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Expert video: Cloud strategies evolving

In this expert video, Wayne Pauley, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, explains how cloud strategies are evolving as the technology quickly changes. Backup and archiving, along with hybrid strategies, remain popular starting points, but new offerings are making it simpler to move more data move to the cloud. To learn more about strategies for cloud storage, watch this expert video or read the transcript below.

Beyond backup, what are some types of data best suited for the cloud?

Wayne Pauley: You could run your whole business in the cloud if you wanted to. It depends on the size of company, and it depends on the kinds of applications that you think are going to be best suited for you to run in the cloud. There certainly are companies that run their whole business in the cloud and store everything there. There are just a lot of variables there.

Are there certain cloud providers that excel in handling one type of data but not another?

Pauley: The type of data that you're going to store in the cloud really is dependent on [if you have] specific compliance regulations that are going to make you not want to put things in the cloud because you have to have a high standard of protection.

Backup and archives are obviously a good place to move things from [the] point of view of using the cloud as a target. The one thing that most people are a little bit leery of moving to the cloud today is really intellectual property [IP]. [They like to] keep that on the premises. Still, most companies are hesitant to put IP out there in the cloud. There are a lot of applications now that are moving to the cloud more and more. A good example is Microsoft Office 365. It lets you put all of your Office [documents in the cloud] and use SharePoint and Exchange basically as cloud services. I think we're kind of at the crossing-the-chasm point with what some providers are offering today.

How prevalent are private clouds becoming?

Pauley: Private clouds -- let's just do a little definitional semantics here. I think virtualized data centers are very common and moving to where the virtual data center is actually providing self-service and on-demand services. There's a service catalog that someone deals with, and it does more than generate a work order for someone in IT to go off and provision a VM [virtual machine] for them. I think many large data centers are kicking the tires with that. But I think that calling a data center purely a cloud today, a private cloud, is still a little ways out. There are some services that they're providing, but it's still in the early stages.

Let's talk about hybrid projects. Do you see companies using both private and public clouds?

Pauley: We definitely see that, whether it's shadow IT -- where people are going around what IT is doing -- or very specific capabilities that they want from a public provider. I've seen companies that we've talked to who are doing test dev. That's kind of a natural [project] for doing test and development. The second one is for backup and archiving, again a natural one. Certain Web services are pretty prevalent and easy to do now with many of the providers. Those are some of the key ones [or] at least good starting points.

What kinds of challenges exist for cloud providers that need to handle very large files like images and video?

Pauley: I don't know that it's really a problem for the cloud providers themselves -- it's the movement of the data to the cloud. So now you have to look at what your usage model is. Many of the cloud providers have a fairly inexpensive ingest price, so the economics make a lot of sense for moving the data there. The egress part of moving the data back out is a much different animal. For some providers, it's even 10 times what it costs to move data into the cloud. You have to look at that usage model. If you're moving a lot of data in and storing it, that's one thing. If you're going to have data come out and be provided to a lot of people on the egress side, then you have to think pretty hard about what the economics of that are going to be.

We hear a lot about getting your data out of the cloud. Is this more of a technology issue or a service-level agreement issue?

Pauley: I think it's more of an economic issue. It's not that the service couldn't be provided and run very well from a performance point of view. It's not a technology issue. Cloud providers can move data in and out as well as anybody. It's [the] way they've structured their economic model, so that they can make money on the pipes, basically, that they're providing. So, it's a cost issue.

What kinds of technologies are out there helping companies store more frequently accessed data in the cloud?

Pauley: There are a good number of vendors, if you're talking about purely storage. There are a good number of vendors that are providing gateways that allow a cloud's object store to provide an extension of network-attached storage only through the gateway to the cloud provider. And masking that there's even a provider on the back end, there's quite good technologies there. They have caching built into them [quite] often. That's one approach. Another is to use a CDN, a [content] delivery network. Some of the big providers have their own. Then there are other vendors out there that are CDN experts, and that's all they do.

About the presenter: Wayne Pauley is a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. His focus is on cloud computing, IT as a Service and the software-defined data center.

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