If anyone remembers June 25th 2014, it will probably be because of rising tensions in the Ukraine, or footballing incidents. But there’s something else – this was the day that Google announced their Drive for Work product, offering unlimited Google Drive storage for a nominal fee to business users via the Google Apps suite. Infinite storage had previously been a unique selling point for a small number of startups with big ambitions, but now one of the Internet’s major firms had legitimized it. In the research and education sector we watched with interest, and sure enough on September 30th 2014 Google followed up with the announcement of Google Drive for Education – free infinite storage for staff and students. On October 27th 2014 Microsoft announced that they would be giving all Office365 customers infinite storage too.
In the UK we have around 100 universities using either the Google Apps or Office365 products, which Jisc has brokered national deals for through our cloud services activity. A “decent” Storage Area Network with Fibre Channel, 0.5PB-1PB of mirrored SAS storage [*] and tape backup starts at around £500K, so this potentially represents savings to the sector of as much as £50m. Good news as we head towards Austerity 2.0? But I think we will see much more radical change in the future, as the corporate IT function is increasingly “hollowed out” by these kinds of services. Watch Microsoft’s promo video above for their RemoteApp technology and ask yourself whether in the future we will get most of our Windows applications from a corporate instance of the Microsoft Store – with all those nasty software packaging, licensing and billing issues handled for us. Perhaps we have only just started to see the disruptive effect of cloud computing on corporate IT, and in years to come we may find ourselves looking back at June 25th 2014 as the day it all changed.
[*] Such as you might require to establish a Research Data service, or users’ home drives.
Just to respond to a point made via Twitter – I should also note in fairness that you get what you pay for, and this free unlimited cloud storage is nowhere near as performant as the kind of in-house enterprise NAS or SAN storage that an organization would traditionally have purchased. Whether this is important depends on your usage patterns, and instant access high throughput will still be invaluable for some use cases in e.g. HPC and Big Data.