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Checking all the Boxes in a Multi-Cloud Data Management Environment

It is crucial to implement and follow cloud provider-agnostic standards that ensure adequate control.

Wally MacDermid is VP of Cloud Business Development at Scality.

As our ability to create and store digital objects increases, our ability to make that data available over time decreases. Long Term Digital Preservation (LTDP) attempts to address this challenge by keeping digital information of enduring value accessible and usable despite software and hardware obsolescence, and with accurate rendering of content over time.

Moreover, the “cloud first” policy mandated by many governments worldwide, and the benefits business and industry can derive from cloud-based solutions, make consideration of LTDP in the cloud a viable consideration and attractive alternative to digital libraries and archives. By leveraging the cloud’s scalability, redundancy, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability to evolving needs of digital preservation, LTDP can greatly benefit from cloud technology.

The use of multiple cloud offerings has grown organically out of “shadow IT” practices over the past few years and customers are finding they need a solution for a problem they already have. At this juncture, an increasing section of customers are clearly better educated and more savvy in their use of cloud services, prompting them to explore and implement multi-cloud. That said, it is important they seek out trusted technology partners with the expertise, know-how, and solutions to ensure the principles outlined above are accounted for.

Multi-cloud is the next leap of cloud-enabled IT architecture beyond hybrid cloud. It refers to an IT design where multiple public cloud providers and on-premise private cloud resources are used concurrently to achieve certain business objectives and metrics that are difficult to achieve with private-only and/or hybrid cloud designs. These include: freedom of choice to pick and choose best of breed cloud services across public cloud providers; data mobility without any concern of vendor lock-in; enhanced data availability and durability with data set spread across multiple cloud architectures; and cost optimization with the ability to use the most appropriate cloud pricing scheme for each application across providers. In a nutshell, these factors put the cloud customer in charge with adequate leverage and control, fueling the growing momentum multi-cloud is gaining.

While most enterprise data today still originates and is stored in on-premises storage solutions, use cases for multi-cloud data management are emerging in many industries. For example, in media & entertainment companies – the creation of content in on-premises private clouds leveraging object storage is prevalent, but the use of public cloud services for content distribution (CDN) or compute bursting for transcoding is growing. In financial services, the need for on-premises storage still provides the best security, control and performance – but public clouds offer compelling solutions for off-site compliance and long-term archival purposes such as AWS Glacier and Microsoft’s Azure Blob Storage Archive tier. In addition, cloud services for analytics such as Amazon QuickSight or Azure Machine Learning provide other value-added services for use of public clouds.

The multi-cloud benefits outlined above hinge on principles that must be adhered to. Here’s a quick checklist for determining how suitable your institution’s cloud storage selection is for supporting its long-term digital preservation strategy:

  • Normalize data access, control, and security across all clouds with a standardized object and file interface, with the de-facto object choice being the Amazon S3 API and file choices being NFS and SMB.
  • Ensure data always stays in its open, cloud native format with no opaqueness anywhere, so it can be accessed wherever it resides, and can be freely moved around as required.
  • A transparent data brokering capability allowing data to be placed and moved around automatically based on pre-defined business policies.
  • Dynamic indexing and searching capabilities across cloud architectures so that data can be found and acted upon wherever it happens to reside at any given time.
  • Most importantly, follow best practices for managing many clouds within an organization.

The undisputed benefits of multi-cloud could be wiped away if an organization lacks the maturity, discipline, or capability to adhere to the principles outlined above. h Once locked into any vendor or technology, it is very difficult to change.

If not implemented correctly and/or without reasonable safeguards, multi-cloud could exacerbate the drawbacks and challenges a cloud customer is faced with, such as increased complexity and overhead of data management, reduced flexibility in ways the data can be accessed and used, poor control and tracking of where data is placed, and inflated costs with unnecessary copies sitting on multiple clouds.

There are of course some challenges that businesses need to be aware of when deploying multi-cloud storage. True Hybrid cloud storage has not been achieved by today’s gateway and cloud-backup solutions, due to the lock-in of proprietary storage formats across public clouds and gateway products. While current solutions can enable the movement and tiering of data from on-premise to clouds, they do not truly leverage the power of the cloud by allowing cloud services to access data stored therein. Instead, these products are “one way” solutions, forcing applications to use the gateway for all access to data whether on-premises or in the clouds. This loses critical value of the public clouds by eliminating the ability to use native cloud services on this data. The industry therefore requires a solution that fundamentally changes hybrid-cloud storage and data management to provide customers with the full power and flexibility of on-premises storage and public clouds.

Multi-cloud is becoming the norm for cloud designs, enjoying mainstream adoption. Moving forward, there will be demand for a solution that fundamentally changes cloud storage and data management to provide customers with the full power and flexibility of on-premise storage and public clouds so that they can get not only the most value from their data, but also the very best and optimum experience in doing so. The rise of such new multi-cloud data controller solutions will help broker and manage information across different clouds. 

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.


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