By Olivia Cahoon
As the amount and importance of data continues to increase, organizations look at cloud-based service options for storage and backup. Cloud storage services are available in public, private, and hybrid platforms that offer services for hosting and running applications (apps) and disaster recovery.
Storage service providers (SSPs) or hosted storage providers are segmented by geography and technology including stand-alone and platform-attached storage, cloud archiving, and cloud backup, according to TechNavio.
Enterprises in the Cloud
Enterprises use cloud storage to solve the need for additional storage capacity while increasing agility and delivering data to any location. As technology evolves, storage becomes a larger component of a business’ internal and external customer story, says Manish Godhia, director, product management, Cogeco Peer 1. “From video conference recordings to database backups and disaster recovery storage solutions, having a strategy around storage is now a requirement for most enterprises.”
According to Godhia, the amount of data that an enterprise stores and needs to manage doubles every two years. This problem is further exasperated by increasing data contributed by the Internet of Things (IoT), vendors part of the ecosystem, and the overall goal of enterprise digital transformation.
Today’s cloud services are in use as software-as-a-service, like Microsoft Office 365, or with shadow IT apps such as Dropbox. As infrastructure-as-a-service grows, prominent cloud storage use cases appear. Steve Pao, CMO, Igneous Systems, says this includes existing virtual machine workloads moving from on premises to public cloud to streamline management and focusing on new data-centric computing workloads where both elastic computing and scale-out data storage provide capabilities at compelling economics.
Enterprises use cloud services for storage, archiving, and back up, as well as to run and host apps. Eric Bassier, senior director, Quantum, believes running apps in the cloud is the most common use of cloud storage. “For years software platforms like Salesforce have run out of the public cloud. Now, more enterprises choose to run and host their business apps in the cloud,” he says.
Public cloud storage services are also used for offsite disaster recovery protection and long-term storage for compliance. In this use case, Bassier says backup apps typically send a data copy to a cloud storage service like Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, or Microsoft Azure Blob storage. Archived data copies are available as a low cost, long-term storage option in the public cloud storage services. Furthermore, Bassier explains that some cloud storage platforms archive information into various public storage sources, both for active archiving in the cloud and to enable collaboration across sites.
By partnering with SSPs, organizations receive cost savings, resource flexibility, and access to data. According to Justin Augat, director, product marketing, Virtustream, storage costs are reduced as customers pay for what they use and no longer pay for unused storage or other costs associated with maintenance or storage hosting.
Customers can also effectively tier data based on its business value and keep production data on expensive, performance-oriented storage while moving cold or older data to low cost cloud storage for long-term preservation, says Augat. “More broadly, customers who use cloud storage for data protection purposes can avoid purchasing and managing a second data center and related equipment,” he explains. “The cloud storage effectively becomes the second data center.”
Cloud storage also provides resource flexibility. Augat points out that with the cloud, enterprises have unlimited storage capacity available instantly. “This is in stark contrast to the long and process-intensive task of requesting, purchasing, shipping, deploying, and sometimes migrating storage in a traditional, on premises IT environment.”
Partnered with SSPs, customers receive access to data at any time, from anywhere. This contrasts to traditional data center where data access is limited and subject to planned and unplanned downtime for IT maintenance. “Collectively, these cloud benefits enable organizations to be more productive, go to market faster, and focus on their core business competency, while leaving the maintenance of IT to the vendor,” says Augat.
Brad Lewis, senior lead product manager, hybrid IT product management, CenturyLink, believes the primary benefits offered by SSPs include reduction of CAPEX expense, utility consumption models, and the ability to quickly move workloads among different execution venues. “The latter is becoming increasingly important as more enterprises seek to realize the benefits of cloud flexibility while maintaining control over their data,” he says.
Organizations accustomed to in-house storage management may experience learning curves for cloud storage including selecting a cloud service provider. Robert Cruz, senior director of information governance, Actiance, says organizations need to ensure proposed cloud services are equipped to meet their specific compliance and litigation demands because some services are better equipped to address these requirements than others.
Firms can also be misdirected in terms of what specific service limits or SLAs may exist around the performance of specific tasks. “For example, a specific cloud archiving provider has been criticized by industry analysts for imposing additional service charges for large-scale searches and export of that customer’s data,” says Cruz.
Enterprise cloud storage adoption is limited to content apps, backup, and archiving that uses cloud object storage. According to Douglas Ko, cloud strategy and market development, HPE, moving primary enterprise apps is much more challenging because enterprises either need to refactor and redevelop their apps to work with the cloud or they need to deal with cloud challenges regarding flash and block storage.
