Cloud storage future shown by current limitations. Chapter 96: Ctera

I’ve written recently that despite relatively low enterprise take-up of cloud storage – due to concerns over bandwidth, availability, security, compliance, data portability etc – vendors big and not so big are making moves into cloud storage; usually hybrid cloud storage, and always limited by the current capabilities of the cloud.

That’s because cloud storage is not fully ready, for all the above reasons, for mission-critical enterprise use.

A vendor whose work in the space illustrates this is CTERA, which finds a way to exploit the currently-usable facets of the cloud to provide branch office storage and backup plus file sync and share for mobile users.

Sure, neither of these represent a full-blow enterprise storage use of cloud storage, but are an adaptation what the cloud offers at present.

CTERA’s offer centres on CTERA Portal, a platform that allows users to connect to private and public cloud services with linkages to cloud storage environments from the key vendors.

With CTERA Portal customers can deliver, for example, storage and backup services to remote office users via an on-premises NAS appliance, and file and sync services for mobile users via a software agent on the endpoint device.

The appliance offers local disk capacity in what CTERA marketing VP Rani Osnat calls “disk-to-disk-to-cloud”, AKA hybrid cloud, and does so with source and global deduplication.

The company’s offerings allow enterprises to deliver remote office and/or mobile device data protection or they can be used by service providers to deliver to customers.

What is significant about them? It’s another case where an enterprising business has spotted opportunities to exploit the cloud for storage, whilst at the same time recognising its limitations.

CTERA doesn’t offer enterprise-class primary storage in the cloud. It can’t. The cloud can’t provide that – yet. Instead, it allows businesses to exploit cloud storage for the likes of backup and file sync and share.

In the case of its backup appliances, they are hybrid cloud. They have to be because you must stage to disk locally if you can’t guarantee throughput across public networks. Mobile sync and share, meanwhile, deals in small volumes of data that are not time critical and dependent on LAN-like levels of connectivity.

So, for now we have numerous vendors exploiting the opportunities and limitations of cloud storage. It’s an interesting space to watch and will be increasingly so as the boundaries of possibility change over time.

One day we may see the likes of CTERA – not to mention EMC and NetApp – bringing products that can truly offer primary data-capable enterprise cloud storage services to market.

But that will then raise the question: If the cloud becomes feasible as a tier 1 storage location, what will become of the existing set of vendors, tied as they are to a world of on-premises arrays?