A Fresh Look at the Cloud Conundrum for Storage

by David Reynolds | 5 min Read   If you Google ‘cloud conundrum’ you get lots of hits on the traditional fluffy kind of clouds and how they affect climate change, but also quite a few on the technology kind, and people’s nagging doubts around AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and the rest. They reinforce the thought that if cloud really is the future, it’s not going to be a completely untroubled one. Cost and security issues crop up a lot, and point back to what I believe is the basic cloud conundrum; that cloud delivers greater control with one hand while taking it away with the other. Cloud offers enterprises greater control over storage and compute capacity by freeing them from the constraints of inflexible IT capacity and fixed hardware and staff costs. It does this at the cost of taking away their direct control over cost per terabyte, cyber security and resilience. There are solutions available now which go a long way to resolve this cloud conundrum, putting control back with the enterprise without losing the flexibility of hybrid cloud. Stepping back from the cloud hype to take a fresh, objective look at these solutions as they relate to your IT landscape can be the first step in getting that control back, cutting costs and increasing cyber resilience.

The cloud cost challenge

The promise of cloud storage lies in the economies of scale of vast Storage Area Network estates being able to offer the flexibility and capacity to meet the full range of enterprise data needs at lowest cost. In reality, this promise isn’t always met. Spinning up massive short-term capacity for one-off data mining exercises is one thing, delivering complex business data needs over a sustained period is another. The long-term business case for putting everything in the cloud doesn’t necessarily stack up, particularly for enterprises with significant sunk costs in existing datacentre capacity, or those with specific and complex data security needs driven by regulatory requirements and data sensitivity. Data like this on escalating AWS costs casts some doubt on the cost benefits of cloud even in the shorter term. Cloud can remove the headache of managing storage as a fixed, inflexible capital cost. In doing so, it creates new challenges in the longer term as you lose direct control over those costs and, to an extent, management of the data itself.

The cloud cyber challenge

Enterprises are having to adapt to an ever-shifting cyber landscape, not only from the proliferation of ever more sophisticated cyberattacks, but from the evolving regulatory requirements they have to meet to protect their customers and sensitive data. Because cloud providers have to cater to a wide range of enterprises with different data security profiles, the extra level of security required for highly sensitive data tends to be offered as additional, chargeable layers of service, rather than it being designed in from the ground up. Flexing data security controls to meet complex and fluid enterprise data security needs can be a challenge in the necessarily generic cloud environment.

Time for a fresh approach?

The answer to these challenges is not to run away from cloud as a storage solution, nor is it to engage ostrich mode, carry on believing all the hype, and plough on with cloud regardless. As we hopefully emerge from the worst of the Covid pandemic, into a time when cost and cybersecurity will be more critical than ever, it’s worth reappraising storage strategy in relation to the unique IT landscape, security posture and needs of the business, rather than from the viewpoint of ‘Cloud’s the answer, now what’s the question?’ In doing so, it’s important to consider the wider technology picture. If you’ve been heavily invested in virtualised, Intel-based, hybrid or full cloud architecture for a while, it’s easy to slip into the assumption that other technologies haven’t advanced much since some enterprises started moving away from mainframe towards server farms, AWS and the rest. Actually, mainframe technology can now often offer lower-cost storage solutions than cloud, with greater security and control, plus all the flexibility of a Linux hybrid-cloud environment.

An alternative to the cloud conundrum

IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud offers storage costs at least a third lower than pure AWS block storage (EBS) , with at least one enterprise achieving 2-3 times lower costs It can deliver clean and easy movement of data between on-prem, AWS block and object storage under one management console. It provides a single unified solution for migrating data to cloud across multiple technology platforms – Dell, IBM, HPE – avoiding the need to manage their different cloud migration methodologies. Data can be encrypted and moved to an air-gapped S3 instance from a single central point of control. Whether it can solve the cloud conundrum for your enterprise storage needs depends on your enterprise. If you want to find out, contact us for a free online assessment here.