iCloud Drive: Apple’s appealing recipe for cloud storage

At WWDC 2014, the senior Vice President of software engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, introduced iCloud Drive, the revamped cloud offering from Apple, which struggled with early offerings of cloud services. Apple is still playing catch-up with its cloud storage services, though its introduction of iCloud Drive appears to be the recipe Apple needs for success in this venture.

The importance of the ecosystem

iCloud Drive is an extension of the next generation of OS X, version 10.10 Yosemite, and the forthcoming iOS 8, although it will also interoperate with Windows via a web browser. Apple’s big bet with iCloud Drive is the ability to integrate it into the aforementioned updates to OS X and iOS, and by extension, into existing devices, such as already deployed iPhones, iMacs, and MacBooks. With this, Apple can likely sway users of third-party services to using iCloud — product integration being a key strength of the Apple ecosystem.

An important feature is that files stored in iCloud Drive are tagged and indexed and visible to Finder in exactly the same way as files stored locally. Additionally, attachments in Mail will be automatically synced to iCloud Drive through a feature called Mail Drop. All photos taken with an Apple device will automatically be backed up to iCloud.

The importance to enterprise

With this announcement, Apple has a complete document creation and collaboration suite with attached cloud storage to rival Google Docs and Drive and Microsoft Office and OneCloud (formerly SkyDrive). This is the latest piece of the puzzle to be added, after the addition of iWork for iCloud in August 2013.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was famously disinterested in catering to corporate buyers, with Jobs reportedly calling Chief Information Officers "orifices" in 2005. Under Tim Cook, the firm has been much friendlier to enterprise users. Notable enterprise adoption has occurred in Cook’s tenure at Apple, with North American home improvement chain Lowe’s deploying iPhones with an inventory control system and project cost estimation utilities, and United Airlines replacing the frequently updated flight instruction manuals with electronic versions on iPad.

Apple made additional strides with the February 2014 update of Apple Configurator (the software used for mass deployments), which allows administrators to set up and configure devices without needing to physically interact with the device (beyond turning it on and plugging it in). This upgrade will likely keep people already inside the Apple ecosystem firmly entrenched inside it, while providing a solitary bullet point on the benefits of the Apple ecosystem for corporate purchasers and/or IT decision makers looking to migrate employees to a new ecosystem.

Ultimately, while the addition of iCloud Drive to the Apple ecosystem is one that can only work in the benefit of Apple and its users, commodity consumer cloud services are absolutely fungible. The vital point is the extent to which iCloud Drive is deeply integrated in future versions of OS X and iOS.

How competitive is the pricing?

With the ever-changing price points of data storage in the consumer cloud and enterprise cloud, figuring out how competitive the announced pricing is compared to other cloud vendors is one that takes a good hour of searching.

Here is the basic rundown of pricing. Of note, although Google Drive offers the most space for free, iCloud Drive pricing is cheapest for the 200 GB price point. This is in stark contrast to previous iCloud pricing, with a total of 55 GB costing $100/year.

Apple iCloud Drive

5 GB — free
20 GB — $0.99 monthly
200 GB — $3.99 monthly
1 TB — TBD

Google Drive

15 GB — free
100 GB — $1.99 monthly
1 TB — $9.99 monthly
10 TB (and up) — $99.99 monthly


2 GB — free
100 GB — $9.99 monthly
200 GB — $19.99 monthly
500 GB — $49.99 monthly
Unlimited business plan — $15 per user monthly, with a minimum of five users

Microsoft OneDrive

7 GB — free
50 GB — $25 annually
100 GB — $50 annually
200 GB — $100 annually
1 TB — $2.50 per user monthly


10 GB — free
100 GB — $5 monthly
Unlimited — $15 monthly (per user, requires three users)

Microsoft Azure Gets New Tools For Hybrid Clouds And Simplified Cloud Storage Service For Businesses

Today is a big day for Microsoft. It’s making a large number of announcements around its developer tools at its enterprise-centric TechEd event in Houston today and in addition, it is also bringing a number of new features to its Azure cloud computing services. Among these are the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute for creating private connections between Azure and on-premise environments, a new simplified cloud storage service for Azure for businesses and a number of new security features.

