Cloud computing has been a mega trend looming on the technology horizon for several years now, and one area it looked set to revolutionise was storage. The idea of parking vast amounts of data on an external network that was ubiquitous, immediately scalable, cheap to operate and that had minimal impact on capital expenditure appealed to a wide range of companies, both large and small. However, with the global slowdown and its effect on IT budgets and adoption of new technology, the model looked set to hover in the wings for a few more years as it battled to counter its maturity cycle. Industry insiders, however, point out that cloud storage is already here, just not in the form many had expected. 'We can look at cloud storage from two aspects,' said Michael Chue, managing director of Symantec in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 'There is cloud storage supplied by an external service provider. Another is the cloud that is deployed in the enterprise data centre. 'We should not tie the cloud term 100 per cent to service providers.' These 'private clouds', which are already available in some products, use virtualisation technology to automatically provide storage for virtual machines across several storage tiers. And what they have done is crack open the market for external cloud storage services. One of the main critiques of these cloud storage services is that they would only appeal to small and medium-sized enterprises, because their relatively slow speed meant vast amounts of transactional data could not be handled. This drawback has been countered by hybrid models that use standard internal storage arrays for high-speed data throughput needed for databases, while at the same time tapping into the flexibility and cost effectiveness of the cloud to handle unstructured data, such as e-mail archives. And rather than being hampered by the global economic slump, the adoption of cloud storage services looks set to benefit from it. 'Customers are more interested than ever before in virtualisation and the cloud, because it promises to do more with less,' said KC Fung, EMC's director of technology solutions in Hong Kong. 'Plus, as a result of the recession, many internal IT processes have been put on hold. This has given the CIO and CTO some time to really sit down and think about what their long-term future goals are and reinvent their IT to align with this.' He admits that this technology is only beginning to gain market traction but foresees it as mirroring the adoption of server virtualisation - the technology that was first introduced in 2003 and is now so ubiquitous it has spread into the storage and networking space. '[IT managers] may not immediately shut down their data centre and build a new one especially for the cloud, but they have seen the trend and are aligning with it,' said Mr Fung.