Cloud lock-in still a major concern for enterprises today: Mark Lazarus, Nimble Storage

Explains that as companies are always looking for the most cost effective storage option, lock-in leads to a lack of data mobility

Mark Lazarus Nimble Storage

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An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’

As the next wave of enterprise moves to the cloud, Mark Lazarus, Director of Technology, Asia Pacific & Japan, Nimble Storage, in an exclusive interview with Techseen, talks about the factors that is ailing the industry and the apprehensions that enterprises have with regard to cloud transformation and transition. He also explains the problem of skill-gap in the sector as well as the technicalities of cloud lock-in and visibility issues in the enterprises today.

Nimble Storage is a predictive all-flash and hybrid-flash storage as well as predictive cloud infrastructure solutions company. Recently Hewlett Packard Enterprise had entered a definitive agreement to acquire Nimble storage for $1.09 billion to expand its position in the flash storage market. Excerpts:

Techseen: Gartner stated that by 2020 “no-cloud” policy will be as rare as “no-internet” policy as Cloud-First and Cloud-Only is replacing the defensive stance of enterprises. Why was there a “no-cloud” policy in the first place?

Lazarus: A no-cloud policy was a natural reaction to a significantly different method of delivering infrastructure and software from a public cloud. The reasons are probably many and varied, but included concerns over lack of control, security risks, data protection, data sovereignty and others. Businesses started changing the ‘no-cloud’ policy to service areas of the business where their concerns could be managed or isolated. Systems of engagement like web sites etc. leant themselves for the ability of public cloud to scale up and down to meet varying performance needs. These initial steps provide confidence for business to change to perhaps cloud –first policies.

Techseen: Are there any major components that are missing from cloud storage? How would it help organizations if these features become a pre-requisite for storage-sharing?

Lazarus: With the easy-to-provision “true” cloud services such as those provided by Amazon and Microsoft, a customer is often asked to sacrifice some availability and storage resilience and availability for the ease of consumption. For example, AWS document on their web site that cloud block storage delivers between 99% and 99.95% reliability and that it is designed for an annual failure rate (part or full data loss) of 0.1%-0.2%. A second area where an improved capability is required is for more cost-effective data protection and copy management techniques. Lastly, an area that could also provide benefit is some monitoring and pro-active support capability to understand where a performance bottleneck may be.

Nimble Cloud Volumes addresses these issues by providing enterprise class reliability and durability. Instant point in time snapshots and will also provide the ability to create instant data copy capability for customers. Global visibility of private and public cloud will also allow visibility and pro-active support capability to anticipate and prevent issues.

Techseen: Can you explain how cloud lock-in and lack of visibility can adversely affect an organization?

Lazarus: Cloud lock-in is a major concern for enterprises today. Lock-in leads to a lack of data mobility, making it difficult to move data freely among different cloud storage providers. As companies are always looking for the most cost effective storage option, the prohibitive expense and difficulty in moving data out of the cloud (egress charges) means that companies lose out on flexibility.

Visibility is critical on two fronts: Understanding how usage is impacting costs for an organization. Extensive interviews with public cloud customers uncovered complaints around ‘surprise bills’ with no deep understanding on how or what changed.

Public cloud has a ‘black box’ operating model, which works well for simplicity, but when an issue arises around application performance etc. it is very hard to identify the root cause of the issue. Visibility and use of tools like predictive analytics across this usage can lead to identifying areas that could cut costs and/or identify trouble spots within the environment that are causing performance issues. With the right monitoring and analysis, customers could be advised to cut back on provisioned space or IOPS to save money for example.

Techseen: You say that public cloud is front and center, why? Don’t enterprises prefer a hybrid model? What are organizations in Asia Pacific in dire need of when it comes to cloud storage?

Lazarus: The simplicity and agility advantages that public cloud infrastructure offers have made it impossible to ignore. A recent survey by Forrester suggests that half of all enterprises will have some applications and data in the public cloud by the end of this year. When they think public cloud, 95% of the time they are talking about Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.

As we said earlier, companies are increasingly introducing a cloud first model, so it is definitely front and centre. However, I believe a hybrid cloud is where most enterprises are going to land when it comes to a cloud strategy with workloads across on premise and public cloud to help hedge the risk of using only one vendor and ensuring that critical applications are placed on the most appropriate infrastructure. Therefore, a multicloud service is a must for enterprises in Asia-Pacific today.

A multicloud storage service offers a new set of capabilities that enterprises need. Just like native cloud block storage, it is a true service – easy to use and pay-as-you-go, where customers provision and manage volumes, not physical infrastructure. In addition, multicloud storage works seamlessly with multiple public clouds, providing enterprise-grade storage and instant migration from one public cloud service to another. Couple this with an on premise private cloud with seamless transition between the 2 offers significant flexibility to organizations in the region.

Techseen: What are the challenges that they face when they transition to a multicloud strategy?

Lazarus: Common challenges enterprises wrestle with when executing a multicloud strategy are around dealing with the different storage services offered by each provider, and the time and cost associated with moving data from on-premises to public cloud.

The variety of native cloud storage offerings has a significant impact on the types of applications enterprises feel comfortable running on a given cloud. Native block storage offerings have significant benefits around data durability (likelihood of data loss), data services like snapshots and clones or allowing multiple hosts to share the same volume, and differences in performance characteristics.

These limitations have led certain classes of applications, like transactional databases, to not move as quickly to the public cloud. The stark disparity between different native public cloud block storage offerings and traditional on-premises storage creates a huge opportunity for storage vendors: the opportunity to deliver a true multicloud storage offering that spans on-premises and multiple public clouds with the durability and data services only available today with on-premises block storage.

Techseen: What are your thoughts about skill-gap and education when it comes to cloud-storage in Asia Pacific?

Lazarus: At Nimble, one of our founding philosophies was that storage should be simple. Organizations across many verticals and company sizes face a shortage of skilled IT experts. Our target has always been that Nimble Storage can be managed by an IT generalist, and should not require expensive storage specialist resources, or long engagements from the vendor. Nimble Cloud Volumes takes this to the next level by completely eliminating the need to manage devices. Customers can simply provision storage for their application with literally a few clicks; just like they are used to doing with Azure or AWS.

Techseen: As a company, what are the challenges you face to get clients on-board with Nimble Cloud Volumes?

Lazarus: Nimble Cloud Volumes (NCV) fills a unique need for enterprises that wish to move systems of record (CRM, SQL, Oracle) to the cloud that weren’t there before. The service is tailored based on interviews with over 100 customers and prospects who made it clear that enterprises are looking for vendors to help them plan for the cloud and deliver solutions that make it easier to move to the cloud.
NCV is designed to be as easy as native cloud storage, but with additional enterprise grade features – something that other solutions are unable to provide. In addition, we are leveraging 8+ years of technology development in our core storage offering, and this service ties directly back to our on-premises solutions. It is very difficult to provide the level of availability, visibility and mobility that NCV will have.

Techseen: What is the next big thing in cloud storage? Which are the top Asian countries you see taking up cloud storage infrastructure more seriously?

Lazarus: The next big change around (public) cloud is a move to offer systems of record via public cloud. The first two stages of public cloud were mainly focused on systems of engagement – web services, app services, the second stage was around BI and Analytics. As businesses become more comfortable with public cloud capabilities, the next phase will look to place critical data and applications in the public cloud. This requires a lift in the ability for public cloud to offer enterprise grade features, availability and durability. The trend will be across the region as improved capabilities become available and businesses see increased agility and reduced risk in consuming them.

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