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How to choose a service provider for your hybrid cloud implementation

Customers should evaluate the cost and effectiveness of a hybrid cloud storage implementation when selecting a provider to store their valuable nearline data.

Security, governance, cost, bandwidth, migration, access control and provider stability once impeded the journey to the cloud, but today many companies' on-premises storage arrays tier directly to public cloud storage.

Public cloud storage has graduated into an elastic utility that everyone can now use profitably. But there are some differences between the storage services various providers offer, and organizations should shop around before migrating terabytes of corporate data into the ether with a hybrid cloud implementation.

Cloud storage has evolved to the point where companies can use it for business, not just as a remote backup archive. Network latencies still prevent I/O-hungry data center workloads from using the cloud as primary storage, but a hybrid cloud implementation that can also move workloads to the cloud using virtual machines and containers is more the norm than the exception. Still, many data centers today have yet to start using the cloud for purposes beyond cold storage.

To nail down good use cases, look at the various tiers of storage each cloud service provider offers. Companies should consider each tier as a possible plug-in resource in their architecture. Businesses should ask service providers how simple -- and costly -- it is to transfer data between cloud storage services directly, as this can make it easier to shift data around should needs change. Be sure to understand the costs involved in both storing data over time and accessing it when necessary. There may be access costs, but they might be within expected budgets. And pay attention to access latencies: Backups that take hours to recall may not provide satisfactory levels of business continuity.

Service providers have been constantly dropping prices in what is only a beneficial turn of events for consumers. This means organizations considering a hybrid cloud implementation should position themselves to take advantage of the lowest costs available if all other factors are equal. It currently isn't easy to migrate massive amounts of data from one provider to another, nor is it necessarily cheap. This results in some friction-based lock in, which is something to be aware of when committing large repositories to any one service provider.

Unite your hybrid cloud implementation with arrays

New storage arrays, such as Microsoft StorSimple and Azure, go beyond on premises; they have native cloud storage tiering built in. There are a number of capabilities companies should evaluate if they plan to use an array with a hybrid cloud implementation:

  • Native cloud storage tiering. The array can use the public cloud as a colder tier of storage.
  • Snapshots to the cloud. The array can direct and recall snapshots to remote systems, including cloud storage targets.
  • Processing in the cloud. Look for ways to actively use cloud-hosted data, such as for analytics, forensics or other cloud-side processing.
  • Recovery in the cloud. Look for service providers that make it easy to recover storage backed up to the cloud. This enables disaster recovery as a service because the DR site is the public cloud.
  • Content distribution and global access. Cloud storage can also replicate and propagate data around the globe for local access or as ROBO primary storage for sharing large design files, videos and follow-the-sun business processing.

Organizations should also look for service providers that work closely with their chosen storage portfolio vendors. IT administrators don't want to do the troubleshooting if there are any problems between on-premises arrays and cloud storage tiers.

Many providers, such as IBM and Oracle, even offer virtual SANs out of their public clouds, not just virtual storage endpoints or volumes. Companies can use and operate these virtual SANs like on-premises storage arrays. This approach can help data center IT staff directly extend their existing storage practices while taking advantage of the cloud infrastructure for elasticity and utility pricing opportunities.

Next Steps

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