Some cloud storage users may experience cloud lock-in when changing providers. Cloud lock-in is further exacerbated by the fact that data is grounded and very difficult to move to and from the cloud, says Ko. “Worse, once your data is in one cloud provider, it becomes very expensive to move it as most providers charge data egress fees that are three to five times more than storing it.”
Public, private, and hybrid cloud storage services are available to cater to a variety of enterprise needs. Diane Clay, senior product marketing manager, cloud solutions and services, Hitachi Vantara, notes that cloud definitions in use today vary widely and rarely adhere to the strict definitions established by industry standard boards or influential industry analysts.
Clay refers to the public cloud as an internet-connected resource that provides unlimited scalability, pay-as-you-go consumption, and self-service access with no commitment. Beyond the definition are common attributes like shared resources, off premises, pre-defined services, black box operation, and micro-itemized pricing of services.
Paul Mattes, VP, global cloud business group, Veeam Software, says public cloud services are characterized by their massive scale, multi-tenancy, and the ability to dynamically scale as required. Public cloud services include AWS, Azure, IBM, and GCP. “Often, these services have advantages due to their extremely large footprints, multiple global locations, and valuable features such as automated geo replication,” says Mattes.
According to Sameer Nori, director of product marketing, Cohesity, public cloud storage services enable enterprises to be more agile and innovative for a low upfront investment and provide access to highly variable resources. “It’s very easy to provision or remove capacity as needed and only pay for storage being used,” he says.
However, in public cloud environments, other tenants and their workloads can impact the performance of an organization’s apps and storage including performance SLAs. “In an on premise environment the infrastructure belongs to the organization and so there is better control,” explains Nori. “This is very analogous to the situation of renting a hotel room versus buying a home, with renting being the public cloud and buying a home being similar to on premises data centers.”
Clay notes that challenges with the public cloud include that IT and the business may not be willing or able to give up control or governance of policies and applicable laws and regulations. “Control is not the same thing as security—public cloud has great security but doesn’t allow you to have the centralized control that businesses require,” she explains. “They want to restrict the use of resources that violate their policies which could be as simple as the wrong class of storage for an application or maybe as complex as not allowing email addresses from one country being stored on servers in another.”
The private cloud describes anything from a highly virtualized infrastructure owned and operated by IT to fully managed environments that provide public cloud attributes from a dedicated resource with more specific commitments for consumption and service level delivery, says Clay. She believes private clouds should provide all the attributes of public cloud, which is in contrast with the do-it-yourself private cloud projects that many enterprise organizations attempt to build.
“Industry analysts have suggested that as many as 95 percent of these private cloud initiatives encounter serious problems and delays,” reveals Clay. “And yet in 2018, IT executives expect that 60 percent of their total IT environments will be in public, private, or hybrid cloud, up from 45 percent in 2016, according to a 2016 IDG Cloud Computing Survey.” This results in businesses looking to take advantage of the cloud but wanting to avoid the pitfalls and science experiments of building their own.
Private clouds are typically environments dedicated to a customer and reside within a customer datacenter, made available by cloud service providers or managed entirely by a managed service provider, says Mattes. “These dedicated environments sometimes offer advantages for customers with regulatory requirements or other special considerations due to the customer or service provider’s ability to tailor the environment to their specific needs,” he explains.
Hybrid clouds implement select private and public cloud functions into one solution depending on the use case and workload.
“Hybrid cloud has been a common term and most agree that it is the use of both public and private cloud,” says Clay. “Some disagreement may hinge on the degree of coordination between the two sets of cloud resources.” Hybrid clouds typically consist of self-service integration, resource coordination and compatibility, service catalog integration, and consolidated management.
While a lower standard may be used to describe hybrid cloud, Clay believes these ideals should be what distinguishes an environment with hybrid cloud from an environment that uses two forms of cloud.
According to Mattes, hybrid solutions offer a mix of public and private platforms that allow customers to assess where to best land specific workloads or data assets. “They may choose to keep more sensitive/mission critical data on premises, like the private cloud, and other, less important data in a public cloud platform,” he offers.
The Future of Cloud Storage
In the future, Bill Fine, VP of product and marketing, Joyent, believes there will be a large transition from public cloud services to private. “If someone is moving to the public cloud, they should look to some of the companies that were there and left and understand their reasons for doing so and determine if they’re going to be like those companies in a couple of years,” he explains. “If that’s the case, maybe they should stick with the private cloud and where they are.”
Organizations typically move to the public cloud for faster service. As the public cloud matures, organizations find the service too expensive but also struggle with the cost of moving out. According to Fine, it costs roughly $30,000 to move data out of a public cloud like Amazon and it takes nearly 13 days. “Moving a lot of data can become a real problem,” he offers.