Some of these features are available now, some are in preview and some will launch over the course of the summer. ExpressRoute is coming out of preview on Monday, for example. By working with AT&T, BT, Equinix, Level 3, SingTel, TelecityGroup, Verizon and Zadara Storage, ExpressRoute creates a direct and fast connection between Azure and the infrastructure that enterprises already have on their premises or in a co-location data center. Using these provider’s networks, ExpressRoute connections never touch the public internet, making them faster and more secure that typical connections. For enterprises that are working on adopting cloud computing through hybrid clouds, this is a huge deal. None of this comes cheap, though. During the preview, Microsoft offered a 50% discount and even then, a 10Gbps connection cost $5,000 per month with unlimited inbound data transfer and 250 terabytes of outgoing data transfer included. All of this comes with a 99.9 percent SLA.


Maybe the most interesting update, however, is the launch of Microsoft Azure Files in preview today. The idea here is that while cloud storage was designed with new applications in mind, it’s still very hard to move applications to the cloud when you have to rewrite your complete storage stack first. Microsoft argues that many of these legacy apps were written for on-premise applications where file shares were the de-facto storage standard. So to help businesses move these applications to the cloud, Azure Files essentially provides businesses with a cloud-based file sharing server that uses the standard SMB protocol that are part of the Windows API.


A few months ago, Microsoft acquired API management service Apiphany with the clear intent to integrate it into Azure. Today, some of that work is coming to fruition with the launch of Azure API Management in preview. This service helps businesses publish their APIs internally and to outside developers.


Among the new security solutions are the disaster recovery service Azure Site Recovery (previously known as Hyper-V Recovery Manager), which will launch in preview next month and a new anti-malware service for Azure in preview for both cloud service and virtual machines. In addition, Microsoft is partnering with Symantec and Trend Micro to integrate their antivirus technologies on Azure virtual machines.


Other updates the company announced today include the public previews of an internal load balancing service, an Azure Redis Cache service and the general availability of the A8 and A9 virtual machines for compute-intensive applications on Azure. Microsoft will also soon allow developers to permanently reserve an IP address from their own pool.

All of these new services clearly point at Microsoft’s interest in getting more enterprise customers onto Azure. While Microsoft may still be catching up to Amazon’s Web Services in many ways, Amazon has never quite focused on this market and Microsoft actually has a chance to leapfrog its competition here if it plays its cards right.


Google Drive Opens Price War for Online Cloud Storage Providers

Choose A Cloud Storage 300x231 Google Drive Opens Price War for Online Cloud Storage Providers

Google has made it clear for years that they’re determined to be the number one name in the cloud storage game. Google has announced a reduction in the price of their subscriptions to the service cloud storage, Google Drive, thanks to a series of infrastructure improvements.

While iCloud gives 5 GB of storage for free to all Apple device owners, Google Drive’s basic service has provided 15 GB for free since May of 2013. Specifically, the company has announced the new prices that will be set as follows – for $1.99 a month ($24 dollars a year), just $4 more than 20GB of iCloud, Google Drive users get 100GB of storage. For $9.99 a month, or $120 a year, Drive users get 1 TB of cloud storage. A $100 a year of paid iCloud service meanwhile only nets iCloud users a total of 55 GB of total storage, and Dropbox users 100 GB. These options do not eliminate the option of free storage that will remain in effect for all users with an account on the Google platform.

Google Drive isn’t only about storage; it’s also where Google productivity apps live, and it’s closely linked to its photo sharing-storage tools and Gmail, all of which share the same pool of available online storage.

With this move, Google makes it much more accessible and attractive premium services related to Google Drive winking at those users who searched for a cloud storage solution with plenty of space but without having to pay crazy.

The Cloud Storage Price War Begins

The cloud storage space has become extremely competitive in recent years, with services popping up from independent firms like Box and Mega, as well as major tech firms like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and of course Apple. They’re all fairly similar, except for of course pricing and device compatibility.

The sharp drop in Google Drive prices is a sign of strong competition in the services sector of online storage, where each platform trying to convince users to store their files in it rather than a rival. If a strong storage space is a key argument in choosing a service, the price is equally important.

For comparison, the popular cloud service Dropbox, which is used by over 200 million people, offers a free 2 GB only. The cost of storing 100 GB is $ 9.99 per month or $ 99 per year. In addition, Dropbox offers corporate tariff plan: unlimited space for groups of 5 people and costs $ 15 per user per month. Users who go with Box can get 10 GB of free storage. For $5 per month, they can get 100 GB of space. Box’s Business plan offers users 1,000 GB of storage for $15 per month per user, but there must be a minimum of three users on the plan, bringing the minimum price to $45.

