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Building a future-proof storage strategy

Danie de Lange, MD, XContent Business Solutions.

Danie de Lange, MD, XContent Business Solutions.

Is going into the cloud the only way to future-proof storage?

Stefan Ulland, senior systems architect and operations manager, Britehouse Oracle Division: The short answer would be no. There is still a place for onsite and on-premise. From my perspective, we make considerations around the ecosystems, the applications and the process you are trying to address. Cloud is not a silver bullet. It's not a one-size-fits-all. There are specific scenarios where specific solutions may be better suited, whether onsite, offsite or cloud solutions.

Jacques Watermeyer, chief technical officer, Integr8: I want to echo that. It's around the maturity of customers: which service sits full in the cloud? Which is full onsite and which is hybrid? In South Africa, we see a lot of customers utilising them in most cases. In many cases, people are using cloud, but they also use local storage for their in-house applications or achieving for their current sharepoint data. So will we see a full transformation into the cloud? I think the answer is yes, in the near future, 2020 to 2025.

What is the role of the hybrid cloud?

Moussou Sene, cloud infrastructure strategist, Oracle SA: Some customers will want their critical data in their own datacentres and some of the non-critical data, like e-mail, they might want in the public cloud. When we talk about the hybrid cloud, some of your data is on-premise in your datacentre and some of it is in the cloud.

Doug Downing, senior manager, Systems Engineering Dell EMC: Only five percent of customers have gone down the digital transformation journey. This means 95% are in the process of doing so, as most are still trying to figure out what is for on-premise and what is for digital storage. For the most part, this means many customers are not about to put their ERP or SAP platforms in the cloud. There might be customers that are ready for that, but for most of them, all that critical data needs to be close to their chest. CIOs have three fundamental jobs:

Only five percent of customers have gone down the digital transformation journey.

To save money, to make money, and to keep the competition at bay. If looked at that way, to save money, they have to modernise their infrastructure. Modernisation leads to automation, and automation leads to transformation. This frees up people to do different jobs like developing apps, which makes money, which, in turn, keeps competition at bay.

For testing and development, backing-up-as-a-service, they're starting to look at hybrid cloud. Very few customers have made the big jump to public cloud. We are still seeing customers keep mission-critical data on-premise.

Stefan Ulland, senior systems architect and operations manager, Britehouse Oracle Division.

Stefan Ulland, senior systems architect and operations manager, Britehouse Oracle Division.

Jacques Watermeyer, Integr8: What we find with our clients is that they have local storage on site and have a bit of a hybrid and put developments in the cloud. We're seeing that they're tending to use private cloud, that's where it's stored in their own server, in a datacentre of their choice. The CIO wants to keep this data close, which means it's not in somebody else's storage. This is huge, as it means you are talking about automation inside the box and what it can offer them.

Doug Downing, senior manager, Systems Engineering, Dell EMC.

Doug Downing, senior manager, Systems Engineering, Dell EMC.

Morne Bekker, country manager, NetApp SA: I just want to take a step back and make a point about what cloud is. What does cloud actually give you? One is flexibility, the other is agility. This gives you the capacity to test quickly and if it does not work out after a few months, you can toss it and it would not have cost too much. If that had to be done on-premise, you'd be paying for this project for the next three years. Looked at holistically, if you want to move data sets, it does not necessarily have to reside in the cloud. Some of it will reside there, some on- premise, and some of it will float in between the two. The critical aspect is determining how you manage all of that. How do you manage where the data set is, who has sovereignty, what the compliance issues are, and how to move this in and out?

Thiani Naicker, Westcon-Comstor

What we do often find is that their lack of knowledge makes people apprehensive about deciding on how to store their data.

Moussou Sene, Oracle SA: I should also point out that how quickly you get access to your data is critical. If, for example, you have to get access to your billing data, and you have this stored in the cloud, you have to have a service provider who can give you the assurance that when that data is required, it will be sent to you as quickly as possible. You also have to look at stuff like the latency in your network, as all these things are factors. Some of our major customers would love to move even their critical data to the cloud, but things like the volume of data and how quickly they can access it all play a role in deciding on making the move.

Why not just move everything to the cloud?

Jacques Watermeyer, chief technical officer, Integr8.

Jacques Watermeyer, chief technical officer, Integr8.

Doug Downing, Dell EMC: If you look at the BVP Cloud Index, it measures businesses born in the cloud, like Dropbox, Uber and Airbnb. What's interesting about these companies is that 52% of them migrated their data back onto on-premise. This does not mean the original decision to go cloud was incorrect. That's absolutely not the case. If it was not for the cloud, these businesses would not exist, but what happens over time, is that it comes down to performance. For instance, if I wanted to archive stuff and put it away for years, why would I put it in the cloud? For long-term storage, cloud is expensive. It's not a cost saver in this context.

Do company boards understand the need to get their data storage strategy right?

Moussou Sene, cloud infrastructure strategist, Oracle SA.

Moussou Sene, cloud infrastructure strategist, Oracle SA.

Thiani Naicker, GM, Cloud Solutions, Westcon-Comstor: Yes and no. What we are finding is that we need to do some education on regulatory compliance when it comes to data storage. They need to understand the implications if their data is sitting in a private or public cloud. What we do often find is that their lack of knowledge makes people apprehensive about deciding on how to store their data. So it's up to the vendors to dispel the myth of what is happening with the data.

Morne Bekker, NetApp SA

The critical aspect is determining how you manage all of that. How do you manage where the data set is, who has sovereignty, what the compliance issues are, and how to move this in and out?

Stefan Ulland, Britehouse, Oracle Division: I think some of the apprehension comes from lifecycle management and data classification. This means you have to ask questions like: What does the regulatory framework have to say? Don't really know. E-mails are protected, ERP and client information? I don't really know. Until you take the data through the lifecycle, these types of questions cannot be answered.

Thiani Naicker, GM, Cloud Solutions, Westcon-Comstor.

Thiani Naicker, GM, Cloud Solutions, Westcon-Comstor.

Doug Downing, Dell EMC: We are finding that there are big misunderstandings of regulatory needs. We had a client, for example, who said data had to be kept for seven years. We asked why that long, but they could not give us an answer because it was just a stipulation that they felt needed to be put in. There are about 135 regulatory standards globally, so when clients have a compliance officer, it just makes the job of complying that much easier. We are, in fact, finding that our law team ends up acting like customer solution consultants because they end up advising the compliance officers.

Morne Bekker, country manager, NetApp SA.

Morne Bekker, country manager, NetApp SA.

Danie de Lange, MD, XContent Business Solutions: People who work with data security are a lot more aware of regulatory issues. But there are those who think if they can separate the more sensitive data, they don't have to be aware of issues around data security. The question in their minds is where the data is being utilised. Take Uber, for example. The data has to be close to where the customers are. But if the data is needed for internal processes, it's best that some of that data is based locally.

This article was first published in the September 2017 edition of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine. To read more, go to the Brainstorm website.


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