Learning the lesson that “the customer knows best” takes a long time. Although sysadmins decried the risks and lack of control that came with shadow IT, the end users and employees that signed up for custom collection of cloud services weren’t entirely wrong in their choices. By adding some much needed intelligence such as whitelisting, access restrictions, and control layers and by giving it a new name—multicloud—savvy organizations are finally getting closer to the promised land of enterprise cloud.
Multicloud is the next leap of cloud-enabled IT architecture beyond hybrid cloud. It refers to an IT design that employs multiple public-cloud providers and on-premises private-cloud resources concurrently to achieve business objectives and metrics that are difficult to achieve using private-only and/or hybrid cloud designs.
The most highly prized principles of cloud strategies, including scalability, redundancy, cost-effectiveness and adaptability, are best realized in a true multicloud setup customized to the organization’s technical and business requirements. Digital transformation has revolutionized the speed and agility of business operations and introduced innovative services and capabilities we couldn’t have imagined even 10 years ago. But the rapid rise of digital business is also producing data at an astonishing pace. Multicloud strategies are crucial to sustainably addressing data growth, accessibility and longevity, but what does that really mean?
Looking Out for the Long Term
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 content rendering over time.
Moreover, the “cloud first” policy mandated by many governments worldwide, plus the benefits industry can derive from cloud-based solutions, make LTDP in the cloud an attractive alternative to digital libraries and archives. Even for savvy cloud-service and strategy adopters, it’s important to seek out trusted technology partners with the expertise and solutions to account for the potential benefits of multicloud.
The Multicloud Advantage
The following factors put the cloud customer in charge with adequate control, fueling the growing multicloud momentum:
- Freedom of choice among the best cloud services across public cloud providers
- Data mobility without any concern of vendor lock-in
- Enhanced data availability and durability with data spread across multiple cloud architectures
- Cost optimization with the most appropriate cloud pricing for each application across providers
Most enterprise data today still originates and resides in on-premises storage, but use cases for multicloud data management are emerging in many industries. For example, in media and entertainment companies, content creation in on-premises private clouds using object storage is prevalent, but the use of public-cloud services is growing for content distribution (CDN) and compute bursting for transcoding.
In financial services, on-premises storage still provides the best security, control and performance, but public clouds offer compelling solutions for off-site compliance and long-term archiving, such as AWS Glacier and Microsoft’s Azure Blob Storage Archive tier. In addition, cloud services for analytics, such as Amazon QuickSight and Azure Machine Learning, provide value-added services for use of public clouds.
Ready to Dive In?
You can only realize the multicloud benefits discussed above when you follow fundamental principles. Here’s a quick checklist for determining the suitability of your institution’s cloud storage selection for supporting its long-term digital preservation:
- Normalize data access, control and security across all clouds using a standard object and file interface, with the de facto object being the Amazon S3 API and files being NFS and SMB.
- Ensure data always stays in its open, cloud-native format with no opaqueness anywhere so it’s accessible wherever it resides and is freely movable.
- Enable transparent data brokering that allows data to be placed and moved automatically on the basis of predefined business policies.
- Provide dynamic indexing and searching capabilities across cloud architectures so that data can be found and used wherever it happens to reside.
- Most importantly, follow best practices for managing numerous clouds in an organization.
If an organization lacks the maturity, discipline or capability to act in accordance with the principles outlined above, the multicloud’s benefits could disappear. Implementing and following provider-agnostic standards to ensure adequate control is imperative. Once locked into a vendor or technology, change is extremely difficult.
Implementing multicloud strategies incorrectly or without reasonable safeguards aggravates the drawbacks and challenges that cloud customers often face. The complexity and overhead of data management increase, the ways in which data can be accessed and used are less flexible, control and tracking of where data resides is insufficient, and costs increase owing to unnecessary copies sitting on multiple clouds.
Multicloud storage isn’t a cure-all; businesses must be aware of potential deployment challenges. Today’s gateway and cloud backup solutions have yet to achieve true hybrid-cloud storage, thanks to the lock-in of proprietary storage formats across public clouds and gateway products. Although current solutions can enable the movement and tiering of data from the customer premises to clouds, they fail to fully take advantage of the cloud’s power by allowing cloud services to access data stored therein. Instead, they are “one way” products, forcing applications to use the gateway for all access to data, whether on-premises or in the clouds.
Eliminating the ability to use native cloud services on this data voids the critical value of public clouds. Therefore, the industry requires a solution that fundamentally changes hybrid-cloud storage and data management to give customers the full power and flexibility of on-premises storage and public clouds.
As multicloud designs go mainstream, IT teams will realize they need a solution that fundamentally changes cloud storage and data management. The rise of such new multicloud data controllers will help broker and manage information across different clouds. The freedom and control over data placement, movement and search will lead to further innovation and integration capabilities across many industries. Healthy competition among providers should increase, driving more-favorable market dynamics and more value-added offerings. And finally, we can preserve the integrity and availability of the data we store today for the questions and applications we dream up many years from now.
About the Author
As Vice President of Cloud Business Development at Scality, Wally MacDermid helps lead the product and partnering strategy for the company’s multicloud solutions. Wally has spent his career in customer and partner-facing roles for companies in the virtualization, networking, storage and cloud markets. A veteran of both successful early-stage startups (Motive, Onaro, vKernel) as well as industry-leading technology providers (Remedy/BMC, NetApp, Riverbed), Wally has spent the past 10 years working with top cloud providers including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google.