Like most other enterprises today, its likely your organization is increasingly moving towards cloud-based technologies to improve agility, enable new capabilities and reduce costs.
Cost is one of the prime motivators for exploring cloud, with many public cloud providers offering innovative services at low monthly prices. Data storage in the public cloud can seem particularly attractive, costing just a few cents per gigabytebut how do these costs and benefits really stack up against the latest on-premise solutions, based on software-defined object storage?
Cloud Storage In The News
A March 2016 article in Wired magazine reports how online storage business Dropbox has recently moved the hosting of most of its operations away from Amazons public cloud, to its own custom-built cloud storage infrastructure. The article discusses why, for companies reaching a larger storage scale, it makes sense to move at least part of their cloud storage away from public cloud providers: Amazon and Google and Microsoft can keep cloud prices low, thanks to economies of scale. But they arent selling their services at cost... According to [Dropbox vice president of engineering Aditya] Agarwal, the main reason for moving off the Amazon cloud is raw economics...
These cost issues are now driving business technology leaders to look more closely at the storage technology that increasingly powers the cloudobject storage.
Object Storage In The Cloud
Object storage is an important data storage model that organizations need to understand in order to exploit a range of new opportunities and deal with data growth. Its ideal for storing large amounts of unstructured data, as it can scale elasticallyand has become well known as the technology behind public cloud storage, with the growth of Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure Storage.
The costs of public cloud storage can initially seem very attractivetypically just a few cents per gigabyte per month. However, the practical reality is that most users scale up their requirements more than they scale downso with public cloud storage its very easy to suddenly find youre paying more than you planned for. As you reach petabyte scale, those few cents can really mount upleaving you paying tens of thousands of dollars in monthly fees to a public cloud provider. This contrasts with on-premise storage in your datacenter, where the initial set up costs are higher than public cloud, but the on-going costs dont rise as much with scale.
Public cloud storage is also not always an option for many organizations and data typesin sectors like government, healthcare and financial servicesthat face restrictions on how and where sensitive data can be stored.
A New Cloud OptionOn-Premise Object Storage
The good news is that cloud-based object storage is now also an on-premise option for your organizations datacenterwith solutions like EMC Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) enabling you to create your own secure private cloud of storage.
The latest generation of on-premise object storage solutions, like ECS, provide an attractive alternative option to complement public cloud. With on-premise object storage you get the scalability and simple management of public cloudbut you retain full control over the location and protection of sensitive data. While you do need physical infrastructure, this can now be low-cost commodity hardwarethe intelligence is in the smart ECS software that creates a software-defined storage platform that can store and manage billions of files of any kind.
Considering the Cost to Serve for Cloud Storage
So how do you decide which cloud storage option is right for youand in which situations? As well as the relative benefits involved, this kind of major decision will usually be influenced largely by cost. But what is the real cost of cloud storagethe total cost of ownership, or TCO?
A good way to think about this is in terms of the cost to serve your data over timemeaning the total cost to store, access and manage data per gigabyte per month. To give a meaningful comparison for enterprise requirements, this cost is usually averaged out over a period of three to five years.
The cost to serve has three main elementscost to store, cost to access and cost to support.
Elements of Cloud Storage Cost to Serve
1. Bucks and BytesYour Cost to Store
Public cloud-based object storage is a popular choice for organizations when they want storage in a hurryits easy to manage and theres no need to buy, install and manage physical infrastructure. With public cloud storage, the apparent cost to store is simply the quoted price per gigabyte per month for a storage bucket. Think public cloud storage and many users only consider this top-line cost. But at scale and over time, this is just one component of the totaltypically 50 to 60% of the TCO for public cloud storage.
For an on-premise solution, calculating the cost to store is a little more complex, incorporating the up-front infrastructure cost of purchasing storage hardware, networking and software, plus the cost of power, cooling and space for the system. This will also vary depending on your existing datacenter capabilitieswill you be able to use existing infrastructureor will you have to build a whole new datacenter to meet your needs? Remember also that a modern software-defined storage platform like ECS uses lower-cost commodity infrastructure, and can be expanded gradually according to your requirements on a pay-as-you-grow basismaking it much more economical compared with the big up-front investments required for traditional enterprise storage.
Although the total cost of an on-premise object storage system initially sounds large compared to the costs associated with public cloud, over a period of years both approaches usually average out to around a couple cents per gigabyte per month.
2. Transfer and EgressYour Cost to Access
This is where public cloud storage often surprises organizations, as it typically charges extra for actions where you need to get to your data, to move or copy it out of storagevariously termed data access, transfer or egress. These access costs may again only be a few cents per gigabytebut with repeated transfers on the terabyte or petabyte scale, they can also quickly mount up.
By contrast, with on-premise object storage you are in full control of your own data at all timesso there are no fees for accessing or moving it. In addition, with a multi-protocol platform like ECS offering built-in HDFS access, you can conduct in-place Hadoop analytics on your data without the delays of moving it to a specialist analytics platformdelivering valuable insights and shortening your time-to-market.
This is a big cost differentiator for ECSas public cloud does not usually include in-place Hadoop analytics. With a typical leading public cloud, for example, you need to copy your data from object storage to a separate cloud block storage volume and spin up a compute service to run analytics on it. You end up needing to pay to store two copies of your data (one copy in object and one in block while youre running analytics)and pay for the analytics service on top of that.
3. Manage and MaintainYour Cost to Support
For an on-premise solution, you will need to manage, maintain and support your own systemeither with your own personnel, or with the help of external support and maintenance providers.
This initially seems like a significant cost compared with public cloud, where you might think this is included in the providers fees. However, included support is usually quite basic with public cloud, and the user is largely expected to self-support.
Again, over time, the support and maintenance costs for both public cloud and on-premise solutions typically average out to less than a cent per gigabyte per month.
Other Object Storage Value Considerations
There are a range of other factors that can also feed into cost advantages for your cloud storage systemand deliver added value for your organization.
With ECS geo-distributed object storage, as you increase your number of sites, you increase performance and storage efficiencieswhich reduces the overhead required to protect data.
Public cloud object storage is also usually hosted in geographically distant datacenters. With an on-premise solution like ECS, your data is stored closer to your in-house business apps and users, helping to reduce latency and improve user experience. This can save you money on other latency-reduction measures you might otherwise have considered.
Object Storage Cost SavingsHow It All Adds Up
The exact cost savings versus public cloud storage that you can make with ECS will vary according to your specific situation and requirementsyou can get a tailored TCO savings projection by talking to EMC.
However, calculations indicate that organizations deploying ECS to manage a multi-petabyte on-premise object storage system based on commodity infrastructure, over a period of around four years, can potentially achieve TCO savings of up to 65% compared against public cloud costs.
Your Cloud Storage Cost Conclusions
For most organizations, the choice between public cloud and on-premise object storage will not be a one or the other decisionboth will play a valuable role in different use cases. Often, organizations choose a hybrid cloud strategy to leverage the benefits of both public and private cloud. The important thing isyou now have a range of cloud options to meet your cost requirements.
Organizations exploring on-premise object storage and wanting the reassurance and confidence of a turnkey solution can turn to a partner like EMC for end-to-end software, support and pre-configured commodity hardwarewith the EMC ECS Appliance.
If you want all the benefits of ECS, without setting up your own infrastructure, talk to EMC to find a Cloud Service Provider.
Get your organization in position to gain the cloud cost savings enabled by on-premise object storage. Its easy to start smalland scale up as your storage demands increase.
EMC ECS software is available and try for free.
Learn more about cloud object storage cost savings with EMC ECS.