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A Roadmap to High-Value Cloud Infrastructure: Application and Data Mobility

In the journey toward cloud, we find two kinds of companies

In its first phase, the “Roadmap to High-Value Cloud Infrastructure” focused on Data Storage Expansion. In the second, when talking about disaster recovery and data protection, we discussed not only data recovery, but application recovery in the cloud as well. In this installment, we'll address the third phase: Application and Data Mobility.

In the journey toward cloud, we find two kinds of companies - those that consider themselves "born in the cloud" and have built their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud from the ground up. These folks don't need a roadmap to high-value cloud infrastructure because they built their infrastructure with the cloud in mind. There's nothing to migrate, no conversion gotchas to account for.

The second group, however, comprises organizations who start with traditional on-premises IT infrastructure and often don't have the luxury - or in many cases, even the desire - to forklift their operations into the cloud. What they seek instead is a phased roadmap to cloud infrastructure services starting with data storage expansion followed by data protection/disaster recovery. The advantage of a phased approach is that businesses can enjoy cost and administrative efficiencies of the cloud without radically altering the processes and applications they are currently using. Today's installment focuses on data and application mobility, the 3rd phase of our roadmap.

While related, the two elements of this phase are distinctly different, so we'll tackle each separately.

Data Mobility
For organizations accustomed to virtualized environments already, data mobility is a critical consideration. In many respects, using the cloud is the ultimate in data mobility - once stored in the cloud, data mobility becomes a "given," meaning data can be accessed in the cloud, on-premise or virtually anywhere via cloud-integrated storage or cloud storage gateways. This divorce between the data itself and the servers becomes critical for organizations as they seek to migrate applications to the cloud. At this stage in the game, we're doing more than just using the cloud for overflow as with the capacity expansion we discussed in the first phase. The cloud has become the repository for all (or perhaps nearly all) our data in some form or fashion, including the active, live data, not just the passive data. Latency and performance concerns for highly active data are addressed through the dynamic, on-site caches delivered by cloud-integrated storage, which provide local performance while simultaneously replicating to the cloud.

By taking this step to ensuring data mobility, we're providing the groundwork required to begin migrating certain applications to the cloud.

Application Migration to the Cloud
To date, our roadmap has primarily addressed data storage in the cloud, and we've only touched applications in the cloud as it relates to a disaster recovery situation. But the reality is that organizations can gain the same efficiencies out of cloud server infrastructure as they do out of cloud storage. In many ways, application migration to the cloud is simply taking what we did in Phase 2 (application recovery in the cloud during a disaster) a step further, except that the application never fails back to the on-premise environment, but resides permanently in the cloud. This is particular true in virtual server environments which have become commonplace in IT organizations.

In data storage, we've seen in Phase 1 that there is quite a lot of data that no longer justifies on-premise management and maintenance - either because the data is passive, changes infrequently or is simply less valuable. Similarly, there are likely many on-premise applications that can be migrated to the cloud, thereby offloading the management and maintenance of the hardware and server infrastructure that application requires. Classic examples here are file servers, seldom-used databases or even an email server that occupies server hardware in your data center, requiring maintenance, upgrades, power and cooling. Moving these applications into the cloud can greatly reduce your financial and administrative burden.

So why does application migration come at a relatively late stage (phase 3) of our cloud adoption roadmap? After all, companies "born in the cloud" are apparently running application in the cloud on day one. The truth is that running applications in the cloud has very little to do with whether it's possible. The questions for organizations accustomed to traditional on-premises infrastructure are:

  • "How many (and which) of my applications should I move to the cloud?"
  • "How painful will that migration be?" and
  • "Can applications in the cloud be as reliable as on-premise?"

Some in this group strive toward an ambitious and immediate vision that rivals those "born in the cloud" - to migrate their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud as quickly as possible, while others have neither the interest nor the will to do so and seek a hybrid on-premises/cloud model that will serve their needs long-term - and potentially even indefinitely.

Regardless of the end goal, phases 1 and 2 create a seamless migration path and a critical foundation for data protection and disaster recovery that extends to applications deployed in the cloud. In fact, cloud storage becomes an essential element of data protection and disaster protection for applications running in the cloud. You may have heard about recent cloud outages that have taken down applications and even resulted in data loss due to cloud provider regional failures. Such situations can be prevented through appropriate data protection and disaster protection measures - enabling the availability characteristics of a well-managed on-premises environment. Maintaining backups or replicas of application data in cloud storage provides the same level of disaster tolerance found in enterprise environments, thanks to the robust geo-replication and disaster tolerance of cloud storage. In the case of a regional outages, cloud storage enables recovering applications in a different region. For even higher levels of disaster tolerance, replicating data to an external cloud provider allows recovery even from the outage of an entire cloud provider.

Beyond building a robust environment, it would be unfair to oversimplify some of the orchestration subtleties involved in moving applications to the cloud. Moving virtual machine applications between identical hypervisors is a best case migration to cloud scenario. Moving applications between heterogeneous hypervisors or from physical environments to cloud involves additional configuration and possibly conversion processes. In all cases, there are also networking considerations in ensuring application migration is seamless.

Bottom line? With the right foundation in place, migrating selected applications to cloud can be a relatively painless process. More importantly, applications in a cloud environment can still maintain the same availability and robustness as applications in your local environment - these are the advantages of a phased roadmap to cloud infrastructure.

Next up: taking advantage of compute infrastructure in the cloud to optimize your business.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Nicos Vekiarides

Nicos Vekiarides is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of TwinStrata. He has spent over 20 years in enterprise data storage, both as a business manager and as an entrepreneur and founder in startup companies.

Prior to TwinStrata, he served as VP of Product Strategy and Technology at Incipient, Inc., where he helped deliver the industry's first storage virtualization solution embedded in a switch. Prior to Incipient, he was General Manager of the storage virtualization business at Hewlett-Packard. Vekiarides came to HP with the acquisition of StorageApps where he was the founding VP of Engineering. At StorageApps, he built a team that brought to market the industry's first storage virtualization appliance. Prior to StorageApps, he spent a number of years in the data storage industry working at Sun Microsystems and Encore Computer. At Encore, he architected and delivered Encore Computer's SP data replication products that were a key factor in the acquisition of Encore's storage division by Sun Microsystems.

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