite unique. If they use less storage, they pay less, exactly like the cloud, but instead, all of that storage sits inside the data center of the customer.