Microsoft, in turn, offers a free 7 GB of space in their cloud storage. Recently, it has been renamed from SkyDrive in OneDrive. For $25 a year, Microsoft offers 50 GB extra space in addition to the free offer.

To be fair, Google’s Drive pricing was already lower than the other most popular service Dropbox, with a 100GB plan costing $4.99 per month vs. $9.99. But that extra $3 per-month savings equates out to $36 per year, making it even more attractive. Google also has the advantage of its new fleet of Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and Android devices, all of which have Google apps installed. Google’s lower cloud storage prices will also entice more people to buy Chromebooks, which will in turn eat away at yet another part of Microsoft’s business.mjhaPD-K0B4

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Nimble Storage Launches Smartstack Converged Infrastructure Solution


Nimble Storage Introduces SmartStack Solution to Unify Infrastructure Silos for Multiple Workloads

New Converged Infrastructure Solution Unifies Desktop and Server Virtualization Silos; Pre-Integration Services for Nimble Storage SmartStack to be provided by Avnet Technology Solutions

Nimble Storage (NYSE: NMBL), a leading provider of flash-optimized hybrid storage solutions, today announced a new converged infrastructure solution that allows enterprises to address the storage performance challenges for desktop and server virtualization workloads in a single converged infrastructure stack. With this new solution, enterprises are no longer burdened with maintaining separately managed infrastructure to cost-effectively meet performance demands. To assist channel partners, Avnet Technology Solutions, the global IT solutions distribution leader and an operating group of Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT), will offer pre-integration services for Nimble Storage SmartStack converged infrastructure solutions, providing faster time to deployment.

Due to the differing characteristics and performance requirements of business critical applications and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), enterprises with multi-workload environments are forced to create and manage infrastructures in silos. To alleviate this administrative nightmare, enterprises require a single architecture that adapts to both the performance and data protection requirements of each workload. The new SmartStack for Desktop and Server Virtualization delivers the high performance required for VDI and server virtualization, while at the same time providing high levels of reliability and data protection through the snapshot and replication features built into Nimble’s Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture.

In addition to meeting the demands of diverse workloads with a single storage architecture, enterprises are able to accelerate deployment while minimizing the risks associated with deploying solutions with a pre-validated reference architecture based on Cisco Unified Computing System with VMware vSphere®, VMware Horizon View™ and Nimble Storage. By leveraging Cisco blade architecture and VMware’s desktop and server virtualization platforms, enterprises now have the flexibility to scale their environment as their business grows. For easy scaling as organizations grow, IT administrators can replicate the 500-user building block.

Resellers Provide Faster Time to Deployment with Avnet Technology Solutions Pre-Integration Services

Whether deploying solutions for desktop virtualization, server virtualization, or both, Nimble Storage channel partners can offer SmartStack converged infrastructure solutions as an integrated solution through Nimble Storage’s North American distributor Avnet Technology Solutions. Avnet has availability slated for mid-March 2014. As a result, resellers can be confident in rapidly deploying solutions for their customers that have been pre-integrated by Avnet Technology Solutions, and pre-validated by VMware, Cisco and Nimble Storage.

As a part of this service resellers can depend on Nimble Storage as the point of entry for SmartStack Integration Support. Resellers are now able to ensure customers experience a faster time to deployment, a consistent level of quality integration and a single point for support.

Supporting Quotes

“Besides greater performance and simplified management, the Nimble Storage array provides the flexibility and scalability that guarantees us continued success. When combined with our Cisco UCS platform, VMware vSphere, and VMware Horizon View, we now have a complete top-to-bottom infrastructure that provides the agility to conform to the needs of the business. Because storage constraints are no longer our major area of risk, we can deploy our upcoming VDI project on the same array as our virtualized applications, eliminating the need to deploy and manage another storage silo.”

Jeremy Stephens, the executive director of information technology, The Santa Claran Hotel Casino

“Virtualized applications and VDI environments are workloads with differing characteristics. Customers continue to seek simplified approaches for deployment and management of these workloads in their infrastructures. Nimble Storage with VMware Horizon View™ can provide a foundation for storage planning and architectural design, with the flexibility to scale as these diverse workloads grow.”

