Journey to hybrid multicloud: Innovating with an infrastructure-independent storage software foundation

By | 4 minute read | October 28, 2019

This is Part 5 in a 6-part series on storage for hybrid cloud. In Part 1 I set the stage — getting us all on the same page with the terminology of hybrid cloud. In Part 2 we explored what’s behind this rapid industry shift toward hybrid cloud infrastructure. In Part 3 we took a look at how IT organizations are approaching their journey to hybrid cloud and the unique storage challenges that are emerging. In Part 4 we began exploring some best practice guidance for navigating the change — starting first with modernizing the storage infrastructure you already have. In Part 5, we’ll continue our exploration with some innovation ideas geared toward storage for hybrid cloud.

Whether your environment is on premises or hybrid cloud, most of the same storage needs exist for monitoring, operations, procedures, automation, cost and usage optimization, business continuity and so on. Done correctly, most of the things we discussed in Part 4 around modernizing your existing storage infrastructure can apply to the rest of your hybrid cloud storage infrastructure too. At the risk of over emphasizing, an on-premises infrastructure based on hardware systems is not open or portable. It is tied to your current choices in your on-premises hardware.

What you end up doing in the rest of the hybrid cloud will either be different or will also be tied to your current on-premises hardware. On the other hand, an on-premises storage infrastructure built from a strategic software foundation is not tied to any particular physical storage infrastructure. It can run on premises with just about any vendor hardware and equally on multiple public clouds giving you a much more familiar and consistent experience across the hybrid cloud environment.

This point we’re on is critical and warrants a slightly architectural picture. Most clients we work with have heterogenous environments. It is a reality both in on-premises hardware choices and in the hybrid cloud. What that usually means for storage operations people is that there is different tooling, different APIs and procedures, and slightly different skills required for each vendor.

With a sort of homogeneous view of the world, most vendors are now coming up with ways of projecting their on-premises storage capabilities into cloud — which is great, and they should, given the industry transition to hybrid cloud. The strategic challenge is that these things are again tied to your choice of on-premises hardware.

If you are currently using NetApp hardware, you train your people, build your automation and set up your procedures around the approach used with NetApp hardware. Then, if some new innovation in physical hardware drives you to Pure Storage, for example, you not only have to change what you are doing on premises, but also what you are doing in the hybrid cloud that the old NetApp gear was connected to.

Imagine if you were replicating data to the cloud using NetApp methods and had to switch to Pure methods. On top of the pain of having to set up new procedures, switch your automation to new APIs, retrain your people and re-replicate the data, you might also be incurring additional data ingress/egress charges from your cloud provider. It is an age-old challenge that hybrid cloud only multiplies.

The alternative we’ve been discussing is that strategic storage choices are more about the software foundation you select than the hardware it happens to be running on at the moment. Imagine an on-premises infrastructure that is based on a single storage software foundation regardless of what hardware vendor you happen to be using at the moment. Consistent training and skills for your personnel, consistent APIs and automation, consistent capabilities, and as we’ve discussed, SaaS-based AI-driven management that can help simplify operations. It is infrastructure-independent.

If you get enamored with some new physical infrastructure innovation but your current hardware vendor doesn’t yet offer it, no big deal. Go get it from somebody who does and add it in.

And when you extend to the hybrid cloud, a software foundation can extend with you, giving your applications and operations a consistent experience across your on-premises hardware vendors as well as your cloud storage infrastructure choices.

The reason this is all so important is because of the storage use cases we are seeing in hybrid cloud:

  • Clients are using public cloud resources as a disaster recovery (DR) site, setting up replication from on-premises storage infrastructure to the cloud.
  • They are using public cloud resources to do agile application development and to leverage cloud analytics and AI services for deeper insights. They’re transmitting on-premises storage snapshots to the cloud.
  • Some applications are just being lifted and shifted to the cloud. Since few, if any modifications are being made to the apps and largely the same IT organization is operating them, they are looking for as much consistency in operations, management and procedures as possible.
  • Some clients are maturing to the point they have cloud-native applications built on containers that are portable across and leveraging the full richness of the hybrid cloud. Different locations are used depending on performance and security needs, AI and analytics services, and resiliency requirements but always with an eye toward delivering the most consistent experience possible. A portable, open storage software foundation can help.

In the final post, Part 6, we’ll look at the effect hybrid cloud has had on pricing for storage infrastructure.

What do you think? What characteristics of a strategic storage software foundation are most appealing vs your current approach to storage? Join the conversation using one of the social links below!

Read Part 6 here.