Selecting the right storage hardware can often be a no-win proposition for the IT professional. The endless cycle of storage tech refreshes and capacity upgrades puts IT planners and their administrators into an infinite loop of assessing and re-assessing their storage infrastructure requirements. Beyond the capital and operational costs and risks of buying and implementing new gear are also lost opportunity costs. After all, if IT is focused on storage management activities, they’re not squarely focused on business revenue generating activities. To break free from this vicious cycle, storage needs to be consumed like a utility.
Virtualization technology has contributed to the commoditization of server computational power as server resources can now be acquired and allocated relatively effortlessly, on-demand both in the data center and in the cloud. The four walls of the data center environment are starting to blur as hybrid cloud computing enables businesses to burst application workloads anywhere at anytime to meet demand. In short, server resources have effectively become a utility.
Likewise, dedicated storage infrastructure silos also need to break down to enable businesses to move more nimbly in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Often, excess storage capacity is purchased to hedge against the possibility that application data will grow well beyond expectations. This tends to result in underutilized capacity and a higher total cost of storage ownership. The old ways of procuring, implementing and managing storage simply do not mesh with business time-to-market and cost-cutting efficiency objectives.
In fact, the sheer volume of “software-defined” (storage, network or data center) technologies is a clear example of how the industry is moving away from infrastructure silos in favor of a commoditized pool of centrally managed resources, whether they be CPU, network or storage, that deliver greater automation.
Storage is also becoming increasingly commoditized. With a credit card, storage can be instantaneously provisioned by any one of a large number of cloud service providers (CSPs). Moreover, many of the past barriers for accessing these storage resources, like the need to re-code applications with a CSPs API (application programming interface), can be quickly addressed through the deployment of a cloud gateway appliance.
These solutions make it simple for businesses to utilize cloud storage by providing a NAS front-end to connect existing applications with cloud storage on the back-end. All the necessary cloud APIs, like Amazon’s S3 API for example, are embedded within the appliance; obviating the need to re-code existing applications.
Hybrid Powered QoS
But while organizations are interested in increasing their agility and reducing costs, they may still be leery of utilizing cloud storage capacity. After all, how can you ensure that the quality-of-service in the cloud will be as good as local storage?
Interestingly, cloud gateway technologies allow businesses to implement a hybrid solution where local, high performance solid-state-disk (SSD) configured on an appliance is reserved for “hot” active data sets, while inactive data sets are seamlessly migrated to low-cost cloud storage for offsite protection. This provides organizations with the best of both worlds and with competition intensifying between CSPs, companies can benefit from even lower cloud storage costs as CSPs vie for their business.
Cloud Covered Resiliency
Furthermore, by consuming storage-as-a-service (SaaS) through a cloud gateway appliance, businesses obtain near instant offsite capabilities without making a large capital outlay for dedicated DR data center infrastructure. If data in the primary location gets corrupted or somehow becomes unavailable, information can simply be retrieved directly from the cloud through a cloud gateway appliance at the DR location.
Some cloud storage technologies combine storage, backup and DR into a single solution and thus eliminate the need for IT organizations to conduct nightly backups or to do data replication. Instead, businesses can store unlimited data snapshots across multiple geographies to dramatically enhance data resiliency. This spares IT personnel from the otherwise tedious and time consuming tasks of protecting data when storage assets are managed in-house. SaaS solutions offer a way out of this conundrum by effectively shrink-wrapping storage protection as part of the native offering.
SaaS Enabled Cloud
What’s more, once the data is stored in the cloud, it can potentially be used for bursting application workloads into the CSPs facility. This can help augment internal data center server resources during peak seasonal business activity and/or it can be utilized to improve business recovery time objectives (RTOs) for mission critical business applications. In either case, these are additional strong use cases for leveraging SaaS technology to further enable an organization’s cloud strategy.
Cloud Lock-In Jailbreak
One area of concern for businesses, however, is cloud vendor “lock-in” and/or the long-term business viability of some cloud providers. The Nirvanix shutdown, for example, caught Nirvanix’ customers, as well as many industry experts offguard; this was a well funded CSP that had backing by several large IT industry firms. The ensuing scramble to migrate data out of the Nirvanixdata centers before they shut their doors was a harrowing experience for many of their clients, so this is clearly a justifiable concern.
Interestingly, SaaS suppliers like Nasuni, can rapidly migrate customer data out of a CSP data center and back to the customers premises or alternatively, to a secondary CSP site when needed. Since they maintain the necessary bandwidth connections to CSPs and between CSP sites, they can readily move data en masse when the need arises. In short, Nasuni’s offering can help insulate customers from being completely isolated from their data, even in the worst of circumstances. As importantly, these capabilities help protect businesses from being locked-in to a single provider as data can be easily ported to a competing CSP on-demand.
Mirrored Cloud Redundancy
To prevent a business from being impacted by another unexpected cloud shutdown, SaaS solutions can be configured to mirror business data across two different CSPs for redundancy, to help mitigate the risk of a cloud provider outage. While relatively rare, cloud outages do occur, so if a business cannot tolerate any loss of access to their cloud stored data, this is a viable option.
SaaS providers like Nasuni, can actually offset some of the costs associated with mirroring across CSPs since they function, in effect, like a cloud storage aggregator. Simply put, since they buy cloud storage capacity in large volumes, they can often obtain much better rates than if customers tried negotiating directly with the CSPs themselves.
Managing IT infrastructure (especially storage) is simply not a core function for many businesses. The endless loop of evaluating storage solutions, going through the procurement process, decommissioning older systems and implementing newer technologies, along with all the daily care and feeding, does not add to the business bottom line. While storage is an essential resource, it is now available as a service, via the cloud at a much lower total cost of ownership.
Like infrastructure virtualization, SaaS is the wave of the future. It delivers a utility like storage service that is based on the real-time demands of the business. No longer does storage have to be over provisioned and under-utilized. Instead, like a true utility, businesses only pay for what they consume – not what they think they might consume some day in the future.
SaaS solutions can deliver the local high speed performance businesses need for their critical application infrastructure, while still enabling them to leverage the economies of scale of low-cost cloud storage capacity.
Furthermore, Nasuni’s offering allows organizations to build in the exact amount of data resiliency their business requires. Data can be stored with a single CSP or mirrored across multiple CSPs for redundancy or for extended geographical reach. The combined attributes of the offering allows business needs to be met while enabling IT to move on to bigger and better things.
Nasuni is a client of Storage Switzerland