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Best practices for migrating data to the cloud

Originally published on InfoWorld

Moving petabytes of production data is a trick best done with mirrors. Follow these steps to minimize risk and cost and maximize flexibility

Enterprises that are embracing a cloud deployment need cost-effective and practical ways to migrate their corporate data into the cloud. This is sometimes referred to as “hydrating the cloud.” Given the challenge of moving massive enterprise data sets anywhere non-disruptively and accurately, the task can be a lengthy, complicated, and risky process.

Not every organization has enough dedicated bandwidth to transfer multiple petabytes without causing performance degradation to the core business, or enough spare hardware to migrate to the cloud. In some cases, those organizations in a physically isolated location, or without cost-effective high-speed Internet connections, face an impediment to getting onto a target cloud. Data must be secured, backed-up, and in the case of production environments, migrated without missing a beat.

[ Working with data in the cloud requires new thinking. InfoWorld shows you the way: How Cosmos DB ensures data consistency in the global cloud. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld’s Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

AWS made hydration cool, so to speak. In fall 2016 AWS branded such offerings as Snowball, a petabyte-scale data transfer service using one or more AWS-supplied appliances, and Snowmobile, an exabyte-scale transport service using an 18-wheeler truck that carries data point to point. These vehicles make it easy to buy and deploy migration services for data that resides in the AWS cloud. It would take 120 days to migrate 100TB of data using a dedicated 100Mbps connection. The same transfer using multiple Snowballs would require about a week.

Yet for the remaining 55 percent of the public cloud market that is not using AWS – or those enterprises with private, hybrid, or multi-cloud deployments that want more flexibility – other cloud migration options may be more appealing than AWS’s native offerings. This may be especially true when moving production data, where uploading static data onto appliances leaves the IT team with a partial copy during the transfer. They need a way to resynchronize the data.

The following is a guide to cloud hydration best practices, which differ depending on whether your data is static, and thus resources are offline, or in production. I will also offer helpful tips for integrating with the new datacenter resources, and accommodating hybrid or multicloud architectures.

Static data

Unless data volumes are under 1TB, you’ll want to leverage physical media such as an appliance to expedite the hydration process for file, block, or object storage. This works elegantly in environments where the data does not need to be continuously online, or the transfer requires the use of a slow, unreliable, or expensive Internet connection.

1. Copy the static data to a local hydration appliance. Use a small, portable, easily shipped NAS appliance, configured with RAID for durability while shipping the between sites. The appliance should include encryption – either 128-bit AES, or preferably 256-bit AES, to protect against unauthorized access after the NAS leaves the client facility.
Using a very fast 10G connection, teams can upload 100MB to 200MB of data per second onto a NAS appliance. The appliance should support the target environment (Windows, Linux, etc.) and file access mechanism (NFS, CIFS, Fibre Channel, etc.). One appliance is usually sufficient to transfer up to 30TB of data. For larger data volumes, teams can use multiple appliances or repeat the process several times to move data in logical chunks or segments.

2. Ship the appliance to the cloud environment. The shipping destination could be a co-location facility near the target cloud or the cloud datacenter itself. Regardless of whether the target is a public cloud or hybrid/multi-cloud setting, two other considerations distinguish the smooth and easy migration from those that can become more protracted.

3. Copy the data to a storage target in the cloud. The storage target should be connected to the AWS, Azure, Google, or other target cloud infrastructure using VPN access via high-speed fiber.

For example, law firms routinely need to source all emails from a client site for the e-discovery purposes during litigation. Typically, the email capture spans a static, defined date-range from months or years prior. The law firm will have its cloud hydration vendor ship an appliance to the litigant’s site, direct them to copy all emails as needed, then ship the appliance to the cloud hydration vendor for processing.

While some providers require the purchase of the applianceothers allow for one-time use of the appliance during migration, after which it is returned and the IT team is charged on a per terabyte basis. No capital expenditure or long-term commitment required.

Production data

This process requires some method of moving the data and resynchronizing once the data is moved to the cloud. Mirroring represents an elegant answer to migrating production data.

Cloud hydration using mirroring requires two local on-premises appliances that have the capability to keep track of incremental changes to the production environment while data is being moved to the new cloud target.

1. Production data is mirrored to the first appliance, creating an online copy of the data set. Then a second mirror is created from the first mirror, creating a second online copy.

2. The second mirror is “broken” and the appliance is shipped to the cloud environment.

3. The mirror is then reconnected between the on-premises copy and the remote copy and data synchronization is re-established.

4. An online copy of the data is now in the cloud and the servers can fail over to the cloud.

For example, a federal agency had 2PB of on-premises data that it wanted to deploy in a private cloud. The agency’s IT team set up two on-premises storage resources adjacent to each other in one datacenter, moved production data onto one mirror, then set up a second mirror so that everything was copied. Then the team broke the mirror and shipped the entire rack to a second datacenter several thousand miles away, where its cloud hydration vendor (Zadara Storage) re-established the mirrors.

When reconnected, data were synchronized to represent a full, up-to-date mirror copy. Once the process was complete, the hardware that was used during the data migration process was sent to a remote location to serve as a second disaster recovery copy.

