Defining Cloud Storage : Three Key Characteristics

Welcome to the bi-monthly cloud storage series from ParaScale presented by In each article we will cover a new area of cloud storage and dive into topics including use cases, how to select a vendor, technology differences, architecture details, security, interoperability, and more.

I’d like to start with a definition of cloud storage. This is a tricky concept as there are many vendors (ParaScale included) trying to define cloud storage to their advantage. The end result is a great deal of confusion and frustration to the end-user. We define cloud storage by three characteristics:

A storage service delivered over a network (internet or intranet), Easy to scale, Easy to manage. All three criteria must be satisfied to fit the definition yet there is a range of solutions that satisfy these requirements.

First, let’s consider a storage service over a network. The purists will insist that this network must be the internet and it must use a web services API and REST protocol. While that may be how cloud storage was first introduced, it is not a requirement and limiting the definition to this group will greatly impact adoption (more on that in a future post).

The second is easy to scale. Scaling is more than just capacity. Scaling must address effort and costs. Effort is reduced by the removal of the detailed provisioning tasks intrinsic to traditional storage. File systems can be expanded or contracted on the fly with a few keyboard strokes (or mouse clicks).

Cloud cost economies are driven via the use of commodity hardware and per GB pricing. The last is easy to manage. Of course, every storage vendor claims they are easy to manage. Marketing brags about 5-minute installs or SRM integration but at the end of the day, management at scale is what defines cloud storage.

A single administrator can manage a petabyte across 100’s of servers. Essentially, a storage cloud is as easy to manage as if it is a single storage appliance. Regardless of the claims of legacy storage vendors, this is true ease of management. I welcome feedback via email or visit the ParaScale blog and leave us a message.

Mike Maxey is director of product management for ParaScale, a Silicon Valley startup focused on addressing the exploding bulk storage requirements for digital content and archival data. He can be reached at