Google Cloud Storage Nearline wants to be your cloud data vault

Data stored in Google's inexpensive alternative to offline cold storage can be accessed in under 3 seconds

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A new service from Google aims to provide Google Cloud Platform users with a way to archive data at low cost -- optionally via common backup products -- and retrieve that data in seconds.

The Cloud Storage Nearline service, billed in Google's blog post as "a simple, low-cost, fast-response storage service with quick data backup, retrieval and access," is an inexpensive way to perform cloud backups and an alternative to offline cold storage, where data is backed up to physical media. Data archived in such a way can be retained inexpensively -- a single 6.25TB LTO tape costs around $40 retail -- but even with a tape library, storing and retrieving the data is slow compared to most online storage solutions.

Google's big selling point with Nearline is that data can be accessed in less than 3 seconds, on average, at a cost -- 1 cent per gigabyte for data at rest -- comparable to tape. Existing Google Cloud users will not need to change the way data is accessed, Google claims.

According to the documentation for Nearline, data stored in the service "has the same durability and comparable availability as Standard storage but with lower storage costs," and with higher latency than Google's Standard Storage tier. Data is stored in Nearline by creating a bucket, in the same manner as Standard storage, then simply writing to and reading from the bucket -- as one might with Standard storage.

Google wants this service to be adopted not just by Google Cloud Platform users, but by those performing backups using brand-name data storage solutions. The blog post names Veritas/Symantec, NetApp, Iron Mountain, and Geminare as partners that will have products that support Nearline in some form. In Veritas' case, for instance, NetBackup 7 will be able to use Nearline as a backup target. NetApp's SteelStore appliance is also scheduled to be compatible with Nearline "in the second half of 2015."

Nearline, like other Google cloud-storage offerings, favors putting data in the system and leaving it there, thus encouraging users to build more infrastructure around it. Aside from the 1-cent-per-gigabyte-per-month storage charge, other fees accumulate for using Nearline, such as network egress charges. (Ingress is free.) Google also rounds up storage charges for Nearline to the nearest month -- such as data stored in Nearline, then deleted within the month is charged as if it had been there for the entire month.

Amazon offers a similar long-term storage service, Glacier, as part of its cloud. In terms of base pricing and core features, the two are strongly competitive. Both offer functions like object lifecycles, undeletes, access controls, and auditing, and both have the same basic storage pricing of 1 cent per gigabyte per month. That said, Amazon charges slightly more for storage in some geographic regions, and to its AWS GovCloud service. Uploads cost 5 cents per 1,000 requests, and while data retrievals are free, it has the caveat that "you can retrieve up to 5 percent of your average monthly storage (pro-rated daily) for free each month," but everything after that is charged 1 cent per gigabyte. 

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.