In another example, a global management consulting firm used 10G links to move smaller sets of data from its datacenter to the target storage cloud, and hydration appliances to move petabytes of critical data. Once the 10G link data uploads were copied to the storage resource, the cloud hydration provider used a AWS Direct Connect link to AWS. In this way the resources were isolated from the public cloud, yet made readily available to it. Other static data were copied onto the NAS appliances and shipped to locations that are available to the AWS cloud.

Features for easy integration

Regardless of whether the target is a public cloud or a hybrid or multicloud setting, three other factors distinguish the smooth and easy migrations from the more difficult and protracted ones.

– Format preservation. It’s ideal when the data migration process retains the desired data format, so that IT teams can copy the data into the cloud and instantly make use of it, versus converting copied data into a native format that is used locally but is not accessible from within the cloud itself. IT managers need to be to get at the data right away, without the extra step of having to create volumes to access it. With terabytes of data, the extra few hours of delay may not seem like a big deal, but at petabyte scale, the delay can become insufferable.

– Enterprise format support. Traditional storage device formats such as CIFS and NFS are either minimally supported by public cloud providers or not supported at all. Yet the applications these file systems serve often yield the most savings, in terms of management time and expense, when moved to the cloud. Having the ability to copy CIFS, NFS, or other legacy file types and retain the same format for use in the cloud saves time, potential errors, and hassle from the conversion, and helps assure the hydration timeline.

– Efficient export. No vendor wants to see a customer decommission its cloud, but when needs change, bidirectional data migration or exporting of cloud data for use elsewhere needs to proceed just as efficiently – through the same static and production approaches as described above.

Hybrid cloud or multicloud support

A final consideration with any cloud hydration is making sure it’s seeded to last. With 85 percent of enterprises having a strategy to use multiple clouds, and 20 percent of enterprises planning to use multiple public clouds (RightScale State of the Cloud Report 2017), IT teams are revising their architectures with hybrid or multicloud capabilities in mind. No company wants to be locked into any one cloud provider, with no escape from the impact of the inevitable outage or disruption.

Cloud hydration approaches that allow asynchronous replication between cloud platforms make it a no-brainer for IT teams to optimize their cloud infrastructures for both performance and cost. Organizations can migrate specific workloads to one cloud platform or another (e.g., Windows applications on Azure, open source on AWS) or move them to where they can leverage the best negotiated prices and terms for given requirements. A cloud migration approach that enables concurrent access to other clouds also enables ready transfer and almost instant fail-over between clouds, in the event of an outage on one provider.

Experts have called 2017 the year of the “great migration.” Projections by Cisco and 451 Research suggest that by 2020, 83 percent of all datacenter traffic and 60 percent of enterprise workloads will be based in the cloud. New data migration options enable IT teams to “hydrate” their clouds in ways that minimize risk, cost, and hassle, and that maximize agility.

Howard Young is a solutions architect at Zadara Storage, an enterprise Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) provider for on-premises, public, hybrid, and multicloud settings that performs cloud hydrations as one of its services. Howard has personally assisted in dozens of cloud hydrations covering billions of bits of data.

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June 29, 2018

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Challenges MSPs Face as Customers Move to the Cloud

The face of the MSP (managed IT services provider) marketplace is changing rapidly. Not so long ago the keys to success for most MSPs revolved around recommending or selling the newest and best hardware and software products to their customers. But as more and more companies migrate to the cloud, that approach is no longer adequate.

The Cloud’s XaaS Model Changes Everything for MSPs

Perhaps the most important feature of the cloud model is that it allows customers to meet many, if not all, of their IT requirements by making use of pay-as-you-go services offered by cloud providers. This “anything as a service” (XaaS) approach reduces, or in some cases totally eliminates, the necessity of purchasing specific hardware/software solutions. For example, many companies no longer meet their document processing needs by installing Microsoft Office on their computers. Instead they simply subscribe to Office 365 and receive the services they need through the cloud.

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In today’s IT environment customers aren’t looking for products, but for solutions. That means MSPs must now demonstrate that they provide a unique value proposition for customers who can theoretically go directly to a CSP (cloud service provider) to obtain almost any type of IT service they might need.

Yet the good news for MSPs is that customers aren’t really looking for services – they’re looking for solutions to the business issues they face. As IT business coach Mike Schmidtmann puts it, “Cloud is a business conversation, not a price-and-product conversation.”

So, the MSPs that survive and thrive in the age of the cloud will be those who shift away from simply offering specific products, and move toward providing strategic IT solutions that help their customers realize their business objectives.

value-added features

A Good MSP Will Help Customers Develop an IT Strategy Based on Business Goals

Most MSP clients are not interested in IT per se. Their focus is on using IT effectively to enhance their business operations. So, the first service a cloud-savvy MSP can provide to their customers is to help them develop a comprehensive IT strategy that is closely aligned with the company’s business objectives. In effect, the MSP will seek to become an extension of the customer’s own IT staff, providing a depth of expertise and operational capability that would be very difficult for the customer to maintain in-house.

Once armed with a good understanding of the customer’s business goals, an MSP can help them develop a comprehensive IT strategy that will support those objectives. So, the first conversations between MSPs and their customers shouldn’t be about specific solutions, but about the goals and strategy that customer is pursuing for both the present and the future of its business.