Mason Uyeda, senior director of technical marketing, End-User Computing, VMware

“Our ability to provide configuration services and testing validation for SmartStack solutions is an expansion of our support for the Nimble channel ecosystem, which has already simplified the procurement process for resellers. Leveraging our pre-integration services enables channel partners to gain a competitive edge by strengthening their offerings and speeding time to a complete solution deployment, while minimizing costs and investment risk.”

Scott Look, vice president and general manager, Connected and Secured Solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions, Americas

“Increasingly, our customers are expressing the challenges associated with managing multi-workload infrastructures. To eliminate the administrative burden of managing separate infrastructure silos, Nimble provides storage arrays that adapt to serve these diverse workloads in a single system, and now also provides a reference architecture to accelerate the deployment of a unified desktop and server virtualization solution with Cisco and VMware.”

Radhika Krishnan, vice president of product marketing and alliances, Nimble Storage


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EMC Announces General Availability of XtremIO All-Flash Array

EMC Announces General Availability of XtremIO All-Flash Array

Unique Scale-Out Architecture Maximizes Flash Performance without Compromising Efficiency or Durability

HOPKINTON, Mass. — November 14, 2013


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EMC Corporation (NYSE:EMC) announced general availability of EMC® XtremIO, the industry’s first and only all-flash array to provide consistent and predictable extreme performance to any application workload over any period of time, regardless of whether the array is idle or busy, empty or full. To achieve this, EMC XtremIO features several unique flash innovations: a scale-out multi-controller architecture with linear scalability; deduplication that is always on, and always inline; data protection that is 6X more efficient and 4X faster than traditional RAID.

            Under the covers, EMC XtremIO is architected differently than any other all-flash array. Four key technologies work in concert to maximize performance without compromising efficiency or durability:

  • Content-Based Data Placement
  • Dual-Stage Metadata Engine
  • XtremIO Data Protection (XDP)
  • Shared In-Memory Metadata

EMC expects XtremIO to be a leader in the all-flash array market, which IDC forecasts to grow to $1.2 billion in revenue by 2015*. The new array is already in high demand, with 10 Petabytes of effective deduplicated capacity already sold through EMC’s Directed Availability program (announced in March 2013).

XtremIO Technology Highlights

Customers are looking to all-flash arrays to support workloads that need predictable and consistent low-latency across datasets that frequently change – such as VDI, virtual servers, massively consolidated databases and test/development environments. With XtremIO, these workloads not only achieve better performance, but also improved $/IOPS and greater administrative simplicity. There are four key architectural differences that set XtremIO apart from other all-flash arrays:

  • Content-Based Data Placement keeps the array inherently balanced and optimized to within a fraction of a percent across all SSDs and array controllers and removes duplicate data inline in the data path.
  • Dual-Stage Metadata Engine allows the array to fully leverage the random access nature of flash and place data anywhere in the array without requiring system level back-end cleaning processes (also known as garbage collection). This enables XtremIO to avoid the up to a 50% performance hit in IOPS, up to 1000% increase in latency, and up to 10X reduction in flash endurance compared to other flash arrays that use system level garbage collection.
  • XtremIO Data Protection (XDP) is a flash-specific algorithm that guards against SSD failures while delivering up to 6X more usable capacity than traditional RAID. XDP allows end-users to utilize 100% of the capacity on XtremIO – while maintaining maximum levels of performance. Other all-flash arrays will begin to show degraded performance when they reach 60% to 80% of capacity. This means that XDP delivers up to 40% more usable capacity compared to other all-flash arrays. In addition, the efficient XDP algorithms deliver up to 4X better performance and flash endurance than RAID in long-term production data center conditions.
  • Shared In-Memory Metadata enables the array to deliver the widest range of performance, and to rapidly clone information already in the array to massively accelerate common tasks like deploying virtual machines. Virtual machine clones are created at up to 20X the network bandwidth between the host and the array, several times faster and with lower impact to production virtual machines than other all-flash arrays.

