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With so many organizations operating in hybrid cloud environments, there now exists many lessons learned that can be of material assistance to those about to embark on that journey. Here are some best practices from the experts for using hybrid cloud computing to make your storage more efficient.
Hybrid Cloud or Not?
Rather than blithely barreling into the hybrid cloud, organizations would do well to think carefully before pulling the trigger. While hybrid deployments allow organizations to dip their toes in the cloud without completely overhauling their existing infrastructure, it’s crucial to keep in mind that these storage environments require more intricate attention than traditional on-prem solutions. IT teams essentially have to manage two separate systems and balance reporting, compliance and administration between on-prem and cloud components. This factor often gets missed by those contemplating the switch to hybrid cloud storage.
“An efficient transition to hybrid not only considers the technical support, but also includes changes in culture and management needs,” said Tony Coppa, Vice Present of Product Strategy, AvePoint. “With this in mind, organizations should roll out employee training, documentation on processes and workflows, and communicate how the overall system architecture will change with the migration.”
The above step relates to what could be considered pre-planning. When it comes to migrating to a hybrid cloud storage environment, thorough planning of the transition is paramount. It’s commonplace for organizations to start small in the cloud and then discover that they wish to greatly expand their presence there. Done incorrectly, scaling up your storage needs can be a problem if not planned correctly.
“Organizations must take ample time to consider the amount of data they’ll be moving, the size of the footprint that needs to be migrated and how many items or versions are making the transition,” said Coppa.
Phased Approach to Hybrid Cloud
In addition to assessing their data, organizations should take a phased approach for moving storage data to a hybrid environment, said Coppa. According to a recent BYU and CollabTalk report, most companies ease the migration by first moving email and then document collaboration to the cloud. Despite the sensitive data email holds, many organizations feel more comfortable transitioning this content to the cloud as a first step.
“Moving document collaboration over next may allow IT teams to appease employees working remotely or looking to access information offline,” he said.
Determine What Stays On-Prem
Organizations should consider what old workloads are tied to legacy applications since they probably won’t be able to move custom code to the cloud without making major changes or replacing it with a new solution.
“From there, figure out which data can be left, archived, destroyed or converted to records in order to reduce the migration footprint and timeline,” said Coppa.
Hybrid Cloud Migration Plan
Carefully planning and good decisions about what to move and what storage to leave on prem can come to naught if migration isn’t considered correctly. IT teams must consider if they can or want to send their data over the open internet. This point ultimately influences whether they do a “live” migration or a “ship drive” migration. A live migration happens over the wire, whereas ship drive literally exports the storage data to a portable drive and is physically shipped to the Microsoft data center for import.
“A ship drive migration is a faster option at scale and offers greater security,” said Coppa.
Native Replication and Dedupe
Chris Romano, Principal Systems Engineer at OVH US, advised users to take advantage of native replication when possible. Setup one of the pair in the cloud and use native SQL Sync, for example. Teams should also consider increasing bandwidth for the initial migration, and then reduce that bandwidth for continuous replication.
“For unstructured data, using tools that deduplicate can be helpful,” said Romano. “A tool like Avamar is a good example.”
Cloud Storage Security
Linus Chang. Founder and CEO at BackupAssist, stressed the importance of not exposing data to public web servers or public S3 buckets. Many data breaches have happened because of the creation of temporary data repositories (used in migration tasks) that were misconfigured, he said. As they were only temporary, sometimes administrators take shortcuts and fail to fully secure the data repository via access controls. Mistakes like these have led to data breaches.
“To minimize the possibility of data compromise during migration or when in storage, it is also recommended that data be encrypted when it leaves the network,” said Chang. “And avoid using off-the-shelf cloud services provided in consumer grade hardware as you don’t know: where their data is stored; where its being duplicated; if the data is being de-duplicated with other company’s data; and if you are paying for storage you aren’t using.”
Jon Toor, CMO, Cloudian, advocates several best practices to ease migration and synchronization issues in a hybrid cloud storage environment. The main theme is to work towards unified data access by:
- Starting small with an on-prem solution, and progress to hybrid cloud then to multi-cloud.
- Adopting a multi-cloud controller that allows applications to access storage resources using the same language (same API) across multiple environments (on-prem and cloud).
- Implementing a single global namespace spanning on-prem and cloud.
“These steps will provide sourcing flexibility and eliminate cloud vendor lock-in,” said Toor. “With a multi-cloud solution in place, you can centralize policy and reduce risk based granular data management.”
By doing so, he added, organizations can minimize expense by strategically replicating/ synchronizing data between on-prem and cloud instances. It is best to move only the data to where the application needs it, when it needs it and in a way it can use it. In addition, it is critical to know where your data resides with a global view and global search capability. That enables IT to securely retain control and governance of data regardless of its location.
People And Expertise
Just as Soylent Green is People, so too, are a vital and sometimes missing ingredient to the move to the hybrid cloud. Steve Pao, CMO of Igneous Systems, said that it’s not just about storage technology. You can’t forget people and process.
“Start with the people to understand the data being used, empower them to make decisions about the data movement, and give them access to the data across all tiers,” said Pao. “From a process perspective, implement policy and automation for retention and data movement, ensure that security policies are enforced across all tiers, and regularly audit usage to revisit assumptions. In technology, design hybrid cloud storage systems with the right software and right networking in mind to empower the people and process.”