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Micro-burst: Retrofit or Net-New?

I’ve been ruminating on a conversation that I was part of at the recent Cloud Camp – Boston “un-conference.”  In this particular case, a customer (a VAR; NOT a manufacturer) was talking about leveraging cloud storage for a particular customer of theirs who had the following “essential criteria” that needed design help:  multiple petabytes of storage, significant unstructured data, low cost of entry, data primacy/ownership (e.g. privately controlled assets/data), and very little need for typical NAS/SAN implementations.  The questions that this VAR brought up were related to designing for this type of storage.  Let’s explore this a little more (remember, just thinking out loud here) by looking at retrofitting cloud-type storage (a la Atmos) versus looking at a “net new” installation of a completely cloud storage based infrastructure.


The concept of retrofitting is to shoehorn a “new” product into a space where “old” product was either unsatisfactory or incapable of servicing the ongoing data needs of a company’s infrastructure.  In this case, the goal is to use as much of the existing infrastructure as possible to minimize cost while at the same time providing the much-needed boost in management and capability brought to the table by the new technology.  In these type of cases, the ability of the storage product (in my case, Atmos) to integrate seemlessly is vital to bringing the “cloud” to the table.  Atmos, for what it’s worth, offers the ability to integrate into traditional NAS/SAN environments through CIFS, NFS, and IFS connectivity options (IFS is through a RHEL 5.x client) while also allowing the customer to develop connectivity and SOA options through REST/SOAP API interfaces.  This way, Atmos allows you to granularly “grow” into a API-based storage model without completely getting rid of (dare I say it? ;) ) legacy NAS/SAN environments.


The Net-New concept really thrives when the customer is at a cross-roads; the need for new technology and infra outstrips the need to preserve the current infrastructure (obviously not limited to just the infrastructure discussion ).  The idea here is that by adding a “cloud capable” infrastructure the company can look to potentially minimize the overall OpEx recidivism that they experience as part of their normal buy cycles. (that was a painful sentence to write.)  Objectively, a net-new architecture allows a clean-slate “ground-up”  approach to storage architecture where careful design and planning can be based around hybrid cloud capabilities (e.g. federation between Atmos and Atmos Online) as well as the scalable growth that is offered by those platforms.  Again, provision is made for integrating into the infrastructure where needed via the aforementioned NAS capabilities (CIFS/NFS/IFS) but the emphasis is placed on self-service through the API interface.

Your Choice

The cool part about this evolution is that the choice is ultimately up to you as to how and when you implement.  Having the capabilities of integrating and growing now cannot be overlooked but, obviously, there are challenges with any type of new integration.  Similarly, tossing out the old and bringing in the new has its own sets of challenges such as internal SLAs that IT has with it’s “internal customers” etc.

Comments and feedback (as always) are welcome!

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Dave Graham is a Technical Consultant with EMC Corporation where he focused on designing/architecting private cloud solutions for commercial customers.