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Exploring Hybrid Cloud Storage

What is Hybrid Cloud Storage?

Hybrid Cloud Storage is the combination of public cloud storage and private cloud storage. It brings together the infinite scalability for storing data inherent in the public cloud, with the security and control of private cloud.

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

Private Cloud refers to a computing environment which is built and operated solely for a single organization. Private clouds utilize modern IT constructs such as virtualization, containers, and software defined storage to allowing pooling of resources between multiple departments of a large enterprise. A private cloud may be hosted in the organization’s own facilities and fully operated by the organization IT department, or it may be leased from and operated by a private cloud provider. Some companies choose private cloud over public cloud due to security demands or because private cloud storage enables them to meet stringent regulatory compliance and security requirements applicable to their industry – such as banking or homeland security.

Public Cloud, in contrast, refers to a computing and data storage service offered by a cloud provider that is shared among multiple organizations. The public cloud is managed by a cloud provider and offers advantages related to operating at a huge scale. By being so large, public cloud may offer a wide variety of storage and computing classes to choose from; Many pre-built data services; Super-fast and reliable network access, and infinite elasticity, allowing applications to scale up and down instantly.

As of today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most popular Public Cloud provider. Other providers include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud.

Hybrid Cloud Storage Features

Hybrid cloud storage uses a mix of private cloud and public cloud storage services with data management system dynamically moving or synchronizing data between the public and private tiers. It enables organizations to cost-effectively increase their storage capacity, while tapping high-speed, dynamically sized cloud computing instance fleets to be utilized for business processing and data analytics applications. Hybrid cloud storage allows organizations to benefit from capacity and compute bursting with seamless access to data in the cloud from local datacenters and edge sites.

Last and not least, the hybrid architecture reduces storage costs by up to 80% by replacing legacy file servers with much lower-cost public object storage services such as Amazon S3 or Azure Blob Storage. Since object storage is elastic, you not only pay less per gigabyte, but you also pay exactly for what you consume, without having to keep any spare capacity. This means that your private storage tier is always kept fully utilized, while any additional data bursts to the cloud storage tier. A full featured hybrid cloud storage solution has data orchestration capabilities to optimize the placement of the data so that files that are frequently accessed locally would remain stored in the private cloud storage, while infrequently accessed data is stored in an inexpensive form of public cloud storage.

Another essential feature of hybrid cloud storage is data encryption, where the data stored in the public cloud is encrypted with keys that are securely stored in the private cloud, allowing organizations to utilize public cloud storage while fully meeting their security and compliance requirements.

Two Flavors of Hybrid Cloud Storage: Tiering vs Caching

Hybrid cloud storage solutions come in two flavors, tiering and caching. Those are two often-misconstrued methods for combining the private and public cloud storage. Both tiering and caching shift the bulk of data from private storage to the public cloud while providing seamless local access. This is where the similarity ends, as caching and tiering have radically different philosophies.  With tiering, your live data lives at the private cloud and stale data is migrated to the cloud. With cloud caching, all your data lives in the public cloud and on-premises cache storage devices provide fast and secure local access.

Caching utilizes more storage, as it requires storing the entire data in the cloud, not only archived data. By shifting the gravity to the public cloud, it also requires a more radical paradigm shift for IT professionals compared to legacy storage. But the “cloud centric” approach enables caching to provide many benefits over tiering, as described here.

Is Enterprise Hybrid Cloud for Your Business?

Hybrid Cloud is a good fit for all types of business. If you are a legacy-rich enterprise company, Implementing the hybrid cloud solution provides you with the capabilities to deploy your existing applications in the cloud without re-architecting or re-coding. By continuing to provide local, low latency access, legacy protocols such as SMB and NFS, and much utilized security standards such as Windows NT ACLs, it is dead easy to migrate users and applications to your new enterprise hybrid cloud storage.

For highly regulated industries, a hybrid cloud storage with an encrypted public cloud tier allows enjoying the benefits of public cloud while avoiding many of the compliance and security challenges.

And if you are lucky enough to have a “born in the cloud”, state of the art modern IT infrastructure, hybrid cloud storage offers you a way to consume your cloud data at the edge, ushering the huge potential of edge computing allowing for eliminating latency for snappy responsiveness; making cloud datasets available offline; and improving security and privacy.

Hybrid Cloud Storage Use Cases

There are four main use cases for hybrid cloud storage (for more details, see Gartner Market Guide for Hybrid Cloud Storage, May 3, 2021):

  1. Burst for capacity provides infinite and elastic storage capacity expansion for your local facilities, spilling excess data into low-cost public cloud object storage. Since public object storage is elastic and you pay only for the capacity you use, they are particularly cost efficient for capacity bursting.
  2. Disaster recovery backs up local data to the public cloud to enable recovery and business continuity. By storing a copy of all your data in highly resilient and redundant public cloud storage, hybrid cloud storage solutions based on caching approach provide strong disaster recovery abilities, and more importantly, instant cloud disaster recovery. In case of disaster, a new caching device can be launched anywhere within minutes to immediately provide data access while the cache is being warmed up in the background.
  3. Burst for compute is used when the dataset is created locally and needs to be accessed in the cloud for processing or analytics. For example, a visual effects company could launch 1000 servers in the cloud for eight hours to perform rendering of 3D models created by a team of artists working locally.
  4. Data orchestration is used in hybrid cloud deployments to attain a consolidated view of data in multiple clouds using a single protocol or interface. Consider an enterprise that wants to present a single view of data that can be read and written from multiple edge and cloud locations, move data between locations, or manage access using a single namespace. Cloud caching exposes a global multi-cloud file system consolidating the data of any number of backend public storage services and edge locations into a single namespace accessible from anywhere.

Pitfalls of Hybrid Cloud Storage

Transitioning to a hybrid cloud is not always simple. By moving to a hybrid model that places some of your resources in the public cloud, you’re adding latency to the mix. Many applications that were designed to work over a LAN will operate poorly if you relocate them to a public cloud datacenter that’s accessible only by WAN.

Companies deploying a hybrid cloud also often unwittingly take steps that lock them into a single public cloud provider which may be a very expensive mistake over the long term.

A further pitfall is failing to monitor and attribute public cloud spending. It is almost effortless to consume more and more of the infinitely elastic cloud storage, but if the owners and purpose of these data resources are not carefully tracked, the resulting “cloud sprawl”, that is, accumulation of wasted and uncatalogued resources is exceedingly hard to clean up.

A successful hybrid cloud implementation requires careful monitoring of your cloud resource consumption, deploying edge filers to overcome latency, and avoiding dependence on a single cloud vendor. Read here for further information about hybrid cloud pitfalls and solutions.

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