What Could Your Business Learn From Dropbox’s Capacity Strategy?

5 server stacks forming the shape of the dropbox logo

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2019

Many experts were surprised when Dropbox decided to take their storage infrastructure back in-house, not least because the IT industry is defaulting toward hosted cloud services like AWS or Azure for always-on, scalable clustering.

At the heart of the Dropbox strategy is the physical disk on which client data is stored. Magic Pocket, Dropbox’s own cloud platform, is built around Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) drives.

Large savings using SMR

Using SMR disks, Dropbox has achieved significant savings. First, they have been able to boost capacity without increasing the physical footprint of their arrays. Second, the newer disk technology is cheaper per gigabyte and draws less energy, helping to reduce running costs.

For Dropbox, the need to prove that their customer data cannot be read by third parties– like Google or Amazon– is hugely important to their business model. As a result, they have been forced to get creative by going back to the tried and tested on-premise data center. 

Lessons from Dropbox

Other businesses may not face the same pressures from their customers but they may have to extend the lifespan of their existing on-premise disk arrays. As the Dropbox example shows, the choice of disk technology used in your arrays is crucial.

SSD and flash memory remains the medium of choice for high performance applications. For everything else however, magnetic disk is still a more-than-suitable alternative. And by switching to SMR disks, businesses can increase capacity and cut costs without expanding their physical data center footprint.

The Dropbox example proves that the on-premise data center is far from dead– and that businesses can legitimately delay their cloud adoption program without incurring significant costs. In the right circumstances they may even realize significant benefits.

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