Managing Enterprise Data In A Hybrid Cloud World Requires A New Approach
Hybrid Cloud – Early cloud storage providers such as Box and Dropbox allowed desktop computer users, for the first time, to save files in the cloud. Soon these utilities made interacting with cloud storage seem just like accessing a local disk. They made a user’s files accessible from any device — desktop, tablet or phone. Thanks to apps like these, many consumers now live with the majority of their data in the cloud.
It’s not quite the same for enterprises. Despite arguments for (and against) going all-in on the public cloud, organizations are moving their infrastructures to the cloud with restraint. And they have good reason.
While few consumers run mission-critical apps on their devices, enterprises do. Businesses are also faced with growing concerns for data security and regulations governing their storage of customers’ personal data. So, even if enterprise data can reside in the cloud, there’s always some data that needs to remain in an on-premise model.
As a result, much of the business world has moved to a hybrid-cloud model, at least where legacy data is concerned. Yet, while hybrid cloud environments are now the norm for many organizations, they present complex data management challenges that every enterprise IT must deal with.
The All-Cloud Argument Is ‘So Yesterday’
Not so long ago, detractors of the cloud claimed it wasn’t safe and your local data center was still the only way to go. We see how that argument turned out. However, the push for “everything to the cloud” isn’t working out perfectly, either.
Despite the benefits of the cloud — simplicity, elasticity, economy — moving all data and applications to the cloud doesn’t always make sense. Sure, it would be easier to let someone else manage the hardware, network, security and so on, but no two organizations have the same infrastructure needs. And despite pervasive claims that the cloud is less expensive, it’s not always. It all depends on what you need it for, how much control you need, and what kind of performance you require.
In the end, it comes down to physics. Information can only travel so fast. Latency is latency, and sometimes you can’t afford for your data to be in a data center 500 miles or more away. Infrequently used data can be stored wherever the cloud data center may be, but mission-critical performance may require some data and applications to be local.
There are other reasons you can’t just ditch your on-premise storage in favor of the cloud. For one thing, you have a lot of investment in your existing hardware. For another, the interfaces used to connect to local and cloud storage are quite different.
Local storage devices connect over high-speed interfaces such as SCSI, iSCSI or fiber channel, which transmit data in blocks. Accessing cloud storage uses objects instead of blocks, managed through interfaces such as S3. Moving to the cloud means your applications have to access the data differently. To make this more seamless, some vendors provide cloud-like interfaces for local storage, but many lack the speed of their older counterparts.
Strict data security and privacy regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR make moving certain classifications of data to the cloud even more difficult. To comply with these laws, some of your data can’t “leave the premises,” meaning it needs to be as close and secure as you can make it.
In short, the argument that everything will move to the cloud is as “yesterday” as the last decade’s insistence that everything stay in the local data center.
The Need For Seamlessly Managing Enterprise Data In A Hybrid-Cloud World
Today’s reality says IT has to manage on-premise infrastructure as well as public cloud. Past arguments aside, public cloud and local infrastructures must coexist. Therefore, enterprises must embrace a hybrid approach to storing data and applications.
The key challenge now is managing two very different environments as if they were one. Cloud storage providers can’t get by with treating local and cloud storage as two separate islands. If consumers won’t accept disparate tools to manage their local and cloud storage, why should the enterprise?
Yet that’s where most IT staff find themselves today. Granted, the corporate data landscape is more complex than consumer desktops, but in a world where hybrid is necessary, organizations need tools that seamlessly meld local and cloud storage together and make data location practically invisible to those who manage the data and the applications that use it. Why is this so critical?
Consider that when you treat your on-premise and public cloud infrastructures as two separate islands, it nearly doubles the resources — time, people and money — required to manage them. If you decide certain data should be in the cloud and then change your mind, moving it back is a major effort.
Not only is there no automated way to perform the move; the data management tools for the environments are completely different. The applications that use the data must also be adapted to the new location. Plus, data governance is more complex when disparately managed infrastructures are involved. Everything about this process is painful and expensive.
A New Approach: Treating On-Premise Like Cloud — Not The Other Way Around
The word “hybrid” connotes the blending of multiple entities into one. But if we’re ever to relieve the pain and expense of managing enterprise data across on-premise and public cloud storage, we must make such hybrid environments seamlessly manageable and accessible as one.
To do that, we need a new approach. We need local storage (devices, blocks or files) to be presented the way cloud storage is presented to users and applications — not the other way around. Applications can then access and manage local and cloud data identically, without rewriting code, changing processes or sacrificing the performance local storage provides.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article and see the images, click here.
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