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Overall, we are seeing 80% better performance with Zadara Storage than with our prior storage solution.” — Chris Jones, Infrastructure Architect at Netrepid

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A Good MSP Will Identify Specific Cloud Solutions That Meet Customer Needs

cloud storage as-a-service

A recent CompTIA survey reveals that many companies, especially smaller ones, have a great deal of difficulty in aligning their IT infrastructure with their business strategy. They simply don’t have the in-house technological expertise to do so effectively. John Burgess, president of an MSP in Little Rock, AR, says that such companies are “usually fairly ad hoc and reactionary in how they manage and spend technology.”

Here’s where the added value an MSP partner can provide becomes clearly evident. A good MSP can help identify the specific available cloud services that best fit the customer’s business strategy. In doing so, the MSP will be looking not just at individual services and the CSPs that offer them, but at how those services can be integrated into a unified system that can be effectively managed as a single solution.

A Good MSP Will Manage the Customer’s Cloud Infrastructure

Perhaps the most important service a good MSP can offer is to relieve customers of the burden of having to worry about their IT operations. This involves the capability to initially put the system in place, to monitor its operations on a 24/7/365 basis, and to proactively handle problem resolution and upgrades to system components.

A Good MSP Will Establish Relationships With Expert Partners

Few MSPs have the resources to develop and maintain in-house the kind of comprehensive cloud expertise required to fully support their customers on their own. Most will benefit from having specialized expert partners that can support the MSP in the services they offer to customers.

A good example of such a partner is Zadara Storage. As a storage-as-a-service (STaaS) provider, Zadara offers a high level of expertise in all elements of storage, whether in the public cloud, private clouds, or customers’ on-premises data centers. In fact, Zadara’s VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major public cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and are available for installation on customer premises as the basis of a private or hybrid cloud solution.

Whether the VPSA Storage Arrays they use are in the cloud, on-premises, or both, Zadara customers never buy storage hardware. Instead, they purchase storage services, paying a monthly fee for only the amount of storage they actually use during that billing period.

Partnering with a first-class STaaS provider enables you to provide your customers with a cost-effective enterprise-grade storage solution

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October 4, 2017

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Practical Benefits Of A Hybrid Cloud Strategy

As more and more companies move to the cloud, one of the first questions they have to answer is which cloud model best fits their needs: public, private, or hybrid. Many are choosing the hybrid model as their best option.

The term “hybrid cloud” simply refers to an operational environment that includes both private and public cloud platforms. It has become an attractive model for many enterprises because it allows users to take advantage of the cost and functionality advantages of the public cloud, while also gaining the flexibility and control a private cloud provides.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the unique benefits of a hybrid cloud strategy.

Flexibility to Determine Optimal Placement of Workloads

With a hybrid cloud, administrators can decide where to place each workload to maximize efficiency and minimize costs.

The distinctive characteristic of the public cloud is its ability to provide IT services on demand without requiring up-front capital investments for hardware and infrastructure. With its XaaS (“Whatever you need”-as-a-Service) model, public cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), have become excellent vehicles for quickly deploying common applications that many companies depend on.

Whether it’s a CRM (customer relationship management) or ERM (enterprise resource management) application, or perhaps a document management environment such as Office 365, companies can institute such workloads on a public cloud platform quickly and cost-effectively.

Yet many organizations also have workloads that are better served in an on-premises environment than in the public cloud. For example, workloads that require very high levels of I/O responsiveness, such as big data analytics, may be affected by public cloud latency issues that could degrade system performance to unacceptable levels. By housing such workloads in a company’s on-premises private cloud, where storage and servers can be kept in close physical proximity to one another, latency effects can be minimized.

Control of Data and Applications

The public cloud is a multi-tenant environment in which resources are shared among a number of customers. Many companies, concerned about the possibility of their workloads somehow being affected by the activities of other users, prefer to keep their mission-critical applications at home in a private cloud, under their direct control, while offloading less critical workloads to the public cloud.

Data Placement to Meet Security Requirements

Data security keys

Data security is the number one reason for the use of private clouds. Although public cloud platforms can now provide very high levels of data protection, many organizations believe that their most sensitive data is less vulnerable when it is kept at home behind their own firewall. This is particularly true for companies in industries, such as healthcare or banking, that are subject to regulatory compliance mandates that specify how customer information must be kept secure.

On the other hand, less sensitive data that becomes inactive or infrequently used can be moved to public cloud storage to take advantage of lower costs and greater scalability.

Speed of Testing and Deploying New Applications

Many companies use both public and private clouds in the testing and deployment of new applications. The design parameters of new apps can be shaped, refined, and thoroughly tested using a public cloud PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) offering. Because PaaS resources are virtualized, developers can call them in as needed without having to spend capital funds to purchase hardware. Then, once development and testing are complete, the application can be deployed to a public or private cloud for production.

Spillover of Non-Critical Data to the Public Cloud

keyboard in clouds

Many hybrid cloud implementations are specifically designed to allow seamless failover to the public cloud should the operations of an organization’s private cloud be disrupted for any reason. This is especially true in the area of data backup/restore and disaster recovery. Once the emergency has passed, operations can be returned to the private cloud environment, often without users ever being aware that the failure occurred.

This is also the idea behind “cloud bursting,” which is instituted when surges in demand outpace the capacity of a private cloud. Whether it’s pre-planned, perhaps in anticipation of seasonal spikes in traffic, or is the entirely unexpected result of some news event that suddenly drives increased traffic to a company’s website, non-sensitive data can be temporarily spilled over into the public cloud so that operations can continue without disruption.

