Building a Modern Data Platform by Exploiting the True Possibilities of Public Cloud

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Building a modern next-generation datacenter requires specific approach and understanding of automation. When we are designing modern datacenter we have to understand that data is center element in todays business. We have to understand that with automation we can not only save time but ensure that human error factor is reduced dramatically.  On-premise datacenter, even the next-generation one, is still only one element of data platform and since no modern data platform would be complete without having option to use the public cloud and in fact public cloud plays significant role in building modern data platform and providing all the capabilities we just couldn’t get any other way.

In this post we look look the benefits of public cloud while taking care that we overcome all the challenges we might see in public cloud adoption embracing cloud as functional key element of our platform.

Why our data needs public cloud?

While the modern storage systems are very good and past couple years they have evolved lot modern data centric approach and fast changes in business landscapes require flexibility, scalability, data movement and commercial approach which makes quickly clear that cloud can be potentially answer for all of these challenges.

While these business challenges are quite common in pretty much all traditional systems they are area where public cloud can be strongest. Cloud can, in theory, scale infinite and provide consumption model where organisations can move CAPEX investments to OPEX by paying only what they need while still having option of flexibility by going bigger or smaller based on current business requirement. But cloud can do also much more. We can easily take copy of our data and do pretty interesting things with it – once it is copied or moved to public cloud. Typically organisations start with low-hanging fruits, backups, since they are very easily moved from on-premise to cloud since pretty much every modern backup software supports extension to cloud (If your’s doesn’t maybe it’s very good time to look something better). When we backup our data to public cloud we can actually benefit more from it. We can use this cold data for business analytics or artificial intelligence. But it can work also as a disaster recovery. With proper design this can be way cheaper than building disaster recovery site. In the end flexibility is the most compelling reasons for any organisation to consider leveraging public cloud.

But while these benefits are pretty clear why so many organisations fail to meet these benefits by not moving to cloud?

Why organisations resist moving to the cloud?

It’s not about what public cloud can do it is more about what it doesn’t that tends to stop organisations wholeheartedly embracing cloud when it comes to organisations most valuable assets, data.image.png

As we’ve worked through the different areas of building a modern data platform our approach to data is way more than just storage. It is insight of data, protection, security, availability, and privacy, and these are things not normally associated with native cloud storage. Traditionally native cloud storage is not built to handle these types of needs but to be pretty much easily scalable and cheap.  And since organisations got so used to these requirements they don’t want to move their data to cloud if it means losing all of those capabilities, or having to implement and learn a new set of tools to deliver them.

Of course there is also the “data gravity” problem, we can’t have our cloud based data siloed away from the rest of our platform, it has to be part of it. We need to be able to move data in to the cloud but also ensure that we can move it back to on-premise again and even between cloud providers while still retaining all of those key elements that enterprise organisations require – control and management.

So is there really a way to overcome these challenges and have cloud as fundamental part of modern data platform. Yes, there is.

Making cloud be part of the enterprise data platform

There are dozens and dozens companies trying to solve this issue. Most of them start from the top without really looking the real problem, data mobility.  If you look AWS Marketplace’s storage category you will see almost 300 different options available so the question is how one knows which really gives organisation full potential for true hybrid cloud. The answer is, one really cant without deep knowledge. I will not point any single vendor but quite many makes claims that they can give you data mobility and leverage your data in full potential while only few of them can really do this.

There are two things making this very hard.

First is data movement between on-premise and cloud. It’s pretty easy to copy data from point A to point B but how to make this cost efficient and fast. Moving huge amounts of data takes time even with very fast internet connections so having builtin capabilities of moving only needed blocks can make significant difference not only in migration/movement times but since pretty much all cloud vendors charge egress traffic when it is time to move data back to on-premise or to other cloud vendor this can mean a huge difference in costs.

Second is ability to use migrated/moved data to several purposes. Using cloud as backup target is quite inefficient if you cannot use the same data as source for DR, analytics, AI or test&dev. Cloud storage doesn’t cost that much but if you can use if efficiently in more than one use case you will reduce the total cost quite much.

Both of these are foundation of enterprise capabilities. And while adding enterprise capabilities are great, the idea of a modern data platform relies on having our data in the location we need it, when we need it while maintaining management and control. This is where the use of efficient technology provides real advantage. You can achieve this in many ways one being for example using NetApp’s ONTAP  storage system as a consistent endpoint allowing organisations to use the same tools, policies and procedures at the core of data platform and extend this to organisations data in the public cloud. This is possible if vendor has an modern software-defined approach.

NetApp’s integrated SnapMirror provides the data movement capabilities so one can simply move data in and out of and between clouds. Replicating data in this way means that while on-premise version can be the authoritative copy, it doesn’t have to be the only one. Replicating a copy of  data to a location for a one off task, which once completed can then be destroyed, is a powerful capability and an important element of simplifying the extension of organisations data platform into the cloud.

So technology matters?

In short answer, no. One doesn’t need to use technology vendor X to deliver true hybrid cloud service. You do not need to use NetApp but I have used it as an example since it has nice cloud integration features built-in and because of that it can deliver modern data platform easily by providing consistent data services across multiple locations (on-premise and cloud) while still maintaining all critical enterprise controls. Of course this means that you need to have NetApp on-premise and in cloud.

When you evaluate vendor Y for your next-generation datacenter it is very critical to think how you can build your enterprise data platform to have an option to expand your business to cloud. While there are other data service providers having somewhat similar services as NetApp I think that NetApp’s story and capabilities are in line with the requirements for modern data platform. There are more solutions which can be used to achieve similar solution and even go bit further but I will cover one of them in my next post.

In the end most important thing on your design sterategy, if it is to include public cloud, is to ensure that you have appropriate access to data services, integration, control and data management. It is crucial that you don’t put your organisations most valuable asset, data, at risk or dimish the capabilities of your data platform by using the cloud. Cloud is playing huge role in future data plaforms so make sure you have easy option to move workloads to cloud – and back.

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