Building a Data Platform for Hybrid Cloud Environments

By Jay Kidd, CTO, NetApp

These days, if you work in IT, you are working for an IT service provider. It may not feel that way to the majority of IT professionals yet, but it does to their CIOs. The "which cloud" debates of the past few years—public, private, Amazon, Azure, SaaS—have settled into the hybrid cloud model. This aligns with the CIO’s need for an application portfolio that serves the business and is supported by the emergence of a range of technologies that deliver IT in compelling new ways. 

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CIOs care most about delivering applications and managing information. They want to be able to pragmatically choose a delivery model for each application that best balances service level, cost and control. Some applications will be purchased in the Software-as-a-Service model; some will be run by cloud service providers that offer virtual private clouds or public clouds on a familiar platform; some will take advantage of the hyperscaler  cloud services at Amazon, Microsoft or Google; and some
will continue to be run in the enterprise’s own data center.   

In this hybrid cloud environment , the challenge for traditional IT staff shifts from building clouds to managing the interaction between clouds. The critical issues are:

  • How does information move between private, public and hyperscale clouds?
  • Can I get any operational consistency across these models to homogenize the services I am offering to my internal customers?
  • Can I do disaster recovery (DR) between cloud options?
  • What mix optimizes cost? 

To deliver on the CIO’s vision, IT teams must be able to efficiently manage data across cloud environments. In fact, more than three-fourths of cloud users (78%) said they consider it critical or highly important to manage data seamlessly across multiple cloud environments, according to a recent survey sponsored by NetApp.

Source: CIO MarketPulse Survey, September 2013

This is where common technologies across clouds deliver the most value. Managing virtual machines (VMs) the same way in both a private cloud and a virtual private cloud closes the seams for operations. And having a common set of storage services enables more effective provisioning of applications and deployments of data across multiple cloud environments.

Data ONTAP® provides this common data platform. 

Data ONTAP is the most widely deployed enterprise storage operating system in the world. Hundreds of thousands of customers use the industry’s leading storage OS  in their enterprises, and more than 175 NetApp Service Provider Partners have deployed Data ONTAP as the storage foundation for more than 300 service offerings. Data ONTAP can be deployed to allow direct access by Amazon EC2 compute instances, and it can also be run as a virtual storage appliance running in a VM on an application host. Data ONTAP gets around.

These various Data ONTAP systems can be interconnected to build a hybrid cloud environment. Data can be easily replicated between an enterprise data center and a service provider to enable DR services. In the DR scenario, the same storage efficiency features, database cloning and application integration are available, which makes the operational model the same for both on-premises and cloud-based storage. Backup services are also available from the growing number of cloud service provider partners that have standardized on Data ONTAP. And a common data platform can enable entirely new capabilities such as automatic translation between VM formats whenever data is moved. The possibilities for innovation are tremendous. 

Hybrid clouds are new, and a lot of experience must be gained before the CIO’s goal of managing an integrated portfolio of IT services can be fully realized. Those organizations already building their private clouds on Data ONTAP—both end users and service providers—already have a head start with a key technology that provides the data management foundation for a hybrid cloud environment.

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