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Cloud storage customer experiences painless migration across providers

Data migration can be a nightmare for any company, so imagine what an IT manager feels like when his cloud storage vendor tells him, “Hey, we are planning to move about one terabyte of your data from one cloud provider to another and, we promise, you won’t experience any downtime.”

True, that is supposed to be one of the key attributes of the cloud. The storage services provider or cloud provider takes on all work and responsibility associated with data migration, and the user isn’t supposed to notice a hiccup. That’s what the IT manager at a California energy company experienced last year when its storage services vendor, Nasuni Corp., moved 1 TB of its primary storage from cloud provider Rackspace to Amazon S3. The project took about six weeks and it was completed in January this year.

“Initially, I was concerned,” said the manager, who asked not to be identified because his company does not allow him to talk to the media. “The data we had in Rackspace was our working data, so it was our only copy. I was concerned about how it would work. I thought for sure I would feel a glitch here and there, but I did not.”

He said Nasuni made a full copy of the data, then replicated the changes to keep the Amazon copy current so the data could be switched later. Nasuni basically set up a system in Rackspace, and sent data copies and version history from Rackspace’s cloud to Amazon. The customer’s network was not used during the process. The energy company now has 9 TB from two data centers on Amazon S3 — 6 TB of primary production data and 3 TB of historical production backup data.

Rob Mason, Nasuni founder and president, said the energy company’s data migration was part of Nasuni’s larger project to concentrate all of its customers data on either Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure because its stress testing of 16 cloud providers showed those two providers could meet Nasuni’s SLA guarantees of 100% availability, protection and reliability. Previously, Nasuni had 85% of its customers’ data residing in Amazon with the rest spread out in about six other cloud providers. Rackspace held 10% of Nasuni’s customer data.

“We couldn’t offer our SLAs on Rackspace,” Mason said. “All our customers on our new service are either on Amazon or Azure now. For customers who wish to move from our older gateway product to the new service, which includes SLAs, if they are not already on Amazon or Azure, we will move them to one of those two providers are part of the upgrade.”

For the energy company, the goal is to have all of its data — about 15 TB — eventually residing in the cloud. “It was a constant struggle for more disk space,” the IT manager said. “And, my God, the RAID failures. It’s not supposed to fail but it did.”

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