C’est VRAIS! C’est Quoi?!
Ten realities/truths applicable when an IT professional is building or seeking to buy a Cloud VRAIS solution.
RAID as we know it, originated as a solution to the escalating costs of storage in the on-premises data center. Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) allowed for more efficient and flexible management of traditional storage resources in a non-traditional manner. By applying various combinations of striping, replication, and forward error correction, the enterprise IT organization was able to focus on their specific needs, whether they be storage efficiency, data availability, data governance or protection.
As the data center migrates from on-premises into the cloud, whether it is private or public cloud, be it cloud only or hybrid with on-premises, the goals for which RAID was developed still apply. From that perspective, particularly in a multi-cloud scenario, RAID for the cloud would be highly advantageous with benefits in operational and storage efficiencies.
Because it is no longer truly disk-based, perhaps a better descriptor for Cloud Raid would be Virtual Redundant Array of Inexpensive Storage (VRAIS). Since VRAIS means “Real” or “True” in French, here are ten realities/truths applicable when an IT professional is building or seeking to buy a Cloud VRAIS solution:
- Hybrid is The Stronger Solution.
- One Cloud is NOT enough.
- Vendor neutrality is a must.
- Reducing storage footprint is a must.
- Assuming network ubiquity is dangerous
- Centralized control and policy management solves many ills.
- Proximity to cloud workloads is a bonus to be treasured.
- Cloud strategies help you better align and support your lines of business (LOBs)
- Data durability, longevity and efficiencies must be realized throughout your Cloud journey.
- Security, complexity and compliance are NOT mutually exclusive.
Thoughts and best practices behind each reality are outlined below.
- HYBRID IS THE STRONGER SOLUTION
While the tendency is towards Cloud-first thinking, it must be recognized that cloud services are not a panacea. They do not cure all ills. As such, the IT data strategy must also continue to embrace an element of on-premises workloads and storage infrastructure. There is a philosophical push to make the on-premises elements as small and efficient as possible. A great solution would allow the enterprise to embrace the cloud while seamlessly continuing to take advantage of the organization’s existing investment in on-premises infrastructure.
Considered another way, depending on your corporate needs, the cloud requires a network. If the cloud service or the network goes down, can your organization maintain business continuity and operations? A solely cloud-based solution places the network into the category of a single point of failure; a situation to be avoided at all costs.
The best practice and the likely endgame in many migrations to cloud services is to develop a hybrid architecture which enables business continuity even with catastrophic cloud or network failures.
- ONE CLOUD IS NOT ENOUGH
Just as the network must not become the enterprise’s single point of failure, so too must the cloud itself not become an operational liability in event of service faults. While it is true the major cloud providers are robust, offering significant service level agreements (SLAs), they are not perfect. None of the public cloud providers will offer an SLA that is 100%. Irrespective of regions or availability zones, they can, and have, gone down.
When they do go down, your enterprise must not be exposed. There must be an alternative. This alternative must offer full access to the corporate data footprint.
Therefore, the strongest story is a true multi-cloud architecture where services, including the entire protected data set, are directly available (perhaps replicated) from any of the participating clouds.
- VENDOR NEUTRALITY IS A MUST
Early migration to cloud-based services was driven by economics and the opportunity to reduce the overhead of managing these resources internally. Cloud-based services offered the opportunity for previously unrealized freedom. However, without caution and due consideration, this freedom can come at a hidden cost.
One headache often felt in the on-premises world was the threat of vendor lock-in where the company became too dependent on one specific vendor or provider. This headache does not go away in the cloud. Indeed, cloud vendor lock-in is a much more pervasive and significant issue because now not only are you dependent on the external supplier, but they actually have control over your data!
A sound business practice is for the organization to utilize cloud services from multiple service providers with a solution that is not tied to any one provider. Be cautious of their deep value-added services, they too come with the hidden cost of cloud vendor lock-in. Building a solution that avoids cloud vendor lock-in is a must, giving the organization the freedom and flexibility to evolve their cloud strategy and tactical solutions over time as they see fit; without their data being held hostage.
- FOCUS ON REDUCING STORAGE FOOTPRINT
A key driver to data in the cloud is reducing the total cost of ownership and the economics have been proven to be true. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that the company cannot put all the responsibility on the cloud provider to protect their data. Most cloud providers offer excellent services and features in support of data protection and preservation. However, their end-user license agreements (EULA) often make it clear that the protection of that data remains the purview of the company.
Aware that the responsibility and accountability remain with themselves, many companies err on the side of broad sweeping replication with clouds from the same provider, e.g. different regions, or with different providers. In both cases, the data is protected, but at the cost of breaking the economics which drove the initiative in the first place.
To succeed and thrive, enabling the cloud economics to survive, a solution must be adopted which still protects the data but reduces the data bloat created by multi-cloud replication. While the data footprint will grow a bit during protection it should not have to result in several hundred percent growths.
- DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ON NETWORK UBIQUITY
Today’s networks are much more stable and efficient than they were even a decade ago. As a result of this network stability, the enterprise has become much more dependent on those networks to deliver an ever-increasing volume of data, safely and securely. This network ubiquity is an underlying premise for cloud services. For the most part, this is not an issue.
However, there are several scenarios which highlight the danger of assumed network ubiquity. Two stellar examples center around business operations in the face of network problems. The first issue is one where the corporate analytics and computation are based in the cloud; when the network slows or dies, so too does the flow of the results from that analytics engine. Such behavior can lead to direct downtime for the corporation as the data and results become unavailable; a potentially costly outage.