The Zadara Hybrid Cloud Storage Solution

The Zadara Storage Cloud has proven to be a highly effective storage solution for hybrid cloud implementations. Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays are connected to major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP. They can also be housed on customer premises as the storage component of a private cloud. With their remote replication and mirroring capabilities, these devices can transparently transfer stored data between clouds to facilitate failover, spillover, backup/restore, and disaster recovery.

Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays are provided on a storage-as-a-service (STaaS) basis. No matter how many may be installed on site, customers pay only a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use during the billing period.

If you’d like to explore how Zadara Storage can assist your company in developing a cost-effective hybrid cloud implementation, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 26, 2017

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How a Multi-Cloud Strategy Can Benefit MSPs

Businesses of all sizes are moving to the cloud in ever-increasing numbers. MSPs (Managed IT Services Providers) are recognizing that if they don’t want to be left behind, they’ve got to lead the way. That’s why most successful MSPs today are committed to providing their customers with a comprehensive array of services delivered through the cloud.

But for an MSP to provide the highest levels of cloud-based services, it’s not enough to develop expertise with any particular cloud platform. All the major cloud service providers (CSPs), such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offer a common set of basic features. Yet, they also differ from one another significantly in the types of services each is best suited to provide. That’s why deriving the maximum benefit from the cloud model requires the ability to take advantage of the best that each individual cloud platform has to offer.

In other words, to get the most out of the cloud, you need a multi-cloud strategy.

The multi-cloud approach provides some important advantages to MSPs, both in the services they can offer their customers, and in terms of their own operations. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.

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Benefits to MSP Customers

multi cloud puzzle pieces

Match Workloads To the Most Suitable Platforms

All the major clouds provide similar suites of basic services. Yet each is optimized for different types of workloads. For example, if your customer is running Windows client apps, Microsoft Azure is a natural fit. If they are doing big data analytics, GCP might be a better choice. Part of your job as a multi-cloud MSP is to help your customers determine the best cloud platform for each of their workloads.

Avoid Vendor Lock-In

A good MSP will work with clients to ensure that their workloads are portable between platforms. That way, if a client becomes dissatisfied with a particular platform for any reason, their options won’t be limited by the prospect of a costly and time-consuming migration to another cloud.

Reduce Costs

Each CSP provides different service plans, at different price points, for each set of features it offers. Part of what a cloud-savvy MSP can offer clients is the ability to distribute specific workloads among the various cloud platforms to not only take advantage of what each cloud does best but also, to get the best pricing for exactly the services the client needs.

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“Zadara Storage is a key reason that our solution can outperform the competition.” — David Benson, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder, BeBop Technology

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Enhance Data Security

By replicating data (and even virtual servers) among different clouds, MSPs can offer a high level of backup/recovery and disaster recovery services to clients. A disruption at one location can immediately trigger failover to either another zone or to an entirely different cloud platform.

Benefits to the MSP Itself

choosing multi cloud

Increase Your Ability to Meet SLA Requirements

MSPs are usually bound by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that provides a specific up-time guarantee. A multi-cloud strategy helps MSPs meet SLA up-time requirements by allowing operations to be quickly and transparently shifted from a CSP that is experiencing an outage to a different platform.

Keep Up With Technological Advances

The major cloud platforms are quite competitive with one another. Each works hard to introduce new or improved features that are not available through its competitors. But multi-cloud MSPs are able to tap into innovations introduced by any of the CSPs with whom they work.

Extend Your Expertise

A multi-cloud approach can substantially reduce the degree to which an MSP is required to be a technical jack of all trades. Instead of maintaining in-house experts for a wide range of solutions, MSPs can leverage the expertise of the various CSPs to offer platform-specific services to clients.

How Zadara Can Help With a Multi-cloud Strategy

The Zadara Storage Cloud is ideal as part of a multi-cloud solution. With Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays installed both on customer premises and connected to the major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and GCP, data can be seamlessly and transparently replicated among various public and private cloud platforms. Download White Paper: Getting Great Performance in the Cloud.

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September 21, 2017

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Why Companies Adopt Both Public and Private Clouds

More and more companies are basing significant portions of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey of IT professionals, a full 95 percent of respondents said that their companies have adopted the cloud as an integral part of their IT operations. For some of those companies, the focus is on the public cloud; for others it’s on an in-house private cloud. The majority make use of both public and private clouds.

What is it about public and private clouds that causes so many companies to be drawn to them? Let’s take a look at the benefits each of these cloud models offer to businesses today.

The Benefits of the Cloud

It was not that long ago that the standard approach to IT in most companies was to build and maintain their own in-house datacenters. But the cloud computing model has brought about a fundamental shift in the way businesses seek to meet their IT needs. No longer must companies devote scarce capital (CapEx) funds to the purchase of their own servers, storage, and networking hardware. Instead, the cloud model encourages them to purchase IT services on a pay-as-you-go basis for a monthly fee.

Customers pay only for the services that they actually use. The cloud platform provider is responsible to acquire, support, and upgrade the required hardware and software as necessary, and to ensure that a sufficient amount of these resources is always available to allow on-demand provisioning and scaling. The result is that the cloud model offers companies lower overall costs, greater flexibility and agility, rapid deployment of applications, and a substantial reduction in the amount of expert staff required to manage the organization’s IT infrastructure.

