Data Centers need Open Cloud Integration

Organizations establishing a cloud first strategy are looking for ways to integrate both legacy and modern applications. They are also looking for ways to automate and orchestrate redundant tasks. The goal is self-service IT, where users order the capabilities they need and the data center automatically adjusts to deliver on these requests.

What is Cloud Integration?

Cloud integration can come in several forms. The first is creating extensions to legacy applications so they can benefit from the cloud. But IT has to be careful with how vendors define integration. For some vendors “integration” is the sale of an additional appliance that handles the conversion between traditional in-data center protocols and cloud protocols like object storage and REST APIs. The reality is that it makes no change to the legacy application. Instead of making processes more efficient, they actually incur additional overhead while waiting for the appliance to convert to and from the cloud. The other problem is the appliance is another device the organization needs to implement, learn, manage and maintain.

Cloud integration is, or at least should be, the improvement in a vendor’s software code that enables it to directly support the cloud. In terms of storage, integration could mean modifying the software so that it natively supports REST API and object-based storage. Once making the connection to cloud storage the cloud can become a target for old data, old backups or DR copies of backups.

What is Cloud Automation?

The level of automation and orchestration is the key differentiator between a heavily virtualized environment and a cloud. The higher the automation, the more self-service the environment becomes. Automation can be a capability built into the software and available exclusively to that application or a publicly available API can program it externally. In many cases this is the preferred method since it allows a single automation to manage a wide variety of orchestration tools.

Extending Data Protection Through The Cloud and Automation

You can find an example of the impact of a developer investing the time to integrate cloud interfaces and automation techniques in data protection. Every enterprise has data protection for their legacy application environment, and they are beginning to realize that they need it for their modernized IT environment as well. Organizations also need the ability to move data between legacy and modern IT quickly and seamlessly.

A data protection application that is truly cloud integrated can leverage cloud infrastructure to execute and store backup data. It can also leverage cloud interfaces to quickly make copies of data that modern applications need, as soon as they need it. Leveraging the data protection process to feed modern applications should greatly reduce not only overall capacity costs, but also lower the on-premises investment that organizations make in data protection hardware.

Lastly, if that application could enable external access by cloud automation and orchestration tools, then the data protection solution could participate in the self-service model. It can deliver data the self-service portal as a component of a provisioning request. Or it can apply protection to an application requesting protection. The user can even drive the level of protection based on a quality of service demarcation.

Conclusion

Applications that support the enterprise, like data protection, still have a vital role to play as IT modernizes itself. But to be of value, they have to not just connect to the cloud but integrate with it. Native communication via cloud friendly protocols is critical. In addition the software must also be able to be externally automated by a variety of orchestration tools. The simplest way to do this is to make the solution externally accessible via a REST API. The combination of a cloud ready and cloud automated solution allows what was once considered a required evil of the legacy data centers to be a vital element that not only fulfills its original value but extends its usefulness.

Eight years ago George Crump, founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal. To educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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One comment on “Data Centers need Open Cloud Integration
  1. Matt Tyrer says:

    George, I think this is a great description on how using the cloud should be simple and seamless. Integration is key!

    Carrying on that discussion, I look at how we’ve always had bandaid/stop-gaps to provide what solutions couldn’t do natively and how that shouldn’t still be the case in today’s modern IT environments. I’d love your thoughts on this:

    http://www.commvault.com/blogs/2016/august/data-centers-do-need-open-cloud-integration

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