Similarly, the second example is if the company is making great use of their legacy equipment and doing their computational work on-premises. Consider what happens to corporate production when a network reduction/outage cuts the computation engines off from their cloud-based primary data sources.
The reality is while networks are better, they can still fall short. Robust enterprise architecture provides for workloads and data to be situated such that they are in reachable proximity from one another AND for both the data and the computational engines to be available across multiple networks and fully and ideally simultaneously available to both clouds and on-premises.
- CENTRALIZED CONTROL AND POLICY MANAGEMENT SOLVES MANY ILLS
As previously highlighted, the most effective cloud services deployments span multiple cloud providers. However, this can lead to two substantial challenges. The first challenge is the complexity of managing services and data across multiple providers. The second is the challenge of service consistency and control across the entire infrastructure including multiple clouds.
The complexity of multiple providers grows exponentially with the number of providers included in the solution; the learning curves, the differences between environments and the interactions between them quickly become overwhelming even for the most effective of IT organizations. Similarly maintaining consistent policies, such as data retention or life cycle management gets more problematic as the diversity of cloud services increases.
A sound business practice is for the organization to utilize cloud services but not to give up direct ownership and control of their data in the process. Maintaining a cloud-independent consistent policy and control engine which can apply automation and other techniques to orchestrate and apply policy and control across the infrastructure is a must; doing so from a single pane of glass (a centralized, comprehensive control dashboard) is an added benefit.
- PROXIMITY TO CLOUD WORKLOADS IS A BONUS TO BE TREASURED
The economies of the cloud and the valuable scarce resource of networks to the public domain dictate it is a stronger story for data which is resident in the cloud to remain in the cloud for processing. This is amplified with the common practice of heightened data egress fees. In these cases, it is not only essential the data remain in the cloud but within the same cloud where it is resident if possible.
The winning solution in these situations is one which supports multi-cloud data repositories for data protection but one which is aware of where its workload resides and transparently focuses on utilizing more local data elements first before reaching and pulling them from somewhere else.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CLOUD STRATEGIES TO BETTER ALIGN AND SUPPORT YOUR OWN LINES OF BUSINESS (LOBS)
Many companies look at their cloud strategy as one mechanism whereby they can consolidate resources and theoretically reduce costs in the process. This in and of itself is a valid and noble philosophy. However, such consolidations often happen at the expense and complexity of aggregated resource management, internal user fees, and accidental data cross-pollenization.
It is not necessary to give up corporate organization and the internal policies and practices which IT has successfully built over the years into an effective, balanced system serving the lines of business according to their needs. Such systems should fit into the company’s multi-cloud management architecture. They should not have to be bent, warped or outright broken to fit into the model enforced by their cloud providers and their tool suites. Logical organization and cloud element association where it is meaningful, should be an inherent capability for the IT team.
A great solution will support the aggregation and allocation of cloud resources and policies within a framework which enables the company to remain flexible when it logically organizes, allocates and maintains resources. The solution must enable the company to align and organize along whichever logical or business boundaries or priorities are meaningful for them.
- DATA DURABILITY, LONGEVITY AND EFFICIENCIES MUST BE REALIZED THROUGHOUT YOUR CLOUD JOURNEY
The corporate evolution to the cloud is an ongoing journey. It is not a short trip which ends once you get to where you are going. Cloud services are constantly churning, growing, improving, evolving themselves. The cloud provider landscape has a continually growing diversity of choices and solutions. The best provider today may be surpassed by the attraction of the services offered by another tomorrow. Contemporary cloud services are much more varied, specialized and differentiated than they were even five years ago and they likely exhibit a fraction of the richness and capabilities of cloud offerings may be five years from now.
Consider the situation where a company has been storing and archiving data with very long retention times, e.g. a decade or longer. If such a company were to find itself in the situation where their cloud storage provider was no longer capable of or competitive with respect to offering their archival services, the company would find the migration of the data a costly event. It would also find that the cloud migration forced by such a change would be a very complex and error-prone task. For example, every data object being retained for 10 years would have to be extracted, its current age of retention calculated and then resubmitted to the next cloud and the retention updated to the remaining retention for that data object. Clearly, this is a manual and challenging process; as such it would also eat into the cost benefits offered by the cloud solution in the first place. This activity would have to be repeated every time another cloud vendor was included in the corporate cloud resources or whenever one was discontinued.
An excellent enterprise-class solution will account for the ever-changing cloud-scape. It must offer future proofing that enables the company to seamlessly maintain their data protection, applied policies and the fiscal advantages offered by contemporary and subsequent cloud providers.
- SECURITY, SIMPLICITY, AND COMPLIANCE ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE
Historically, corporate cloud strategies have had to address three main concerns in order to embrace the public cloud strategies and gain their benefits: security, reduction of complexity and compliance with their own data governance policies, as well as those of their regulators. However, these three considerations were often in contradiction with one another. Cloud strategies were and are a continuous balancing act of conflicting priorities, often sacrificing one or two of these in favor of the other based on their own corporate priorities. For example, solid security and strict governance and compliance to regulations would result in a highly complex and often expensive solution.
The successful cloud solution embraces all three facets, enabling the company to maintain the priority on all three seamlessly and effortlessly. Such a solution would enable many more enterprises to move to the cloud where they were previously prohibited by the unacceptable trade-offs that ensued.
Leonovus enables a Cloud RAID solution which supports and enables all of these realities in your enterprise data strategy. Ask us how at email@example.com.