How Public and Private Clouds Differ From One Another

public and private clouds cross streets

Public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are, as the name implies, open to everyone. They operate on a multi-tenancy model in which hardware and software resources are shared among a number of different customers. This allows the public cloud to realize economies of scale that drive down costs for all users.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are built on a single-tenancy model. That means they are devoted exclusively to one customer, and there is no sharing of resources. Private clouds can be implemented either in a company’s on-premises datacenter using its own hardware, in an external facility run by a trusted partner such as a managed services provider (MSP), or even, in some cases, with dedicated resources in the facilities of a public cloud provider. The key is that a private cloud is isolated to a single customer, and there is no intermingling of that customer’s hardware/software resources or data with those of other customers.

Advantages of the Public Cloud

Because of its large multi-tenant user base, a public cloud platform can normally provide IT services at a lower cost than a private cloud could achieve. Costs are also reduced by the fact that customers have no responsibility for purchasing, housing, supporting, or managing hardware. The result is that workloads can be deployed on a public cloud platform more quickly and inexpensively than would be the case with a private cloud.

Advantages of a Private Cloud

cloud in chains protected for data protection

The main driver in the decision of many companies to make use of a private cloud is the desire to retain maximum control over business-critical data. Although public clouds now provide the highest levels of data protection, the multi-tenant nature of such platforms, and the fact that they are designed to allow access by users around the world, presents a level of perceived vulnerability that many companies are not comfortable with. Plus, businesses in certain industries face strict regulatory compliance obligations, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). With a private cloud, all of a company’s data can remain safely hidden behind the organization’s own firewall, totally inaccessible to outsiders.

The ability to tailor a private cloud to the exact requirements of a company’s specific workloads may also provide performance advantages over what could be achieved with a public cloud platform.

The Zadara Storage Solution Spans Both Public and Private Cloud Platforms

The Zadara Storage Cloud provides a common storage solution for both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays support each of the major public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). They also form the basis of many private cloud implementations. The Zadara Storage architecture also provides resource isolation, so users gain the benefits of multi-tenant public clouds, but with the security and predictable performance of a private cloud. Whether they use the public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two, Zadara customers receive all the benefits of the cloud model, including paying a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use. And Zadara takes on the responsibility to monitor and support the customer’s storage, whether on-site or in the public cloud.

If you would like to know more about how Zadara can help you develop a comprehensive cloud solution for your company, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 13, 2017

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Why the Hybrid Cloud Is Gaining Momentum

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Today, cloud computing has become the standard operating mode for businesses of all sizes. According to RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Report, fully 95 percent of the respondents to their survey are now making use of the cloud in one form or another.

Companies that are using cloud computing have a choice of three approaches: the public cloud, a private cloud, or the hybrid cloud, which seeks to combine the advantages of both the public and private cloud models. With a hybrid cloud, companies divide their IT workloads between an on-premises private cloud and the public cloud. According to the State of the Cloud Report, “hybrid clouds have become the preferred strategy at 85 percent of enterprises,” up from 82 percent the previous year.

Why has the hybrid cloud gained such favor among so many organizations? Let’s take a quick look at some of its advantages.

Data Security

Probably the number one consideration that leads companies to use a hybrid cloud is the need to keep their most sensitive data secure. Many IT administrators still have doubts that the public cloud, with its multi-tenancy model and universal accessibility via the internet, can provide the level of data protection they require. That’s especially true for organizations in industries like finance or healthcare, that are subject to regulatory compliance requirements concerning the way personal information is handled.

By using a hybrid cloud, companies can keep their most sensitive or mission-critical information safely at home, on their own premises and behind their own firewalls, while still having access to the benefits of the public cloud for data that is less sensitive.



From a purely operational perspective, perhaps the biggest advantage of the hybrid cloud is the level of flexibility it offers. In contrast with the public cloud, companies have complete control over the on-premises portion of their hybrid cloud solution. They can customize hardware and software to exactly fit the needs of their workloads, thus maximizing the efficient use of their on-site resources. At the same time, they can move workloads or data into the public cloud as needed or permitted by data security or regulatory concerns. For example, many hybrid cloud installations make use of a technique called “cloud bursting,” in which applications running in-house can spill over to the public cloud to accommodate sudden surges in the demand for compute or storage resources.

Backup/Restore and Disaster Recovery

A very important consequence of the ability to move both data storage and compute resources between a private, on-premises environment and the public cloud is that business continuity and disaster recovery regimes can be cost-effectively optimized. For example, the use of software-defined storage (SDS) provides access to advanced data protection features such as remote replication, mirroring, compression, deduplication, and snapshotting. With these, an organization of whatever size can implement enterprise-level backup/restore and disaster recovery capabilities across its entire IT infrastructure, both on-premises and in the cloud, from a single point of control.

A good example of how a unified data protection scheme can span both private and public clouds is the Zadara Storage Cloud. Zadara installs VPSA Storage Arrays at customer locations for use in on-site private cloud implementations. In addition, VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and others. Under software control, data can be automatically and transparently mirrored between VPSA Storage Arrays both from on-site to a cloud service, or from cloud to cloud.


One of the inherent difficulties of the public cloud is that when data is physically housed in locations that are geographically distant from users, latency effects can put a cap on performance. With a hybrid solution, performance-intensive workloads can be housed on-site, with data storage and servers in close proximity to one another, while less demanding applications can run in the cloud.

