The waves of cloud computing and mobile (smartphone/tablet) adoption have put a lot of pressure on IT. Whether it is using a corporate card to activate cloud services or bringing a personally purchased iPad, there has been a growth of “shadow IT” that do not follow a corporate governance model and leaves companies open to security breaches. IT needs to get in front of these trends by providing the services that business users need so that there is no incentive for lines of business to go it alone.
Workforce requirements for mobility have been expanding at ludicrous speed. A couple of years ago, it would be sufficient to have corporate email on a Blackberry and VPN access from a home computer. Today, there is an expectation that people can access documents and get work done anywhere on any device. In the consumer world, cloud-applications and cloud-drives are gaining traction for photos, music and movies. In the business world, it is not a given that cloud solutions will provide the best security, performance or even price. Many businesses also need to be sure that they follow regulations on where information is stored and the data ownership; today this is simpler when using internal resources rather than a public cloud provider. Public cloud solutions are attractive for smaller customers that do not have much existing infrastructure.
The storage team is often seen in a negative light by users due to implementing quotas on email or shared drives. Now, there is an opportunity for the storage team to be an enabler of workforce mobility. While storage usage is growing at a rapid pace, most companies have an underutilized storage environment since they must always buy for expected growth. Compared with the overall scale of enterprise storage, the user requirements for a pool of storage for mobile/remote access are relatively small. While a few GB of storage is a lot for cloud storage, almost any datacenter could find extra TBs of capacity. Oxygen Cloud is looking to enable mobile access using internal resources with what it calls the Open Storage Grid. The grid is built on storage (internal and/or public cloud), a customer supplied (reused) management server) and access through web client or mobile apps. Oxygen Cloud has freemium versions of both a “free grid” (5GB public storage on Amazon and unlimited private storage via Oxygen software) and “enterprise grid” (using enterprise class storage on-site, easy to build out with free software, companies only pay for premium features). There are a full array of mobile (iPad, iPhone and Android) clients and the solution has built-in security and centralized web-based management.
While cloud environments are designed to be more flexible and pay-as-you-go, CFOs are quite comfortable with the predictability of purchasing and depreciating infrastructure. Oxygen Cloud wrote in a blog post that they could create a 55TB pod of usable storage for only $0.16 per GB using a Backblaze pod (Oxygen also partners with EMC; a VNX or Isilon based solution would not have pricing this low). Oxygen also offers Linux and NAS connectors, providing flexible options to leverage cost-effective and underutilized resources that can be plugged into the grid.
The new mandate for IT leaders is to help create value rather than just keep operations going. Mobile technologies will require a lot of changes; enabling the access and sharing of content on any device is a good place to start.