IT’s impression of the cloud has evolved over the past few years. Most IT professionals see the cloud not as a competitor but as another tool in the IT toolbox. Like any other tool, when used in the right circumstances it is valuable and enables IT to get the job done faster with less complexity. As the cloud has evolved, we’ve seen several different types of cloud providers emerge. In the same way a toolbox has multiple types of screwdrivers, each of these clouds may have value for the data center.
Mega-cloud providers, typically represented by the “big 3”, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, are what most IT professionals think of first when using the term cloud. These providers earn their “mega” classification because of their sheer size and scope. These organizations have thousands upon thousands of nodes and multiple locations around the world. They also provide various IT resources at very cost-effective prices. It is important to understand though that these providers are only providing infrastructure, not a turnkey, white glove service. IT has to have the time and skill sets to take the rented infrastructure and create a solution.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are regional cloud providers. While these smaller organizations offer similar compute and storage resources, they are often physically closer to the customer. The advantage they have is lower latency than one of the mega-clouds. In most cases, they also provide a higher level of service, but they are generalists.
Purpose-Built Cloud Providers
Purpose-built cloud providers are typically the creation of a hardware or software company that is providing a specific capability to the company. For example, cloud backup solutions often provide a cloud that they have built to store a customer’s backups. These providers deliver a high level of service on a specific application. The challenge is purpose-built providers only work on or for their designed purpose. Considering that most environments have more than one backup solution, as well as other cloud appropriate use cases, organizations that go the purpose-built route may end up with multiple cloud provider relationships each offering very similar services but isolated to a particular platform.
Full-Service Cloud Providers
Full-service cloud providers tend to specialize in one aspect of infrastructure but are not as specialized as purpose-built providers. For example, if the full-service cloud provider focuses on data protection and management, it might support multiple backup applications as well as multiple archive applications. These providers typically design their services for secondary use cases, but it can consolidate all of those use cases into a single service, limiting the number of cloud provider relationships that the organization needs to maintain.
Selecting the Right Provider
Each cloud provider type has a role to play, and in many cases, an organization will have multiple cloud provider relationships. In fact, some the organizations may integrate some providers with other providers. For example, it may use a regional provider for low latency access to compute but then replicate to a mega-cloud provider. If the organization has standardized on a single data protection solution then the purpose-built cloud provider may represent the simplest way to leverage cloud resources.
For most organizations, the full-service cloud provider may be the best and most realistic provider choice. For example, a data protection and data management cloud provider could help the organization with all of its secondary storage needs ranging from backup storage to archives to compliance. It also can support multiple on-premises applications so the organization can continue to use what it knows. It also has the expertise to assist customers with implementing and connecting its data protection and data management applications to the provider’s cloud resources.
The cloud is not the enemy of IT. Instead, it is just another tool in the toolbox. Which type of cloud provider the organization chooses depends both on the internal skill set of the organization and how precisely the organization wants to leverage the cloud. The obvious first step for most IT planners is to leverage the cloud to supplement the data protection and data management process. Implementing the cloud for the secondary data use case leads to a confusing number of recommendations depending on which provider the IT planner meets with and the capabilities of the organization. Full-service providers allow the organization to keep its current investment while providing high levels of support to make sure the project is a success.
Can the Cloud Bring Order to Secondary Storage?
Increased expectations around data protection, management, and privacy are causing explosive growth in secondary data stores. Organizations are looking to cloud providers to help them avoid drowning in secondary data. All cloud providers, however, are not created equal and selecting the right provider for your organization is the key to success.
To learn about the different types of cloud providers and how they can help organizations manage the secondary data deluge watch our on demand webinar “3 Steps to Controlling the Secondary Storage Deluge”. Attendees receive an exclusive copy of Storage Switzerland’s latest white paper “Developing a Secondary Storage Strategy”.