We’ve been talking for years about Google offering a storage system to take on the likes of Box and DropBox. It’s an obvious development for the company who arguable has the best economics around data storage on earth. Last year we got an inkling of this direction with the release of Google Cloud Storage, a bulk storage service ties to the Google App Engine service. At the time Google indicated this move would enable third parties to build offerings on top of Google’s storage saying;

We are enabling our enterprise customers to build business solutions that take advantage of the computing power and scalability of Google’s cloud services without all the hassles of deployment of applications

It’s fair to say that in the six months or so since the launch, Google Cloud Storage has been a little quiet. I spoke with Google about their progress and in particular where they sit compared to offerings from the likes of Dropbox and Box. They contend that;

Dropbox and Box.net are in the consumer market.

I’m not sure that Box CEO Aaron Levie in particular would agree with that statement but anyway. According to Google, their offering;

…allows for dynamic uses. If you are a developer, we give you the storage and tools you need to build your next killer application. If you are an enterprise, we give you storage at a great price without worrying about scaling, performance, availability, and reliability because you’re building your product on the same technologies that power Google

Sounds compelling huh? But then why is GCS not really setting the world alight in terms of adoption? In defense of what I see as the almost invisible role that they’ve had in the marketplace to date, Google says that Google Cloud Storage is gaining traction in the enterprise market. I’m not so sure but anyhow…

Whether as a result of poor uptake or just a continuation of an existing strategy, today sees not one but five announcements of partnerships with third parties. These partners are;

  • Gladinet makes it easy to upload a file from your desktop to Google Cloud Storage, share it with your team and manage access controls using a web-based interface.
  • Panzura allows globally distributed enterprises to store, collaborate and backup files in the cloud using Google Cloud Storage.
  • StorSimple offers a single integrated appliance for primary storage, data protection and disaster recovery.
  • TwinStrata’s storage gateway can now be used in conjunction with Google Cloud Storage for data storage, backup and disaster recovery in the cloud.
  • Zmanda provides backup and disaster recovery solutions for businesses. You can now use Zmanda’s software to backup your on-premise data to Google Cloud Storage.

Two of the vendors, Panzura and Zmanda, contacted me directly to discuss. They are announcing enterprise storage offerings built on top of Google Cloud Storage. This could perhaps be seen as a response on the part of Google to poor uptake of GCS from the direct sales channel;

Since Google Cloud Storage graduated from preview last year, many customers have tapped directly into Google’s immense storage capabilities. However, there are also a number of providers who are leveraging this technology by integrating Google Cloud Storage directly into their Enterprise offerings, which is what we are announcing [today].

First a quick introduction to two of the vendors chosen for this initial push vendors. Panzura is a company focused on enterprise data storage management and distribution. They offer multi-site storage hardware and services and have been doing so since 2008. Zmanda on the other hand, has its roots in open source based enterprise backup and disaster recovery. It has various products covering the backup of file and MySQL databases and boasts of half a million users worldwide. Interestingly their Cloud Backup product claims to be the first Windows backup solution that covers both files and live applications to cloud storage, in that case to AWS’ S3 storage.

Anyway – to today’s announcements. First up Panzura who is pushing the ability for cloud storage to look and feel like local storage. Panzura’s offering has fully encryption and has three distinct components;

As a whole, the components offer highly scalable capacity across full global distribution for file-based storage and it seems that the addition of Google Cloud Storage is simply another option in a widely heterogeneous approach towards storage.

On to Zmanda who are also offering a native support of backup to Google Cloud Storage. Zmanda’s Amanda Enterprise (AE) product offers network-wide backup and includes the ability to fully back up Linux, Windows, Solaris and OS X based systems onto Google Cloud Storage. Using the Google API, AE encapsulates each backup archive as an individual object for storage. These objects are stored as open formats thus increasing the ability for customers to move archives between different storage providers. In a nod to the fact that sometimes archives actually need to be restored, AE offers bandwidth throttling and parallel streams for backup and restore.

The really interesting thing here is what, if anything, these announcements mean in relation to the fames GDrive product that we’re all still waiting to see. When asked about this Google were quick to give a “no comment”, but it seems safe to say that this increasing attention to storage per se is an indication that Google is beginning to see this area as one of real promise, if only to stem the threat from newcomers such as Box and Dropbox. It’ll be interesting to see the success that Google has with this strategy.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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