Gartner recently predicted we’ll reach a tipping point in 2018 when traditional data centers won’t be able to keep up with the growing demands of “digital business”. They’re also predicting a continuing price war among the largest cloud providers – Google, Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. There seems to be a race to the bottom to secure market share, even if they lose money in the process. Maybe it’s time for users to look at backing up their piece of the cloud, or switching clouds altogether.
March to the cloud
It’s true, companies of all sizes are moving to the cloud, in one way or another, but it’s not a wholesale migration of on-premise infrastructure. Instead, we’re seeing a steady, incremental replacement of traditional data center-based applications with a combination of cloud-based services and cloud-based infrastructure to run those applications that aren’t offered “as-a-service”.
The speed of this transformation is dependent on the potential for cost savings in the cloud, and on the effort required to make that move (sometimes called a “last mile” problem or the realities of implementation). But there’s another factor at work here; risk. Users have always been skeptical of losing control over their data when they moved it to the cloud.
Initially, there was some concern (and rightly so) over just how reliable cloud infrastructures really were. I think overall confidence in the technical viability of the cloud has risen substantially, but it could now be replaced by concern over the financial viability of the cloud providers themselves.
We’ve read a lot about Amazon, particularly in 2014, spewing red ink from its cloud business, something they claimed was due to an aggressive investment strategy. The company doesn’t look to go out of business any time soon, but this kind of behavior should make cloud users nervous since even behemoths like Amazon can’t afford to lose money forever. At some point they’ll pull the plug or raise prices substantially. If you’re using a smaller player who’s struggling to keep up with this practice, they may simply fold up their tent – with your data inside – a la Nirvanix. That’s where a different kind of cloud backup comes in.
Backing up the cloud
“Cloud backup” in this context isn’t a service to put your data into the cloud, but a way to protect your data that’s already there. This typically involves another cloud but could also mean pulling data back to your local data center. There are a number of services available that offer this ability and more on the way.
Moving to another cloud
But more than just backup may be needed, when a cloud provider decides they’ve had enough red ink. Unfortunately, many of their users could be along for the ride, since most cloud services are “sticky”, meaning customers may have difficulty switching suppliers. That ‘last mile’ problem we talked about earlier can make a cloud service easier to get into than get out of.
Luckily there is an increasing number of solutions out to help address this issue by making cloud-to-cloud migration much easier. In fact, many of the same vendors are offering backup as well. Stay tuned to Storage Switzerland in the next few weeks and we’ll have write ups on many of these products. Until then see the below related articles for more on safely using the cloud and backing it up.