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Reasons to consider hybrid cloud integration

Integrating a hybrid cloud into your storage environment offers a range of benefits, from backup to data tiering. Discover the variety of options to consider.

If your organization is like most, chances are you're deploying at least some of your applications and data in a public cloud. Depending on your specific usage scenarios, you may now be wondering whether your environment may benefit from hybrid cloud storage. By supplementing data center storage with cloud resources, you can ensure your production apps have ready access to the most important primary data while offloading less-frequently accessed data to low-cost, elastic cloud storage. There are several integration approaches that can be used to achieve the benefits of hybrid cloud storage.

To determine which hybrid cloud integration approach makes the most sense for your organization, you need to consider use case requirements, the organization's appetite for change and innovation, and the IT expertise and resources you have in-house to plan and implement a hybrid deployment.

DIY migration to cloud storage

You may choose a do-it-yourself approach to hybrid cloud integration that uses REST-based application program interfaces -- based on HTTP storage protocols -- to enable both data center and cloud apps to directly access cloud-based object storage, such as Amazon S3 or OpenStack Swift. To optimize data placement, you can create hybrid cloud apps that migrate data between on- and off-premises storage to push less-active primary data to the cloud. This approach is not for everyone since it requires apps to have been built or rearchitected for the cloud, and it will take some effort on the part of the development team. If you have the expertise and resources in-house, this method gives you total flexibility to tailor the hybrid environment to your specific needs and use cases. Based on Taneja Group conversations with end users, I believe only a small minority of enterprise and medium-sized organizations have the ability and resources to pursue do-it-yourself hybrid cloud integration, so don't be surprised if this approach is not for you.

Cloud gateway migration approach

Your organization is more likely to benefit from an on-premises gateway offering designed to deliver local performance for production apps and enable cost-effective scaling of capacity in the cloud. This approach works well for traditional apps that don't make sense to rearchitect for the cloud, and it does not require upfront development. Gateway products may be based on a free-standing physical or virtual appliance, or the gateway functionality may be incorporated into a general-purpose storage system. These offerings tend to look like a traditional storage array to workloads, usually providing a large, local cache for performance along with a gateway to cloud capacity. Most offerings support multiple public clouds, and in many cases they enable multiprotocol -- object, block and file -- support.

Cloud storage gateways enable a variety of use cases, including back up to cloud object storage, failover and recovery, active or long-term archiving, file sync and share, and data stores for cloud-based analytics. They may even serve as a replacement for local primary storage in a remote or branch office deployment, with local caching for performance and automatic syncing back to the cloud. Ctera Networks is an example of a company with offerings that meet many of these use cases.

Cloud gateway alternative checklist

If you are looking for an alternative to cloud gateways, the product should include:

  • Network and capacity optimization, including deduplication, compression
  • Data encryption in transit and at rest
  • Integration with the on-premises authentication system, such as Active Directory or LDAP
  • Capacity management
  • Cost controls
  • Nonproprietary migration of data out of the public cloud

Some gateway offerings include intelligent cloud tiering as a fully integrated capability. One example is Microsoft StorSimple, a cloud-integrated storage appliance in which data can be automatically moved and managed across tiers. You can use such products to automatically archive inactive primary data to a cloud tier and to store snapshots in the cloud. Automated tiering functionality eliminates the need for an off-site, secondary storage infrastructure, while providing a cost-effective way to manage data over its lifecycle.

Cloud gateway evaluation

As you consider gateway offerings and functionality, ask vendors about their caching or tiering algorithms to ensure they can meet the performance needs of your specific use cases. Look for products that store the current working set on-premises on solid-state drives and actively, but transparently, push less-frequently accessed data to a spinning disk tier and ultimately to a tier in the cloud. More advanced platforms offer storage policies that enable you to better tailor the caching or tiering algorithms to your needs.

Despite the popularity of hybrid cloud storage gateways, this is an exciting and fast-moving space, and new architectural approaches are constantly emerging. It is worth considering one or more software-defined storage offerings -- such as Hedvig, Nexenta or Qumulo -- to control and manage hybrid storage across the cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Other vendors are turning the traditional hybrid cloud infrastructure stack on its head. One vendor example is Velostrata, which allows users to move compute to the cloud while retaining primary storage on-site, helping to deliver cost-effective performance to production apps.

Given the popularity of the public cloud, and the innovative ways to connect it to on-premises apps and infrastructure, the time for hybrid cloud storage has come. Take the time to evaluate the various hybrid cloud integration options and decide which approach best fits your requirements.

Next Steps

Factors pushing the hybrid cloud integration adoption process

Hybrid cloud environment: Pros, cons and caveats

Hybrid clouds intersect public cloud and data center boundaries

This was first published in February 2016

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