Cloud & Services

IBM lays plans to be a cloud storage broker

IBM is developing software that will allow organizations to use multiple cloud storage services interchangeably, reducing dependence on any single cloud vendor and ensuring that data remains available even during service outages.

Although the software, called InterCloud Storage (ICStore), is still in development, IBM is inviting its customers to test it. Over time, the company will fold the software into its enterprise storage portfolio, where it can back up data to the cloud. The current test iteration requires an IBM Storewize storage system to operate.

ICStore was developed in response to customer inquiries, said Thomas Weigold, who leads the IBM storage systems research team in IBM’s Zurich, Switzerland, research facility, where the software was created. Customers are interested in cloud storage services but are worried about trusting data with third party providers, both in terms of security and the reliability of the service, he said.

The software provides a single interface that administrators can use to spread data across multiple cloud vendors. Administrators can specify which cloud providers to use through a point-and-click interface. Both file and block storage is supported, though not object storage. The software contains mechanisms for encrypting data so that it remains secure as it crosses the network and resides on the external storage services.

A number of software vendors currently offer similar cloud storage broker capabilities, all in various stages of completion, notably Red Hat’s DeltaCloud and Hewlett Packard’s Public Cloud.

ICStore is more “flexible,” than other approaches, said Alessandro Sorniotti, an IBM security and cloud system researcher who also worked on the project. “We give customers the ability to select what goes where, depending on the sensitivity and relevance of data,” he said. Customers can store one copy of their data on one provider and a backup copy on another provider.

ICStore supports a number of cloud storage providers, including IBM’s SoftLayer, Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), Rackspace, Microsoft Windows Azure and private instances of the OpenStack Swift storage service. More storage providers will be added as the software goes into production mode.

”Say, you are using SoftLayer and Amazon, and if Amazon suffers an outage, then the backup cloud provider kicks in and allows you to retrieve data,” from SoftLayer, Sorniotti said.

ICStore will also allow multiple copies of the software to work together within an enterprise, using a set of IBM patent-pending algorithms developed for data sharing. This ensures that the organization will not run into any upper limits on how much data can be stored.

IBM has about 1,400 patents that relate to cloud computing, according to the company.

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