There are several recognized layers in cloud computing. The vendors in these layers have very different service offerings and operating models. Some vendors concentrate on building and maintaining a huge data center, while others concentrate on building a user friendly and feature-rich application offering. The layers, from bottom to top, are: infrastructure, storage, platform, application, services, and client. The cloud will automatically (or, in some services, with semi-manual operations) allocate and de-allocate CPU and network bandwidth on demand.
When there are few users on a site, the cloud uses very little capacity to run the site, and vice versa. Yet when it comes to storage, the model is somewhat different with customers designating how much storage they require and then paying for it up front. There are several possibilities for storage. Some are traditional relational databases, and some are proprietary solutions such as Google's (News - Alert) Bigtable or Amazon's SimpleDB.
Recently, Google has announced price cuts for cloud storage to bring their service more on par with Amazon. According to Navneet Joneja, product manager for Google Cloud Storage, “One of the best reasons to use Google Cloud Storage is that it allows you to do things in the cloud that you couldn't do with on-premise data. It's an enterprise-class offering that serves developers at businesses of all sizes [and] ISVs. We are seeing additional momentum in the enterprise as our partners are using our infrastructure to provide end-to-end solutions for enterprise (including NAS replacement, active archival, backup and recovery).”
Traditionally, storage for companies of all sizes has relied on approaches such as data backed up and stored on physical formats, such as tape, Blu-ray, disc, or DVD. These periodic backups were subsequently archived for long-term storage. The onset of cloud storage has significantly changed that approach. While some companies may still use on-premise storage systems for sensitive data, more and more companies are moving large amounts, in some cases terabytes, of storage to cloud providers.
There are several risk factors to keep in mind when choosing cloud storage providers. These consist of areas such as vendor lock-in, reliability, data security, and going out of business. Each of these have their own set of concerns customers should be aware of, yet in the case of large providers such as Google and Amazon, the concerns are less crucial as well as providing access to a wealth of other resources.
As Joneja states, “Google Cloud Storage lets anyone tap into the storage and network expertise that we've spent a decade-plus building to serve our own needs. For example, you can build applications with very low time-to-market and high scale by leveraging your data through an App Engine application. You can also use other Google products like BigQuery (which enables rapid querying of very large data sets, reducing time to insight from weeks to an hour), the Prediction API (that makes Google's machine learning tools available to all). Other great ways to use our storage include backup, active archival, augmenting or replacing on-premise storage, sharing, application data storage, storing and serving static content (e.g., media).”
Google has announced cloud storage pricing changes for its four tiers: 1 TB, 9 TB, 90 TB, and 400TB, all based on usage. Price cuts were between eight and 15 percent depending on the service tier. The price cuts will be retroactive to the first of March, 2012.
Edited by Jennifer Russell