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Enterprises Embrace Cloud Storage with an Edge

The future of storage involves both the cloud and the edge as enterprises move away from on-premises hardware and software toward an "as-a-service" model.

Written by Laz Vekiarides, CTO and Co-founder of ClearSky Data

Data storage and related technologies are once again becoming a hot commodity. Since the summer, venture capitalists have poured money into three companies that serve the growing demand for data storage and backup. In January, Rubrik raised $261 million, followed the next day by Veeam's $500 million round of funding. Last August, Actifio raised $106 million.

Interestingly, though, none of these companies identifies itself as a backup or storage provider. Instead they're some flavor of cloud, services or data management: Veeam calls itself an "intelligent data management" company; Rubrik uses the term "cloud data management;" and Actifio identifies itself as "enterprise data as a service."

The two key takeaways? Such strong interest from investors and customers alike reflect the tremendous need for advancements in data storage and backup. And the way in which these providers are defining themselves indicates data storage is rapidly moving away from on-premises hardware and software to an "as-a-service" model that leverages hybrid cloud.

On-prem storage models cannot keep up with the growing avalanche of data

Enterprises are becoming ever more dependent on data, but exponential data growth is making managing and storing all that data extremely challenging. The traditional, on-prem, three-year storage buying cycle means that IT has to pay for far more capacity than the enterprise will use for a year or two, unless it wants to continuously buy and deploy new boxes on-demand.

Data protection is also a problem, because traditional backup systems that are bolted onto on-prem storage can't provide the level of protection today's enterprises need without an enormous investment. With an on-prem model, getting to a recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) of near zero is costly and cumbersome, if not impossible.

What's more, bolt-on data protection options are expensive. Businesses spend, on average, 8 percent of their entire software budget on backup software, which is more than they spend on IT management software (6 percent) and almost as much as they spend on all productivity software (10 percent), according to a recent Spiceworks survey. An even steeper 15 percent of the hosted or cloud services budget goes to data backup, which is the biggest slice of the pie for hosted / cloud services spend.

Today's enterprises also need access to data in many locations and multiple clouds, which is difficult to provide using traditional on-prem technologies. WAN acceleration and replication systems can work for a limited number of sites, but, again, they're costly and don't scale well.

Simply put, traditional, on-prem storage solutions are a complex collection of expensive, disparate systems that aren't meeting the massive data challenges that today's enterprises face.

Enterprise storage-as-a-service

These pressures are prompting organizations to adopt data storage-as-a-service. The cloud offers unique capabilities that promise to overcome the limitations of on-prem systems: unlimited capacity; a robust, highly redundant architecture; and access from virtually anywhere. But latency is a big issue. Cloud data centers are built far away from metro areas. The fattest pipes on earth won't help data travel any faster than the speed of light, so these distances create significant latency.

A solution is to move data closer to the edge. In a modern data storage service, a primary, durable copy of all data lives in the cloud. But to provide performance, a cloud storage service requires intelligent data management to move data across layers behind the scenes so that it's close whenever it's needed. Hot data, which is about 8-12 percent of an organization's total data, can be kept on-prem. But that's not enough. When end-users and apps request data that's not in the local cache, that data needs to be close to the edge for fast access. And by "the edge" I'm referring to storage and compute resources that are located within about 120 miles of the customer site. At that distance, latency is an essentially undetectable 1 or 2 milliseconds.

With this hybrid approach, the enterprise gains a storage service that provides the benefits of the cloud and the performance of local storage. Backup and replication can happen automatically in the service, with nearly continuous backups throughout the day that enable RPOs and RTOs of near zero. And it enables IT to shift away from CapEx-based on-prem investments to an OpEx-based service model. As a result, IT can simplify its infrastructure, increase access, and improve data protection - all while reducing costs.

It's a big shift, but market and technological pressures are making it a reality. And as these services mature, one day soon data services will feel a lot like electricity. When we flip a switch, we assume the electricity will be instantly available. We'll eventually have the same attitude toward data. Managing data storage, replication, backup and DR in-house will make as little sense as maintaining on-prem power generation systems for daily use.

No one will think much about where their data is stored or how it arrives at their machine. Data will simply be where it needs to be, when it's needed. And that's a future every IT professional can get behind.

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About the Author

 

For more than 20 years, Laz Vekiarides has served in key technical and leadership roles delivering breakthrough technologies to market. Most recently, he served as the executive director of software engineering for Dell's EqualLogic Storage Engineering group, where he led the development of numerous storage innovations and established the EqualLogic product line as a leader in host OS and hypervisor integration.

Laz joined Dell from EqualLogic, which was acquired in early 2008, where he was a member of the core leadership team - playing a key role in the company's early success as a senior engineering manager and Architect for the PS Series SAN arrays and host tools. Prior to EqualLogic, Laz held senior engineering and management positions at several companies including 3COM and Banyan Systems.

An occasional blogger, Laz frequently speaks at industry conferences, particularly in the areas of virtualization and data storage. He holds several storage technology patents, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, and a Master of Science in Computer Science from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2019 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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