XtremIO is a scale-out array based on building blocks called X-Bricks. Each X-Brick is available with 10TB of capacity – with an additional option for 20TB of capacity expected to be available early next year. XtremIO arrays deliver up to one million fully random IOPS with over 250TB of effective capacity in a single XtremIO cluster with inline deduplication. A single XtremIO cluster scales from two to eight controllers and up to 128 cores, capable of handling any OLTP Database, virtual server and VDI workload – with all data services active.

In addition, XtremIO is integrated within the EMC ecosystem to provide additional capabilities, ease-of-use, and compatibility. A VCE Vblock Specialized System for Extreme Applications based on XtremIO all-flash arrays provides unparalleled VDI end-user computing performance at unprecedented cost per virtual desktop, which customers can begin ordering by the end of 2013. XtremIO array management is also integrated with VMware vSphere and accelerated with VMware’s VAAI storage APIs. In addition, XtremIO is supported with other EMC technologies including EMC VPLEX, EMC PowerPath® and EMC Secure Remote Support (ESRS).

Customer Quotes

Brian Dougherty, Chief Technical Architect at CMA Consulting Services

“CMA is a leader in building very large scale technical platforms for healthcare applications. Our multi-tenant Oracle RAC environment generates a mixture of large sequential and random IO workloads simultaneously. We needed a specialized weapon that could handle the large mixed random and sequential workloads, while never degrading performance. We also needed a solution that was simple to manage and configure – configuring 10’s of terabytes of storage in a matter of minutes versus hours – with protection. We chose XtremIO because it delivers better performance, is simple to manage and configure and significantly lowers our total cost of ownership. It stood far apart from other solutions and reset our expectations for what we can do as an IT organization in our Oracle RAC environment.”

Russ Norman, Senior Manager of Systems Engineering at E*TRADE

“Performance, reliability, and speed are critical in our application environments. We require an infrastructure that provides very low latency, allowing orders to be processed quickly. We are deploying XtremIO to get us to the next level of performance – but even more than that provide us with new levels of usability for our applications. With these lower storage latencies, we can process higher numbers of IOPS and move larger amounts of data. We found on average writing to the XtremIO array to be between 0.25 to 0.3 millisecond response time, with reads being somewhere around 0.2 millisecond. This was, consistent with workloads between 100,000 to 200,000IOPS. In addition, XtremIO’s thin provisioning and inline deduplication were selling points for us also for cost and capacity efficiency.”

Partner Quotes

Todd Pavone, Executive Vice President, Product Development and Strategy at VCE

“The Vblock Specialized System for Extreme Applications with EMC XtremIO all flash-based arrays delivers exceptional performance for scalable, data-intensive virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions such as VMware Horizon View and Citrix XenDesktop. VCE’s best-of-breed converged infrastructure provides customers with rapid response times, unmatched ease of use and, best of all, proven scalability for up to hundreds of thousands of virtual desktops at an incredible price point.”

Erik Frieberg, Vice President, Product Marketing, End-User Computing at VMware 

“XtremIO provides flash memory performance for unique and demanding workload requirements found in VDI environments. XtremIO all-flash arrays with VMware Horizon View™ will enable our joint customers to achieve high performance and efficiency, with the ability to lower costs.”

Channel Partner Quotes

Click here to view what channel partners have to say about XtremIO.

Analyst Quote

Laura Dubois, Research VP of Storage at IDC

“What I find most compelling about XtremIO is the unique architecture. Core functions such as granular metadata processing, shared in-memory metadata handling and content-based data placement are enablers to XtremIO’s impressive sustained IOPS metrics while offering core services – including deduplication and copy data services. There are other all-flash arrays with impressive performance metrics – but not for a sustained basis. The other standout capabilities with this system are native inline deduplication, in-memory metadata only copy and a scale-out architecture. These are attributes not all of the ‘all-flash array’ solutions on the market offer.”

EMC Executive Quote

CJ Desai, President, Emerging Technology Products Division

“Flash continues to be a major disruptive force – and an incredible market opportunity in storage. There is an insatiable appetite for performance driven by next generation data center workloads in both physical and virtual environments. EMC’s strategy is to leverage flash technology across the entire storage infrastructure with a best-of-breed product portfolio that allows us to deliver customers choice. With XtremIO, we’re delivering this fast growing market with a specialized solution that delivers ‘more’ – more consistent and predictable performance, more scale, more integration and more data services. And most importantly, we’re doing this on a fundamentally better architecture, which will allow us to easily deliver even more value-added features over time.”

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