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It's strange how quickly things can change. Cloud technology has been the darling of IT, promising several advantages. But, today, some companies are focusing on cloud data repatriation to on-premises storage.
There are many valid reasons organizations moved to cloud storage and other resources in the first place. Let's examine some factors that led companies to the cloud, including cost savings, space savings, storage capacity flexibility to accommodate customer needs and emergency recoverability, and see where promised advantages failed to be realized and what went awry.
1. Cost savings
Going to the cloud has meant moving data, databases, applications and other resources off site to a managed facility. In doing this, IT managers expected money would be saved by shifting the management of these resources elsewhere and reducing staff and other overhead expenses in the process.
A structured migration phased in over a few years would have been the best approach, starting with some small Linux workloads and working up to larger applications. In this way, ROI is proven over time and before additional steps are taken. However, some organizations get caught up in a "thrill of victory" mindset and pursue major cloud storage migrations, running data-intensive workloads with terabytes of memory. In many cases, that's where increased cloud storage costs end up being more than anticipated and surprise or hidden costs crop up that weren't included in the budget.
Cloud service providers have complicated a la carte menus of their various costs -- some charged per use and others charged on an hourly or monthly basis. It can be difficult to calculate upfront exactly what cloud services will cost. Even for storage, there may be additional applications that must be paid for beyond the core service, such as security, network connectivity and management and monitoring tools.
While cost isn't the only reason to use or not use cloud storage, it is an important one. An analysis of the true cost of cloud storage -- the cost per petabyte -- in some cases has shown the anticipated savings didn't happen and cloud data repatriation becomes a consideration.
2. Space savings
Moving storage to another location means disconnecting on-site storage resources, such as SANs, NAS devices, RAID equipment, optical storage and other technologies. But how likely is it that an IT department making a push to cloud storage will clear out the storage section of their data center and make constructive use of the newly empty space? Not always, and the organization is still paying for every square foot of floor space in that data center.
Assuming IT managers performed a careful, phased migration from on site to the cloud, they probably would have analyzed the use of space made available from the migration to cloud. If the displaced storage assets are owned by the company, managers must consider what happens to them after a department or application moves out of the data center. From a business perspective, it may make sense to retain these assets and have them ready for use in an emergency. This approach also ensures that storage resources are available if cloud data repatriation occurs, but it doesn't save space -- or money.
3. Cloud adaptability to business requirements
When an IT organization needs more storage capacity for unexpected upticks in demand, turning to the cloud makes sense. Public clouds with their vast available resources are especially useful for responding to emergency needs. But the cost of using a cloud-bursting approach must be factored into any storage analysis and subsequent contracts.
The time it takes the cloud provider to accommodate demand spikes also must be considered. If those turnaround times are too long, continued use of cloud storage might be up for debate. Also, if it turns out that emergency data capacity isn't needed or that local storage resources are sufficient for emergencies, the continued use of cloud storage may be in question.
4. Emergency recovery of IT resources
One big reason cloud storage is popular is it can be used for data backup and disaster recovery, especially recovery of critical data, applications, VMs and other resources. Careful evaluation of the costs associated with data backup and storage for DR purposes is recommended.
In certain situations, a cloud backup strategy may not be needed. For example, organizations with multiple locations -- even small, two- or three-person field offices -- can configure a comprehensive data backup and emergency storage environment with enough network bandwidth and a rack of storage servers with power supplies. Cloud resources may not be needed in this example, and the cost could be avoided through repatriation of cloud data.
Do the math
The cost of using of cloud resources must be carefully monitored. Periodically compare those costs to alternative arrangements, such as on-site storage. It's never a bad decision to admit that cloud isn't the best storage solution.
Many organizations are doing the math and discovering that the ROI for cloud isn't as good as with on-premises storage, particularly, if they aren't moving everything to the cloud and can't just turn off what's left behind in the data center. While cloud-based managed IT services can accommodate a variety of requirements, careful analysis of all aspects of cloud storage must be made upfront. And often a more prudent and phased approach to storage outweighs the thrill of going cloud. Thus, we have the cloud data repatriation phenomenon.