Cost Effectiveness

cost effectiveness

A hybrid cloud can provide cost advantages in a number of ways. For example, workloads that are already successfully running on existing hardware in a company’s data center can stay where they are rather than having to undergo the often complex and disruptive exercise of being adapted to run in the cloud. In this way, an organization’s investment in legacy hardware need not be lost.

On the other hand, by making use of the compute and storage services available in the public cloud, companies can avoid capital expense (CapEx) spending to acquire or replace on-premises hardware. Instead, they can take advantage of the cloud’s as-a-service model to obtain the storage and computational resources they need on an operating expense (OpEx) basis. Zadara, for example, provides storage services for a monthly fee. Customers pay only for the amount of storage they actually use in any given billing period, no matter how many VPSA Storage Arrays may be installed at their site.

Is The Hybrid Cloud a Good Option For Your Company?

The move toward cloud computing continues to gather steam. In many cases, enterprises will eventually move the majority of their workloads to the public cloud. But for those companies with I/O performance or data security concerns, the hybrid cloud will continue its reign as the enterprise computing environment of choice for some time to come.

If you’d like to explore how a hybrid cloud could work for your company, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 2, 2017

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Cloud Adoption: Starting With A Hybrid Cloud Architecture

More and more corporations are moving to the cloud every day, and many are starting slowly with a hybrid cloud architecture.

The advantages of cloud computing and storage, such as infinite scalability, rapid deployment, universal accessibility, and greater flexibility and agility, are compelling. According to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017, 95 percent of businesses have already migrated at least some of their critical applications to the cloud, and the trend continues to gain momentum.

Yet some businesses still refuse to use the public cloud to any great extent. Many of them are concerned about data security, fearing that information stored in a widely accessible, multi-tenant environment is inherently more vulnerable than if kept at home in their own data centers. However, modern cloud implementations offer encryption of data in-flight and at-rest. Industry-leading cloud storage solutions also offer “resource isolation” where instances are allocated their own drives, cores and network connections ensuring one user’s data cannot commingle with another’s data in any way. Additionally, to fully address these concerns the cloud deployment can be on-premises, within the user’s own data center.

Performance is also a pressing concern for many companies. Because information stored in the public cloud can be physically housed hundreds or thousands of miles away from the servers that use it, the cloud exhibits latency effects that limit the speed with which applications can access the data on which they depend. However, well-architected cloud solutions place data next to the compute so that performance is equal to onsite workloads.  Alternatively, workloads with demanding real-time performance requirements can also be placed in an on-premises cloud, within the user’s own data center.


The Public Cloud Is Probably In Your Company’s Future

Despite these security and performance concerns, and others such as regulatory compliance issues, the momentum is toward more and more workloads eventually ending up in the public cloud. The advantages of the cloud model are simply too great to ignore. Businesses that continue to avoid the public cloud will eventually find themselves at a competitive disadvantage relative to other companies that are more aggressive in taking advantage of the benefits cloud computing provides.

Robert Pinkham, managing director of infrastructure and cloud at Accenture, puts it this way:

“If you think about the agility, the flexibility, and the ability to spin up a new environment in the public cloud, to move workloads, to turn it on or off. Those attributes are starting to be a requirement for the entire compute, the entire data center environment, the entire organization.”

And the Gartner research firm pulls no punches in its assessment:

“By 2020, a corporate ‘No Cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘No Internet’ policy is today.”

So, now’s the time for businesses that have hung back from the public cloud to begin assessing how they can make it work for them. For most, moving from an on-premises IT infrastructure to heavy involvement in cloud computing would be too big a step if taken all at once. Implementing a hybrid storage solution can help bridge that gap, and make a company’s transition to the cloud less challenging.


How a Hybrid Cloud Architecture Eases the Transition to the Public Cloud

Hybrid cloud storage allows an organization to commit selected portions of its data to the public cloud while keeping the rest well protected behind its own firewall.

Companies that want to begin moving to the public cloud usually start by migrating only their least sensitive information. Often this will include backup, archival, and infrequently used data. The cloud can also be used as a spill-over target (a process called “cloud bursting”) when temporary surges in the demand for storage exceed the capacity of the on-premises system.

Any data that is critical to the operations of the business, that contains personal information, or that is used by performance-intensive applications, is retained in house. But over time, as the organization gains experience and develops confidence in its ability to use the public cloud safely and productively, more and more information can be shifted from on-premises storage to the cloud. Although some companies continue to use a hybrid cloud architecture indefinitely, others eventually find that they can entrust almost all of even their most sensitive information to the public cloud.

Making a Hybrid Cloud Architecture Work For You


The key to a successful hybrid storage implementation is ensuring that applications are able to access needed data in the same manner, through the same software interface, no matter where that information is physically stored. In other words, users should not be required to make adjustments based on whether the files they work with are located on site or in the public cloud.

Achieving that kind of data transparency requires some care in the selection of both on-premises and cloud-based storage solutions. The ideal would be for the same products to be used both on site and in the cloud. Zadara Storage, for example, installs (and remotely supports) its VPSA Storage Array technology both in customers’ data centers, and also in the facilities of major cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

VPSAs provide transparent access to both local and cloud data through a network file system that is directly accessible and shareable between Windows or Linux clients. And, with features like remote replication, remote mirroring, and powerful snapshot/clone capabilities, the technology also allows applications to failover from on-premises servers to VMs mounted in the cloud.

