Enterprises that are embracing a cloud deployment need cost-effective and practical ways to migrate their corporate data into the cloud. This is sometimes referred to as “hydrating the cloud.” Given the challenge of moving massive enterprise data sets anywhere non-disruptively and accurately, the task can be a lengthy, complicated, and risky process.

Not every organization has enough dedicated bandwidth to transfer multi-petabytes without causing performance degradation to the core business, or spare hardware to migrate to the cloud. In some cases, those organizations in a physically isolated location, or without cost-effective high-speed Internet connections, face an impediment to getting onto a target cloud. Data must be secured, backed-up, and in the case of production environments, migrated at global enterprise scale without missing a beat.

AWS made hydration cool, so to speak. In fall 2016 AWS branded such offerings as Snowball, a petabyte-scale data transfer service using one or more AWS-supplied appliances, and Snowmobile, an exabyte-scale transport service using an 18-wheeler truck that carries data point to point. The snowcraft made it easy to buy and deploy migration services for data that resides in the AWS cloud. It would take . The same transfer using multiple Snowballs would require about a week.   

Yet for the remaining – or those enterprises with private, hybrid, or multi-cloud deployments that want more flexibility – other cloud migration options may be more appealing than AWS’s native offerings. This may be especially true when moving production data, where uploading static data onto appliances leaves the IT team with a partial copy during the transfer. They need a way to resynchronize the data.

, of the appliance during hydration, after which it is returned and the IT team is charged on a per terabyte basis. No capital expenditure or long-term commitment required.

) re-established the mirrors.

When reconnected, data were synchronized to represent a full, up-to-date mirror copy. Once the process was complete, the hardware that was used during the data migration process was sent to a remote location to serve as a second disaster recovery copy.

In another example, a global management consulting firm used 10G links to move smaller sets of data from its datacenter to the target storage cloud, and hydration appliances to move petabytes of critical data. Once the 10G link data uploads were copied to the storage resource, the cloud hydration provider used a AWS Direct Connect link to AWS. In this way the resources were isolated from the public cloud, yet made readily available to it. Other static data were copied onto the NAS appliances and shipped to locations that are available to the AWS cloud.

Features for easy integration  

Regardless of whether the target is a public cloud or a hybrid or multicloud setting, three other factors distinguish the smooth and easy migrations from the more difficult and protracted ones.

  • Format preservation. It’s ideal when the data migration process retains the desired data format, so that IT teams can copy the data into the cloud and instantly make use of it, versus converting copied data into a native format that is used locally but is not accessible from within the cloud itself. IT managers need to be to get at the data right away, without the extra step of having to create volumes to access it. With terabytes of data, the extra few hours of delay may not seem like a big deal, but at petabyte scale, the delay can become insufferable.
  • Enterprise format support. Traditional storage device formats such as CIFS and NFS are either minimally supported by public cloud providers or not supported at all. Yet the applications these file systems serve often yield the most savings, in terms of management time and expense, when moved to the cloud. Having the ability to copy CIFS, NFS, or other legacy file types and retain the same format for use in the cloud saves time, potential errors, and hassle from the conversion, and helps assure the hydration timeline.
  • Efficient export. No vendor wants to see a customer decommission its cloud, but when needs change, bidirectional hydration or exporting of cloud data for use elsewhere needs to proceed just as efficiently – through the same static and production approaches as described above.

Hybrid cloud or multicloud support    

A final consideration with any cloud hydration is making sure it’s seeded to last. With 85 percent of enterprises having a strategy to use multiple clouds, and 20 percent of enterprises planning to use multiple public clouds (), IT teams are revising their architectures with hybrid or multicloud capabilities in mind. No company wants to be locked into any one cloud provider, unprotected from the impact of the inevitable outage or disruption. 

Cloud hydration approaches that allow asynchronous replication between cloud platforms make it a no-brainer for IT teams to optimize their cloud infrastructures for both performance and cost. Organizations can migrate specific workloads to one cloud platform or another (e.g., Windows applications on Azure, open source on AWS) or move them to where they can leverage the best negotiated prices and terms for given requirements. A cloud migration approach that enables concurrent access to other clouds also enables ready transfer and almost instant fail-over between clouds, in the event of an outage on one provider.

Experts have called 2017 the year of the “great migration.” Projections by Cisco and 451 Research suggest that by 2020, and will be based in the cloud. New data migration options enable IT teams to “hydrate” their clouds in ways that minimize risk, cost, and hassle, and that maximize agility.

Howard Young is a solutions architect at , an enterprise Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) provider for on-premises, public, hybrid, and multicloud settings that performs cloud hydrations as one of its services. Howard has personally assisted in dozens of cloud hydrations covering billions of bits of data.

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