When Is Hybrid Cloud Storage Right for Your Business?

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Hybrid cloud storage is becoming ever more popular, as organizations look to take advantage of the benefits of public and private clouds while mitigating the drawbacks. Public clouds offer a pay-as-you go financial model as well as easy scalability to deal with spikes in demand. A public cloud solution is also very cost-effective, since organizations only pay for what they use. Private clouds are better for larger organizations that require local access, granular control, specific compliance requirements and governance because they demand that organizations have at least some on-site, dedicated infrastructure.

Hybrid cloud solutions can strike a balance between the cost-effectiveness and scalability of a public cloud and the greater control and security of a private cloud. With hybrid cloud storage, organizations may position frequently accessed data, or extremely sensitive data on-site for rapid, secure access, according to Paul Burns, writing for data storage consulting firm Neovise. Data that is needed less often, such as archived transaction histories or document images, Burns said, is stored in a public cloud where it can still be quickly and transparently accessed when needed.

Similarly, Burns said, on-site data may be replicated to the public cloud for disaster-recovery purposes. With a hybrid cloud, data can be moved between the public and private clouds as your organization deems it necessary. “The benefits of hybrid cloud storage are compelling: local control for some data, plus unlimited capacity without over-provisioning for other types of data,” Burns said.

For businesses that may only need an increase in storage capacity infrequently, cloudbursting is becoming an increasingly attractive capability of a hybrid cloud storage deployment, Burns said. Cloudbursting essentially means that most of your storage and data center infrastructure is on-site, but a virtual pool of available capacity is standing by via a public cloud to handle spikes in demand.

With this kind of set-up, adding physical storage capacity is as simple as a few mouse clicks, and can give you access to as much capacity and bandwidth as you need.

Of course, there are challenges, and a hybrid storage solution isn’t going to solve all your data storage concerns. As Burns points out, many storage vendors just want to jump on the current cloud bandwagon, and label their solutions as “cloud” when they aren’t. This is called “cloudwashing.” And some vendors cobble together components and services from many other service providers to deliver an offering, which can introduce a lot of complexity, even when the functionality is what a customer wants.

“IT organizations should keep in mind that involving two, three or more vendors and service providers in the cloud storage value chain can introduce inconsistencies that impact service quality, performance and availability,” Burns said.

There also are some key questions to answer when choosing a provider. You should make sure to find out which party is responsible for quality of service? What service levels are guaranteed? What about conflict resolution if something goes wrong?

Burns advises organizations look for “A well-designed, single vendor solution that can overcome each of these issues. By giving one vendor end-to-end insight and control of service availability and quality, there is a single point of accountability.”

There also are different solutions available for different types of data. For example, as Burns notes, high-performance computing (HPC) providers should look for sub-millisecond latency from vendors that specialize in high-speed storage solutions like 3PAR or EMC VMax. For video and design firms working with CGI rendering, you’ll need extensive bandwidth for reads and writes. For organizations like this, Isilon, NetApp/LSI or DataDirect Networks storage system is a likely fit, Burns advises. Finally, Burns said, Nirvanix is a great solution for backup and archiving purposes for tier 3 and 4 data.

Another important factor is the long-term vision for our data storage plans based on your specific data sets, Burns said. It can be difficult to download data and redeploy it if you switch providers, so make sure you are making the most informed choice at the start.

Armed with this knowledge and with the myriad choices available for hybrid cloud solutions, it is easier, safer and more cost efficient than ever to move data storage to the cloud.

About the Author
This post is written by Rackspace blogger Sharon Florentine. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing, and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.

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