Zadara offers VPSAs as a storage-as-a-service (STaaS) solution. Whether VPSA hardware is installed on premises or is accessed through the cloud, customers only pay a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use.

Zadara’s VPSA technology provides an ideal building block for companies desiring to begin the process of moving data and applications to the public cloud. If you’d like to know more about how hybrid storage can be your company’s bridge to the cloud, please download the ‘STaaS vs Traditional Storage’ infographic.

July 12, 2017

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Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Storage (And Why MSPs Should Recommend It)

What are the benefits of hybrid cloud storage? How can you, as and end user, or MSP, take advantage of these benefits of hybrid cloud storage?

Enterprises are moving their data to the cloud at a rapid pace. According to a recent survey conducted by IDG, 70 percent of organizations already have at least one application in the cloud, and another 16 percent plan to do so within a year.

The driving force behind this shift is the compelling set of benefits that cloud storage offers to businesses. These include greater agility and flexibility, enhanced data security, reduced IT management complexity, and substantial savings in total cost of ownership.

But at the same time, many IT professionals still view placing their organization’s critical data in the cloud as a risky proposition. In one survey, 62 percent of respondents cited concerns about data security as the biggest factor inhibiting them from more fully embracing the cloud.


Objections to Cloud Storage

In these times when it seems that a corporate data breach is in the news on a daily basis, the security of cloud storage is a universal concern. But it’s not the only one. Many companies face regulatory mandates, such as HIPAA requirements, that impose strict data protection standards and implicitly restrict where sensitive information can be housed. And organizations running applications with high I/O performance demands are concerned that, because of unavoidable latency delays that occur when data is transmitted long distances over the internet, the public cloud is simply not a viable option for their storage needs.

Because of such issues, many companies have a legitimate need to keep portions of their data in-house and under their immediate, direct control. But that doesn’t mean they have to forego all the advantages of the cloud storage model. Many enterprises today are implementing a hybrid solution in which their most sensitive or mission-critical information is kept securely within their own premises, while lower priority data is stored in the public cloud. According to a recent survey conducted by North Bridge Venture Partners, the hybrid model is used by 47 percent of companies, making it by far the most popular approach to enterprise data storage.


Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Storage For Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs)

The hybrid storage model offers MSPs the opportunity to make themselves invaluable to their clients by guiding them toward a solution that accommodates their data security and performance needs while still providing cost-effective cloud storage for the bulk of their data.


The on-premises storage infrastructure should be configured as a private cloud. This allows the use of a software-defined storage (SDS) paradigm that treats all the system’s data store resources, whether local or in the cloud, as a single pool of storage. Customers are presented with the same interfaces and operational procedures for all their data, wherever it may be located.

Because the SDS platform has granular control of the entire storage infrastructure, it can implement characteristic cloud storage features such as quick and easy capacity provisioning, essentially infinite scalability, increased reliability, automatic failover from local storage to the cloud, and top-flight data backup and disaster recovery regimes. In a real sense, by helping customers implement a hybrid storage solution, MSPs can offer the best of both the on-premises and cloud storage worlds.


When Should You Recommend Hybrid Cloud Storage?

Obviously, you’ll want to recommend a hybrid solution if your clients have high-level data security or I/O performance requirements. In such situations, MSPs can help clients define which data should stay in-house, and which can safely be committed to the public cloud.

But there are also several other use cases in which hybrid storage may well be your client’s best option.

  • Legacy systems: Many companies have legacy applications running in their in-house environment that it would be difficult to move to the public cloud without a costly major overhaul.
  • New app development: Clients can be encouraged to use the public cloud to develop and test new applications before putting them into their in-house production environment.
  • Backups, DR, archiving, and “cloud bursting”: If the reason for keeping data on-premises has to do with performance rather than security, the public cloud can be used for archiving, backup, disaster recovery, and as a reserve pool to accommodate unexpected surges in storage demand (cloud bursting).


MSPs Should Work With a Good STaaS (Storage-as-a-Service) Provider


Implementing a coherent, unified hybrid infrastructure in which on-premises and cloud-based data and applications seamlessly interoperate is not an easy task. The best way for most MSPs to do so is by partnering with a first class STaaS vendor that has a high level of expertise and experience in configuring enterprise-class hybrid storage solutions.

Zadara Storage is a good example of that type of STaaS provider. The company’s VPSA Storage Array technology is designed from the ground up both for the cloud and for in-house data centers. VPSAs are already resident in the facilities of major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). They can also be installed in customers’ premises to form the basis of a private or hybrid cloud storage solution.

MSPs that partner with Zadara can provide a cost-effective, technically superior hybrid storage solution with a 100 percent uptime SLA guarantee. There’s no requirement for any capital outlays to purchase equipment. Even when Zadara VPSA units are installed on site, clients simply pay a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use.

If you’d like to know more about how you can provide your customers with a top-flight hybrid storage solution at an affordable cost, please download our latest analyst paper: Zadara Storage Voted by IT Pros as On-Premise Enterprise Storage-as-a-Service Market Leader.

June 1, 2017

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Establishing Your Hybrid Cloud Storage Flexibility

As cloud has made an impact in enterprise data storage, what’s become clear is that the majority of enterprises still prefer a hybrid cloud storage environment over either all on-premises storage or all in-cloud storage. Hybrid solutions, when done correctly, offer tremendous flexibility, including elasticity. That is, the storage environment has the ability to shrink, as well as to grow, as the needs of the enterprise change.

