In the Cloud or Up in Smoke? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted 2 October 2013 4:36 PM by Dan Iacono

There has been significant press, talk and hoopla around the cloud, specifically regarding public cloud. The various terms for the cloud, such as hybrid cloud and cloud bursting, now include "cloud bust." Recently, Nirvanix, a CommVault partner, communicated to its customers that they have until October 15th to migrate their data out of their cloud locations before its shut down due to an impending bankruptcy filing. This is akin to messaging an IT shop that they are shutting down in a week or the next day. As Nirvanix was an early partner of the CommVault cloud connector, I sympathize with the team over there and wish them well. As a former director of storage, I truly empathize with the Nirvanix customer base. No one ever wants to receive that kind of email message, that’s why we’re working with impacted customers to help them migrate to other cloud service providers.

Nirvanix is one of more than 10 cloud platforms, including AWS, Azure and Rackspace, that is natively integrated with CommVault Simpana software without requiring additional gateway appliances. Storing data in the cloud, particularly for archival or disaster recovery use cases, is a viable strategy every CIO should consider. If you are using or are considering using a cloud service for your data, I recommend that you take another look at your data management strategy to ensure your data placement is aligned with your business needs. With the proper data management strategy in place, an issue like the one with Nirvanix becomes a burning ember, not a 5-alarm fire. 

Evaluating Your Data Management (Storage) Strategy

There are three fundamental components of a data management strategy: cost, risk, and quality of service. At best, a data management strategy can only accomplish two out three components well (similar to the CAP Theorem of Distributed Computing, PODC Keynote, July 19, 2000). For example, the strategy’s primary focus may be optimized for cost; however, that focus might be detrimental to quality of service or risk management.

  • Cost

    This is fairly straightforward because it's the price you pay. Cloud services, such as Nirvanix, are attractive because the services are priced aggressively, they’re easy to understand from a billing perspective, have defined SLAs, and utilize the pay-as-you-go consumption model. It should be noted that you will possibly incur costs outside of the monthly $/GB paid for basic cloud storage service. The most significant external cost will likely be network bandwidth charges for your connection to a cloud storage provider (in most cases you’ll have to purchase more bandwidth to handle the increased network traffic) and the cost from the cloud provider from network egress (i.e., bandwidth to restore data back to you).

  • Quality of Service (QoS)

    QoS defines the parameters and expectations for a given service such as archive. Single or flat QoS policies usually increase price or risk. For example, certain organization put all storage on Tier 1 storage arrays providing a single QoS policy for high performance; however, the trade-off is a higher cost. Cloud storage is known for having 99.9% to 99.95% availability with an approximate expectation of IOPS (typically not guaranteed, unless flash storage is purchased).

  • Risk

    Probably the hardest area to quantify in an IT organization because each organization's definition of "risk" and tolerance is different. Most enterprise IT organizations architect and design for 99.999% (five 9's) available solutions; however, cloud storage availability has only reached 99.95%. Why would any enterprise want to use cloud services? IT organizations are taking a modern approach to their data management strategy, where not all data is equal in business importance. Significant cost savings to an IT organization can be achieved by reducing the availability expectation from 99.999% to 99.9%. Hence, the introduction of a cloud tier for archiving or "cheap and deep" storage. IT organizations have to ensure that the cost savings with the cloud service is not outweighed by the cost of most likely increased downtime (~6 minutes to 8 hours).

Picking the right cloud platform may seem daunting in light of the Nirvanix situation but the key is to first think about the data management approach. Look for solutions that offer the most flexibility and allow you to balance cost and risk with required service levels. Make sure data management aligns with business requirements. Whether you’re a growing organization or large enterprise, it may help to have a second opinion. We’ve found that many companies don’t want to architect their data management strategy and want help from experts who are knowledgeable and experienced in this area. Our consulting and professional services teams have industry-leading experience you need to help you with your modern data protection initiatives and to recommend the best cloud storage solution for your organization’s needs.

Be sure to look for Part 2 of this blog in the next day or so when I’ll talk about misalignment of cloud storage solutions with business requirements for data storage.

Dan Iacono is Services Development Manager at CommVault in the consulting services area.