Hybrid storage in 2018: still the Achilles heel of hybrid cloud strategies?

Hybrid has become better understood and less risky, but is still far from simple

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Hybrid cloud usage is growing faster than either the private or public cloud. In a large study conducted this year by Insight Avenue on behalf of vendor Suse, 66 percent of respondents expected hybrid cloud growth to continue, compared to 55 percent for private cloud and 36 percent for public cloud. And the hybrid cloud market is expected to grow from $33.3 billion in 2016 to $91.7 billion by 2021, at an annual rate of more than 22 percent, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

Part and parcel of a hybrid cloud strategy is hybrid storage. Hybrid storage can be defined as a homogenous data store, which uses a policy engine to decide whether data should be stored on-premises or in the cloud. There are various mechanisms for moving the data into and out of the cloud, including iSCSI, the S3 API, NAS, and proprietary data transfer protocols.

Hybrid storage can be the Achille’s heel of a hybrid cloud implementation, because while spinning up machine instances locally or on the cloud is relatively easy, moving petabytes of data from here to there is no small feat. There are numerous concerns about the data aspect of hybrid cloud implementations, including latency, consistency, availability, and security.

Nevertheless, many organizations have gone out on a limb and realized the promise of hybrid storage. As far back as 2016, IDC reported that 68 percent of enterprises had either implemented hybrid cloud storage or were planning to do so. Today technologies have matured and leading vendors such as Dell EMC, IBM, Hitachi, and NetApp are offering robust solutions. What’s next for hybrid storage?

Here are a few things I’ll be on the lookout for in the hybrid cloud storage space in 2018

  • Multicloud models will build upon the integrated hybrid storage cloud approach. Multicloud storage provides primary data services that operate simultaneously across different cloud environments, and can be colocated with compute and application resources. James Alan Miller, executive editor of TechTarget’s Storage Media Group, includes multicloud storage in his list of five hot storage technologies to watch in 2018.
  • Many companies are planning to grow their IoT strategies in 2018. McKinsey reports that in a recent survey, 98 percent of respondents said that most companies in their industry have enterprise IoT initiatives on their roadmaps; 62 percent said enterprise IoT’s impact will be very high or transformative. IoT devices don’t have the luxury of connecting to enterprise storage where and when IT architects want them to. Having these devices load data to the cloud, and making that data transparently available to on-premises systems, is an interesting and challenging prospect.
  • The storage technology at the basis of hybrid cloud storage will continue to improve, as adoption increases, and volumes grow. A strong candidate for use by local data centers and cloud providers is storage-class memory. It’s non-volatile like flash but also shares DRAM’s low latency and byte-addressable characteristics. Flash memory technology will also become more appealing in the coming year, with transfer rates of 10 gigabytes per second soon becoming the norm, according to Forsythe Solutions Group. Faster storage options could change the economics of hybrid storage and affect organizational policies as to which data should be stored where.
  • Analytics tools that allow companies to improve their performance, availability and data management will have an even more significant impact on hybrid cloud storage strategies in 2018. The idea is for storage solutions to be set up so that information can be retrieved quickly, in fewer clicks, and with better monitoring of hybrid storage performance over time.

Vendors to watch in the hybrid cloud storage space in 2018

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS doesn’t provide all the required components for a hybrid cloud implementation, but does offer integrated networking, backup and private storage, data integration, security and configuration management through a number of partners. For example, AWS partnered with NetApp to provide an interface with on-prem enterprise cloud storage, via NetApp’s OnTap Cloud technology.

Dell EMC

EMC cut its teeth in the data storage market and has grown its hybrid cloud business through a number of partnerships and acquisitions, as well as internal development. The company’s Virtustream Storage Cloud is designed to secure, manage, and store fast-growing data for large enterprises.

Hitachi Vantara

Hitachi Vantara offers cloud storage-on-demand and compute-as-a-service via its Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) division. Earlier this year, HDS introduced the new Unified Compute Platform product powered by VMware Cloud Foundation and designed for customers developing hybrid cloud strategies.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard’s HPE Helion CloudSystem is a cloud infrastructure that combines storage, servers, networking and software in an open platform for a hybrid cloud model based on OpenStack.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Azure Stack cloud platform is the company’s bid to expand its Azure cloud offering into on-premises datacenters. With Azure Stack, the vendor seeks to simplify companies’ private clouds through the same tools that Microsoft uses to manage its own Azure public cloud service. Azure Stack offers a full set of hybrid storage services, including blobs, tables, and queues.

Closing thoughts

”People are now understanding that it’s a hybrid world. Everything you do is hybrid.” —Saar Gillai, ‎senior vice president and general manager of converged cloud at HP

If everything you do is hybrid, you need to make sure you’re doing it right—whether you’re architecting, implementing, securing, operating, or monitoring hybrid infrastructures, and of course—evaluating and reevaluating your platforms and tools.

As we enter 2018, hybrid cloud adopters should watch new innovations affecting the hybrid cloud stack—such as storage-class, flash memory, and multicloud platforms—and new applications that will consume hybrid storage, such as IoT. It’s also important to keep up with the top vendors to see how much more they can do for us in 2018 (and where will they slip up).

Hybrid has become better understood and less risky, but is still far from simple. With more applications, bigger data and many more transactions processed across the on-prem-cloud divide, the stakes are also much higher. As always, a careful approach and using simplified, standardized interfaces will be key to success.

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