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Common cloud storage topics: archiving and gateways

Two storage aspects always enter the discussion when talking about the cloud: archiving and the use of gateways to adapt on-premise environments.

Archiving information to a cloud location is interesting for several reasons:

  • The growth of file data precipitates a discussion of what to do with all the files over time.  IT is hesitant to establish and enforce deletion policies and business owners are either unmotivated or unwilling to address the increasing capacity. Moving files that are rarely or never accessed off to a cloud can free up IT resources related to storage systems, data protection processes and administration. It can also allow IT to transfer the charge for storing the inactive data back to the business owners, which may prompt them to establish retention policies.
  • Retained backups are a good fit for the cloud. These have retention governance or business practices but do not include recovering individual files that are damaged or deleted. The long-term nature of retained backups and the unlikely event they will be required for immediate usage make them valuable targets for cloud storage.
  • Potential sharing of information within an enterprise with geographic access requirements looks to be an area that IT can address with a software service using cloud providers.

Examining how to move data to the cloud usually leads IT to two primary choices:   applications written for specific usages with management of cloud storage or use of a gateway device with existing applications. Both approaches are viable but a gateway device is the least disruptive to existing environments. The gateway presents itself as a traditional NAS system with NFS and CIFS/SMB access and manages moving data to and from a cloud service provider as required.

Gateways can be storage systems or appliances that include the hardware and pre-loaded, pre-configured software or a software application that IT must install, configure, and support. Some software gateway applications may be delivered as virtual machines, which reduces the installation effort.  No matter which delivery method is used, the gateway must have a policy engine for IT administrators to use to set the rules regarding movement of data and management of the access to the cloud service provider along with billing and chargeback capabilities.

There are several factors that can differentiate gateways:

  • The performance required to move and retrieve data must be in sync with the requirements. If used for more active data, performance can be a big concern. More typical usage for inactive data reduces the performance concerns except for initial deployments where there may be a large amount of data to move to the cloud location at the start.
  • Cost of storage and retrieval grows over time with the usage and the amount of data offloaded to the cloud.
  • Migration of data from one cloud provider to another is another concern as the landscape changes with cloud providers. Changes in providers’ pricing or poor service may necessitate a change. The ability to seamlessly transfer data between cloud providers lessens the IT impact and addresses a major concern.

Archiving data into the cloud using application software that was developed for that purpose or by using gateways (sometimes called on-ramps) for existing applications is usually done as a funded project.  Either the project is a new application deployment or a business operation that is being re-engineered, or it is a funded initiative inside of IT to improve operations. Ultimately, the funding of the program dictates the action because it does require strategy, planning, and project management in addition to the operational process changes.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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