Cloud storage has overtaken the IT world much like the storm clouds that suddenly roll into the Florida Gulf Coast. In its wake has come a wealth of storage startups keen to solve the many cloud storage problems that are getting in the way of the party.

Here are a few of the top cloud storage startups. Note: there are so many that InfoStor has split them into two articles – yet even then we are barely scratching the surface. In this first piece, we look at cloud storage problems such as the creation of silos, how to maintain control of your own data, how to synchronize data spread around the globe in various clouds, how to manage content, how to use the cloud efficiently for secondary storage, eliminating network latency as a bottleneck to storage performance, and better ways to tier in the cloud.

Silo Busting

StrongLINK from StrongBox Data Solutions is all about busting storage silos, said David Cerf, the company’s CEO. He said that there are too many apps that have too many tiers, systems and applications in today’s storage environments. This results in a large number of asset managers spread all over the place that can’t talk to each other. This makes the migration of large volumes of data painful.

“Offered by FujiFilm under their Dternity brand, StrongLINK addresses massive growth in file and object storage, helps you avoid complexity and leverage what you already own,” he said.

It is both a middleware layer and platform to connect what you own or what you buy. This file and object store is available as software or as SaaS. Cerf added that it offers software-based data and storage management. Its workload-agnostic platform does data discovery, classification based on metadata, migration, protection and retention according to user-defined policy.

“You can search for all data whether local or network storage connected by NFS, SMB, FTP, W3C and S3,” he said. “It presents data across heterogeneous storage infrastructure based on user rules associated with file and object metadata.”

In addition, it frees up low capacity/high performance storage for active data by migrating information between storage types or tiers based on data re-reference. It is also possible to layer analytics engines and other elements onto the platform. StronLINK is of particular relevance to the cloud as it can discover anything from any store including any type of cloud. Everything is searchable and can be migrated easily via a single namespace arrangement. This makes it possible to optimize the management of the underlying data pools. As it uses open source technologies and makes its API available, there is no lock in.

“Even though the cloud is cheap, it can be a real pain,” said Cerf. “We can create one namespace of anything stored in the cloud or on-prem.”

Most gateways to the cloud become yet another silo, replacing storage and not complimenting what you own. Yes, caching everything might help, but does not improve overall storage.

Cerf said the primary use cases for StrongLink are data movement to connect high performance tiers to tiers for long-term preservation. One example is linking EMC Isilon to an more cost effective archive like LTFS tape. Another use case is centralization of storage to provide heterogeneous management across disparate storage.

Safety Blanket

Storage Made Easy has several use cases, one of which is wrapping a blanket of control and security around data on premise, within a public cloud or a third party vendor’s cloud. The software is hosted on premise and the company provides no storage of its own. Instead, it seeks to take better advantage of existing storage and clouds by making it more manageable, easier to control, and make it simple to set common policies. Hence Storage Made Easy CEO Jim Liddle’s analog of putting a blanket around your storage.

Further use cases include helping Internet Service Providers (ISPs) launch a branded enterprise File Synch and Share offering. Storage Made Easy, after all, includes enterprise file sync and share middleware. ISPs can take advantage of this to monetize their user based with a new product offering as opposed to seeing that revenue head to companies like Box and Dropbox.

Storage Made Easy also provides a single point of control over storage assets. Liddle added that Red Hat uses it for its Ceph offering. Similarly, educational establishments can use it to set up controlled access to federated on-cloud and on-premises data. And those struggling with HIPAA compliance can more easily track who had access to what documents in the cloud and provide an audit trail.

Content Mismanagement

Cloudian CMO Paul Turner thinks storage is splitting into two parts: in-memory and flash (transactional IO) on the one side, and a content backbone on the other side. Cloudian deals with the latter aspect, and Turner said you have to offer a scalable and cost-effective content engine using object storage, primarily on premise. Commodity servers are used for high volume and Turner mentioned a price of around a cent per GB. But Cloudian can also tier onto Amazon and is S3 compliant. It is available as an appliance or software, includes storage analytics and can auto-index all metadata.

“We can take any asset that you can run on Amazon and put it on our storage,” said Turner. “It’s your own private or hybrid cloud that looks and acts like Amazon.”

Neglect of Secondary Storage

Everyone, it seems, is focused on primary storage, whether using in-memory and flash to make it faster, or caching it and figuring out ways to transfer it more rapidly. Cohesity is one of the few emphasizing secondary storage – any kind of data that is not business critical. That encompasses such areas as DR, backup, file shares, test/dev, analytics, copying data to the cloud and archiving.

Typically, this area of secondary storage can be very fragmented. You may find a collection of NetApp, EMC, Hadoop and other systems running as well as lots of redundant data.

“Organizations often have an abundance of dark data and don’t even know if they need to protect it,” said Patrick Rogers, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management, Cohesity. “80% of all data is secondary and it’s ripe for consolidation.”

Cohesity takes all target storage and media servers and consolidates them into one system. This data is then deduplicated, can be searched and moved around. Rogers said Cohesity DataProtect for Backup and DR offers sub 15 minute RPO and instant RTO. It is fully integrated with VMware, and can do VM as well as file and object-level recovery.

Use cases, then, include consolidation of backup targets, simplified data protection, cloud integration, providing a long-term archive to the cloud, automated tiering with the cloud, and remote replication to the cloud. The Cohesity DataPlatform works with Amazon, Azure, Google, and OpenStack.

“The challenge is how to take advantage of the cloud without having to move your entire environment to the cloud,” said Rogers. “Most CIOs are pragmatic and don’t want to be held captive to one cloud provider.”

Tiering Troubles

OpenIO is an open source software-defined storage solution for any application, on any hardware and it has devised a means of simplifying the process of tiering storage. According to Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO, storage tiering has usually been cobbled onto existing storage hardware and software. As a consequence it is typically forced to only tier a specified type of hardware. Thus a new set of siloes emerge in big companies with large volumes of heterogeneous storage.

“OpenIO has built its tiering functionality and intelligence into the core of its system instead of being an afterthought, it simply tiers across any storage hardware or service,” said Schulz.

Internet Gridlock

With so many apps running in the background today due to ads, cookies, scripts and various personalization features, the simple loading of a page defeats even some of the highest performing storage systems. Reason: it entails many journeys back and forth over the Internet before the page is fully ready. This can slow traffic to a crawl. Decades old routing and transport protocols make matters worse by directing traffic along pre-determined paths using rules that are directly contributing to increasingly slower speeds and bad connections.

“Teridion software directs traffic to the fastest path, so that users get the best quality experience. It takes real-time Internet congestion into account and determines a faster route as a vital support to back-end storage systems,” said Dave Ginsburg, CMO of Teridion.