Monday, October 12, 2009

Units of Measurement for Storage in the Cloud
I strongly believe that a key ingredient in our effort to achieve true utility computing is the adoption of simple and standard units of measurement. In general, all commodities are bought and sold in easy to measure units - kilograms (or pounds), liters (or gallons) of milk, barrels of oil, etc. A unit of any commodity is easily understood and measured. We must develop simple units for all cloud computing services. I will try and propose units of measurement for the various cloud services.

A good place to start is Storage as, I believe, it is one of the simplest to measure. Most of the pricing for cloud storage is in the GB of storage used by data at rest and a few other metrics. For example, one of the most popular service, Amazon S3, is measured and sold in GB of storage, amount data transfer and number of requests. At the face of it, these seem reasonable. However, it is very hard to budget for storage if you have to estimate the number of requests you will make. The number of requests is determined by the application you develop, and applications change with time. The units for S3 storage are not application agnostic and thus their service is not that of a real commodity. We do not expect the price of flour to change based on the fact that it is used to make muffins instead of bread!

I believe that better and simpler measures would be:
- Size of storage used at rest (GB)
- Amount of data transferred - read and write - (GB)

The definition of the service should specify: Security, Availability and Minimum Transfer Rate (GB/s) that the vendor will guarantee. The S3 SLA includes nothing on Transfer Rate or Security.

Further, the industry must develop a standard interface for storage. This will allow customers to easily move applications from one provider to another.

I will love to get your feedback on what I am proposing. Please take a moment to leave a comment.

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