The trend of moving to the public cloud and then back to the private cloud based on pricing creates a mass rebirth of private cloud usage. Fine predicts more companies will adopt a hybrid cloud strategy where they use public or private and then move to leverage private clouds for larger apps.
Cloud Storage Services
A variety of storage service provider options are available. Here we highlight a few.
Actiance Alcatraz deploys in a dedicated or multi-tenant cloud either within its own dedicated cloud infrastructure or with IBM SoftLayer. It’s targeted toward larger enterprises with heavy regulatory compliance and eDiscovery burdens. It’s available on a per user per month basis that varies by the specific cloud environment and number of channels.
CenturyLink Utility Storage Suite is a hybrid cloud solution that caters to small- to large-scale needs. It offers a range of flexible storage solutions that scale with workloads. Data is stored in an object storage region in a highly available fault tolerant manner. It stores any type of file in the CenturyLink Cloud including multimedia, documents, database backup, and archives. Depending on use, Utility Storage is available for $0.04 GB or $0.05 GB per month.
Cogeco Peer 1 is a hybrid managed service provider with capabilities spanning cloud, hosting, colocation, connectivity, and security. “We power the potential for medium size and enterprise customers,” says Godhia. It allows users to maintain apps, data, and workloads from on premises or a private cloud while maintaining multiple development integration and production environments.
Cohesity DataPlatform Cloud Edition is a hybrid cloud solution. It is a full-featured version of the Cohesity DataPlatform that works in AWS, Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure. DataPlatform Cloud Edition includes global dedupe, scales out in nature, and provides strict consistency. The solution is priced on a terabyte basis.
Hitachi Enterprise Cloud is available as private or hybrid cloud offerings and supports major public cloud providers. It targets enterprises involved with or planning data center modernization for traditional IT infrastructure, a cloud-native application environment, or both. Released in October 2016, Hitachi Enterprise Cloud with VMware vRealize provides private or hybrid cloud users with a public cloud experience that includes price transparency through a pre-engineered service catalog that details the costs of accessing different service classes and levels, self-service, and pay-per-use with the control of being onsite.
HPE Cloud Bank Storage is a public and hybrid cloud solution that targets enterprises. It enables enterprise-grade cloud backup, disaster recovery, and archiving on Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure Blob Storage. It reduces data transfer and storage costs with deduplication and data reduction technologies. It enables users to backup directly from primary storage or a backup appliance without the need for additional hardware or software.
Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud is a hybrid cloud solution that targets enterprises with large quantities of unstructured file data. The solution is built specifically for unstructured file data and offers scalability to handle hundreds of file systems, billions of files, and petabytes of data. Cross-tier visibility offers users the confidence that data will be where it’s needed, when its needed. Hybrid Storage Cloud is available as a subscription depending on dataset under management.
Joyent offers Triton Storage, which is available as a public, private, and hybrid cloud solution targeted toward large enterprises with large application footprints. Triton Private Regions fits into a multi-cloud strategy where varied application needs are matched to available public and private cloud options. “We offer as a public cloud service, also something that people can download as software and do it in their own data centers for a private cloud region,” says Fine.
Quantum offers FlexTier, a hybrid cloud platform that allows enterprises to tier large scale file data to public cloud services like Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, and Microsoft Azure Blob Storage. It’s targeted toward industries in media and entertainment, video surveillance, PB-scale image, and other unstructured data set archiving. FlexTier allows users to view and interact with data stored in the cloud as if it is stored on premise, in a single file system and name space. It’s a licensed feature of Quantum Xcellis Scale Out NAS which starts at a list price of $25,000.
Veeam Cloud Connect is a hybrid cloud solution that targets small- and medium-sized businesses to enterprise markets. “Veeam Cloud Connect makes it easy for Veeam customers to extend backup and disaster recovery infrastructure to the cloud,” says Mattes. It provides features for service providers to offer hosted backup repositories, complete backup services, and disaster recovery as a service with Veeam. Veeam Cloud Connect is built into Veeam backup solutions for virtual and physical workloads.
Virtustream Cloud Storage is a public solution that targets enterprises. It offers predictable pricing via subscription or consumption-based billing. The solution features data durability and is designed for highest availability and ensured read access during unplanned downtime. For Dell EMC customers, co-engineered, co-sold, and common support is available with on premises solutions like Dell EMC Data Domain, Isilon, and Unity.
Cloud storage services are available in public, private, and hybrid platforms for storage, archiving, and backup. By partnering with a SSP, organizations generate greater utility from data and take advantage of a pay-per-use model. Before investing in cloud storage, enterprises should consider which cloud platform is most beneficial to their business. SW
May2018, Software Magazine