The conundrum of a mix approach to storage strategy

The Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) Cloud 2014 Top 10 Predictions study by IDC tells a grim story for IT managers – that they will be forced to stop procrastinating over the cloud and actually start making plans or implementing cloud-like solutions.

"In 2013, the APEJ cloud services market has moved from primarily viewing the cloud as a new IT service delivery model that can replace ICT capital investment to an understanding that the external sourcing of business processes is the way in which businesses can remain competitive and agile while also reining in IT costs in the future," says Chris Morris, associate vice president for Cloud Services, IDC Asia/Pacific.

Morris says hybrid cloud adoption will be the path of least resistance for many IT managers concerned about security and lack of in-house experience when it comes to enterprise-class cloud deployments.

Raymond Goh, Senior Regional Director, Systems Engineering at Symantec sees the prevalence of converged IT infrastructure as a result of tepid cloud adoption. Companies have been fiddling with server virtualization to test the cloud waters. But the widespread adoption of mobile devices and the imperative to ensure the security of company data while permitting non-company standard personal computing devices is forcing IT’s hand.

“Companies will find themselves in a “many clouds” state as their data continues to grow and expand, cutting across IT networks, public and private clouds, mobile devices and other cloud-connected endpoints. This will make IT more complex, but with the right amount of protection and data management; public and private clouds will continue to be scalable, affordable and safe,” said Goh.

The EMC Transforming IT Study which culled data from EMC Forum attendees from 47 cities worldwide, including 10 in Asia Pacific identified Singapore (82%) and South Korea (32%) as having the highest adoption of hybrid cloud solutions.

What is clear in all these studies is that organizations are slowly building on experience and policies geared towards ensuring control, safety and compliance regardless of their approach to infrastructure – cloud or on-premise, public, private or mix. Protecting this data stored in a wide mix of repositories can easily become the central story of nightmares as IT grapples with issues of meeting business demands without losing sight of compliance directives and management mandate to secure data.

The 2013 Symantec study Avoiding the Hidden Costs of the Cloud illustrated this well with two-thirds of enterprises admitting to using three or more solutions to back up their data. This creates problems for IT, as companies now need to train staff across multiple products and spend time managing the various processes. Additionally, it also means that IT loses a single view of the network. As a consequence, more than 40 percent have lost data in the cloud and restoring information from backups. Two-thirds of these organisations saw their recovery operations fail.

While data storage has been one of the key drivers for buying into the cloud bandwagon, the protection and security of data stored somewhere in the cloud continues to be a subject of much debate and discussion among vendors. While attention is directed to high profile breaches that crop up every now and then, the operational issues of meeting company policies and processes around disaster recovery, business continuity, backup and restores are often discussed in siloes. Unfortunately vendors themselves are partly to be blamed for this situation because sales consultants are only interested in their bit of the company's product portfolio.

The result is the proliferation of rogue clouds that negatively impact backup processes. Respondents to the Symantec survey identified that on average companies use up to three types of backip solutions. Nearly half of them have lost cloud data, however, and two-thirds have experienced recovery failures. Respondents highlighted the reather slow backup process. A more serious concern, though, is that the majority estimate that if they experienced a catastrophic data loss it would require three or more days to recover.

The ability to store information in the cloud is one of the most significant advantages the technology offers, because we only pay for what we use. The survey showed, however, that the utilization of the storage businesses are paying for is low – only 17 percent, when it should be over 50. Storage is made even less efficient by the lack of deduplication – about half report that little or none of their data is deduplicated.

Goh suggest that “having a single-source solution can reduce this complexity so enterprises should look at a holistic approach on data compliance and educate employees through policy. This will ensure that end-user security is strong enough to prevent potential privacy violations by third-parties.”

A Wipro-Cisco joint study conducted of 140 organizations in Australia, India and Singapore by Forrester Consulting titled Transforming the Data Center - Navigating the Journey from Virtualization to Private Clouds concludes that ‘hybrid cloud' is becoming the new normal. Interest is concentrated around infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) in a hybrid cloud approach to complement on-premises capacity, rather than replace it, and are planning for the impact that it will have on network operations and spending.

The study also said 25 percent of the respondents find adopting IaaS as-a-service technology “will drive” IT organizations towards a hybrid cloud approach. More than half of those planning to use or using IaaS see "on-demand flexibility for hosting workloads on-premises or at a cloud service provider" as a key benefit of going hybrid with their IaaS strategy. Flexibility to respond quickly to business needs also topped the list of key benefits associated with a hybrid model.

While a hybrid approach promises cost savings and significant gains in IT and business flexibility, some concerns remain around how to manage and integrate on-premises infrastructure with cloud services in a hybrid cloud architecture.

The Forrester study concludes that organisations that embrace private/hybrid cloud approaches alongside traditional data centre capabilities will be far better positioned to support, encourage and innovate within their organizations based on simplified, more efficient access to compute resources and capabilities.

"CIOs and IT managers who have been slow to adopt cloud services will be dragged into a hybrid cloud environment, ready or not, by their line-of-business (LOB) managers who just want access to a new, better, or cheaper business process than that they already have. This business process coming to their users through a cloud delivery model is mostly irrelevant to them. So, with the LOB managers now effectively dictating how IT budgets will be spent, enterprise buying decisions will be more influenced on what the service can do for the business than the underlying technology," says Morris.

There is a cautionary lesson to be learned in all of this. Whichever path is chosen by the organisation, IT will take the brunt of blame for any hiccup that occurs on the rocky journey towards the cloud. There is a time to be bold and a time to be cautious.

Please share with us your experience on your cloud journey.

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