Hybrid Cloud Storage Tips

Monday Apr 21st 2014 by Drew Robb
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Although hybrid cloud storage is becoming a default choice for businesses, it remains highly confusing.

The follow-up article to our hybrid cloud storage buying guide provides tips, advice and cautions for those seeking to implement a hybrid cloud storage environment.

Some companies are already well on their way to building a sophisticated internal cloud. Others have gotten their feet wet in the public cloud and know the ropes there fairly well. So there is no one-size-fits-all way to go about implementing a hybrid cloud. It all depends on where you are right now.

Hybrid Cloud Storage: Starting Points

Building a hybrid cloud storage deployment could just as easily start from a public or private cloud focus. “Because a hybrid cloud combines public cloud and private data center principles, it's possible to plan a hybrid cloud deployment from either of these starting points. Picking the better starting point, however, will make it easier to address business goals,” said Molly Rector, Chief Marketing Officer, at Data Direct Networks (DDN).

DDN has two product lines that can be bridged together in a private cloud tiering configuration. GRIDScaler File Storage and WOS Object Storage. Data can be transferred from the file storage to the object storage on premise and also shared offsite in a public cloud.

Identify User Type and Workflow

Rector defined a hybrid cloud as a storage environment with requirements of a single data set, requiring storage and access both on-premise and at offsite locations. As such, the data set requires different access, permissions, security and usage guidelines.

For example, DDN typically sees hybrid cloud deployment in large research environments, universities with multiple campuses, government organizations, and within the service provider market. These represent complex environments with very different user needs and varying requirements.

“Clearly identify upfront the user types, bandwidth requirements and data workflow, as well as identifying application vendors that will need to be a part of the solution,” said Rector. “To be effective, a management strategy for hybrid cloud deployment should address configuration management, change control, security, fault management and budgeting.”

Treat the Cloud Like a Hardware Purchase

Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIOGroup, calls hybrid clouds a homerun for many environments to bridge what they have existing, while addressing common concerns about public solutions. But he advises storage managers to treat a hybrid cloud project just like they would a traditional storage hardware or software purchase.“The key is doing your due diligence with cloud solutions, technologies, products, providers and vendors, the same way that you would vet any traditional hardware, software or services to avoid surprises,” said Schulz. “This also means documenting what your cloud storage concerns are so that you can then evaluate applicable solutions and services, as well as the technologies that will actually bridge the two worlds or environments.”

Remain it Control

Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of any cloud approach that veers into the public cloud is control. Adam Fore, Director of Cloud Solutions Marketing, NetApp, cautions users who are offloading certain elements of infrastructure and applications to the cloud to make sure they don’t also try to offload responsibility and control of their business data, whether consciously or unconsciously.

“They have undoubtedly worked for years to align their datacenter workloads with the right levels of performance, data protection, and governance,” said Fore. “As they seek to implement hybrid clouds, they will need to consider how to maintain data control while leveraging a variety of different cloud services.” 

Easier said than done with some cloud services. It’s all a matter of reading the fine print in contracts and making your own requirements for control and security known upfront – and following through to see they are carried out. Fore noted that small initial compromises when implementing cloud computing are often the first steps in rapidly creating fragmented and chaotic data environments.  The results can be difficult and costly to unravel.

“Organizations that rush into cloud architectures without foresight often find themselves tangled in confusing and heavily siloed data infrastructures,” said Fore. “Rather than moving their data into one cloud, they realize they’ve pushed it onto several, disjointed clouds. This results in a costly dependence on bad infrastructure.”

Look Beyond the Storage

Storage managers can be so focused on the storage – understandably – that they forget the big picture. Edward Newman, Senior Director, Cloud and IT Transformation, Global Services at EMC, suggested that they don’t overlook the importance of a cloud operating model. 

“For IT organizations to manage this effectively, they need to have service catalogs with both private and public cloud options, and supporting back-end automation of operational processes,” said Newman. “This positions IT as a value-added service broker to the enterprise, not just a provider of IT technology.”

This may seem a little schizophrenic, but just as storage managers must view the big picture, it can be a fatal error to lose sight of how the cloud might impact local storage, processing and memory resources.

“Fully understand the local performance requirements for each of the applications connected to cloud storage so you can ensure the availability of an adequate amount of on-site cache,” said Nicos Vekiarides, CEO and Co-Founder at TwinStrata. “Plan for the future by ensuring: a) the ability to migrate between clouds if necessary, b) that you aren't tied into expensive hardware that will quickly get outdated, and c) that the strategy will scale as your needs grow.”

Don’t Shy Away from Multiple Vendors

Fore made one final point: multi-vendor environments are here to stay. Some companies are searching for the perfect partner who can solve all their IT needs in one fell swoop. That goal may have appeared attainable in the 90’s even though it often proved unwieldy. But in a world of virtualization and the cloud, it is all but impossible to realize.

“Businesses will continue to own infrastructure that comes from several sources,” said Fore. “So look for strong data management, including the capability to virtualize and manage multi-vendor platforms. Your foresight will not only ease your short-term pain, but also pave the way to a true software-defined data center.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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