Hybrid Cloud Storage Elasticity

An elastic storage solution is different from scalability. Scalable just means it can expand. Elasticity implies that it can also easily contract when a data storage environment is no longer needed.

How is elasticity different from (or preferable to) scalability? Scalability allows your storage to grow, and that’s certainly necessary. But scalable storage doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to resize the environment downward. For example, say your storage needs are related to a temporary situation, such as project development and testing or a seasonal project? Maybe you need to accommodate bursting data sets. There are numerous reasons why a hybrid cloud storage environment needs to be elastic, not simply scalable.


Hybrid Cloud Storage Portability

If you decide to pack up your public cloud storage and take it to another vendor, you need the portability to do so.

But elasticity isn’t the only way in which your hybrid cloud needs to be flexible. For example, you may choose a cloud provider now and decide you’d like to try something else in the future. There are several prominent public clouds, including Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud, along with lots and lots of local MSPs and CSPs. You need the flexibility to avoid vendor lock-in. If your enterprise chooses to switch from Azure to AWS or vice versa, your hybrid cloud storage should be flexible enough to accommodate that.


Hybrid Cloud Storage Flexibility

Is your hybrid cloud flexible enough to allow you to move data to and from your on-prem and in-cloud storage whenever you need to?

There’s another element of flexibility to consider, as well. Even if you maintain the same public cloud service, you will need the ability to migrate data from your on-premises storage to the cloud, from your cloud storage to your onsite data center, or even among multiple cloud vendors. You might need to do this to accommodate projects involving geographical issues or for things like backup and disaster recovery.


Hybrid Cloud Storage Affordability

Did you know you can get the same affordable pay-as-you-go pricing for on-prem storage that you can from a public cloud?

One of the reasons the hybrid cloud is preferable is that it gives you the flexibility to place data where you want (on-premise or in the cloud) and enjoy the economic and elastic benefits of “as-a-service” regardless of where your data is stored. On-prem storage no longer means buying a data center full of servers. You can get the same pay-as-you-go flexibility for your onsite storage as you can for your cloud storage. Now your hybrid cloud storage becomes an easy, regular monthly operational expense instead of a tremendously costly capital expense.

Developing the right hybrid cloud storage environment begins with understanding how to properly manage your where-to-put-what issues and then determining the most affordable data storage solution to accommodate those needs. You can request a customized TCO analysis now to determine how best to approach your hybrid cloud storage needs.

December 28, 2016

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Finding a Flexible Enterprise Storage Solution in Uncertain Times

Shopping for enterprise storage solutions can be frustrating. If you browse through the blogs and marketing materials put out by the hardware manufacturers, you’ll quickly see that they would like to convince you there’s no place for the enterprise in the cloud. You know that can’t be true, simply because enterprises are adopting the cloud in such large numbers. Conversely, if you read only what the cloud vendors have to say, you’ll see that they want to convince you that on-premise storage is just too expensive and inflexible. It’s become a challenge to find a flexible enterprise storage solution.

What if you could get the best of both worlds? What if you could get the low-cost, convenience, and flexibility of the cloud, plus the ease, security, and low-latency of on-premise storage. Better yet, what if you could get it all without the enormous costs of buying on-premises servers and hardware or without the loss of control and data ownership often attributed to the cloud?

Why Hybrid Works Best for the Enterprise

The hybrid cloud is a happy middle ground between buying all that hardware for your data center and transferring all your data into the cloud.

The main concerns for on-premises enterprise storage solutions are:
• High cost (usually in a big capital expenditure)
• Difficulty in capacity planning
• Locked in to a single vendor
• Difficulty getting executives to sign off on these expenses

The main concerns for all-cloud storage solutions are:
• Security
• Data ownership
• Latency/performance

What if you had a single storage solution that addressed all of the major concerns about both storage options? The hybrid cloud is a means to take advantage of the low cost, scalability, and flexibility of the cloud, without those enormous capital expenditures. There’s no concern about capacity planning, because if you need more, you just buy more. You aren’t locked into the hardware or software of any particular vendor, and you can pay for it as a low, monthly operational expense, just like your electricity bill.

The hybrid cloud also addresses all your concerns about the public cloud. You can keep any data you feel is too sensitive for the public cloud in your own data center, within your four walls, behind your firewall. Additionally, any applications that have little or no tolerance for latency can be kept on-premise. The hybrid cloud literally solves all of the problems related to both types of enterprise storage solutions.

A Flexible Storage Solution: The Benefits of Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS)

With the Zadara Storage solution, you can deploy the on-premise storage you need without those huge capital investments. You can get onsite storage-as-a-service (STaaS), just as you would acquire cloud-based storage. It works similarly to a lease (but has its own unique differences and advantages) — you let Zadara know what you need and how much of it, and voila! It’s yours for as long as you need it. When it’s no longer serving a purpose, it’s gone. No wailing and gnashing of teeth over data center hardware investments that didn’t produce an overnight ROI. There’s no long term commitment and no ownership of outdated hardware.

Whether you need affordable onsite enterprise storage solutions, cloud-based storage, or a hybrid cloud combination of the two, Zadara Storage has the STaaS you need to get it quickly and affordably. Check out the On-Premise as-a-Service Lease Comparison infographic to learn more about the savings and advantages of STaaS.

October 26, 2016

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