Can a data protection company that first released its products in the pre-cloud era claim to adopt a “cloud first” strategy? The proof would be in the proverbial pudding, of course. If a company developing products for IT is putting the cloud first, then it should be relatively easy to see in their product offerings.
The first way a company that makes data protection software could put the cloud first is to be able to send backups and archives to cloud storage providers. Of course, this means that it will need to be able to write via the S-3 REST API, but it’s a little more than that. Cloud storage vendors bill by the gigabyte, including how much data you send them, how much you retrieve from them and how much you actually end up storing there. Typical backup software products create a full backup followed by a series of “full file” incremental backups, which means they back up the entire file if a single byte in that file changes. Sending full backups and full-file incremental backups directly to the cloud is going to significantly increase the monthly bill. A company adopting a cloud first strategy would adjust for this by using source deduplication software that deduplicates data before sending it to the cloud.
The next thing that companies interested in cloud technologies do is explore moving actual systems into the cloud. The challenge from a data protection standpoint is whether or not the backup client is VM-friendly. Most backup software products wanting to be VM-friendly programmed to the VMware and Hyper-V data protection APIs. While this is good for that type of environment, it doesn’t work when moving systems into VMs that are in the cloud. What you need at that point is client software that runs in the VM itself, but minimizes the impact to the VM. This is typically done through source deduplication software, or via a block-level-incremental backup system such as continuous data protection (CDP) or near-CDP. This again minimizes the amount of data transferring out of the VM, which minimizes both the performance impact on the VM and the amount of data that must transfer out of the VM for backup purposes. (This helps both from a physics and a billing perspective.)
If a company has systems in the data center and in the cloud, the next thing it’s going to want is the ability to recover a data center system into the cloud or vice versa. It also is going to want to use that same functionality to seamless move systems between the two environments. So a vendor adopting a cloud first strategy is going to make these processes seamless.
If the reader will forgive a slight detour, consider SpaceX, who has adopted a “Mars First” strategy. Yes, the company will continue to build regular spaceships that don’t go to Mars. The corporate change is in every spaceship development meeting, they ask the question, “Would it work on Mars?” If there are two ways to do something and only one of them will work on Mars, that’s the one SpaceX will choose.
Anyone can say we’re cloud first. The question is whether a company is continually putting the cloud first strategy in its development processes. As it develops new products and enhancing existing products, a company that adopts a cloud first strategy will continually ask, “Will this work in the cloud?”