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Cloud data management finding its place as volumes soar sky high

Is a cloud data management platform right for your organization? Experts discuss its benefits and drawbacks as more data moves to the cloud for a variety of uses.

IDC estimates that by 2023, there will be 103 zettabytes in the global datasphere. That's about 103 billion terabytes.

And you can bet a lot of that data will be in the cloud. Also by 2023, 30% of all the IT systems in enterprises' data centers and edge locations will be running public cloud-sourced services, according to IDC.

There will be twice as much on the cloud in the next five years as there was in the last 10 years, said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.

"Just because data exists doesn't mean it's going to be useful to you and your organization," Gens said in a keynote at last week's Actifio Data Driven conference in Boston, which featured a focus on cloud data management.

And with SaaS applications growing in number and popularity, it's going to be critical for organizations to manage all that cloud data efficiently. That management will include copies of data an organization uses for backup, recovery, analytics and DevOps, among other key functions.

Beyond backup in the cloud

The cloud is a good way to manage massive amounts of data, said Phil Buckellew, general manager of IBM Cloud Object Storage. Cloud object storage, specifically, is a cheap method for large volumes.

Data analytics will be a driver of growth in object storage, Buckellew said at a panel discussion about cloud data management.

Cloud object storage is transitioning from simply a cheap place to store data to include more uses such as governance, said Archana Venkatraman, research manager at IDC.

Backup and recovery still make up a large piece of cloud uses, said Jim Donovan, senior vice president of product at cloud storage vendor Wasabi.

The market is changing, though. Copy data management pioneer Actifio is now offering what it calls "cloud data management" that handles assorted uses, as are vendors originally geared toward backup, such as Veeam and Commvault. Newer entrants to the market Rubrik and Cohesity also stress their cloud data management capabilities.

It's a cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud world

Cloud adoption is nuanced, Venkatraman said. Organizations are using the best capabilities of multiple clouds.

However, when Venkatraman asked crowd members if they're happy with their multi-cloud strategy, no one raised a hand.

Just because data exists doesn't mean it's going to be useful to you and your organization.
Frank GensSenior vice president and chief analyst, IDC

Cloud provider representatives agreed that customers have a long way to go with multi-cloud and hybrid cloud data management.

"Hybrid cloud maturity is not where it should be," said Yee-Chen Tjie, head of New England cloud sales engineering at Google.

On the plus side, customers are looking into the best ways to deploy a hybrid cloud platform, Tjie said. He estimated that almost all large enterprises have a mix of cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

"The industry is starting to recognize the importance of having a hybrid cloud strategy," Buckellew said.

What about getting your data out of the cloud?

One major sticking point with the cloud is bringing data back.

George Crump, founder and president of IT analysis firm Storage Switzerland, said egress fees are a key.

"The cost to move data out of the cloud is big," Crump said.

Wasabi, a newer entrant to the field, stands out among the cloud storage vendors because it doesn't charge for egress. As a result, Crump said he thinks Wasabi has a shot in the cloud data management market.

The larger cloud storage vendors -- AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, to name a few -- need to figure out a better solution for egress, Crump said. If not, they will risk losing out to vendors such as Wasabi that provide easier and cheaper ways to get data out of the cloud.

And what about tape versus cloud?

Organizations need to think beyond cloud data management and protection. For one thing, the 3-2-1 rule of backup calls for two different media, in addition to the three total copies of data and one off-site storage location.

Tape is one of those other media that can come in handy for organizations.

The industry is seeing a "revival" of tape, Venkatraman said. One of the reasons is it is immune to ransomware because it is offline. True, it takes a long time to recover data from a tape cartridge compared to some other forms of storage. However, if an organization gets hit with ransomware, it would likely prefer a longer recovery time to no recovery of important data.

In addition, tape capacity continues to increase every two to three years with the release of a new version of LTO. The current LTO-8 provides 30 terabytes (TB) compressed capacity in one cartridge.

"There are cases where tape can make a hell of a lot of sense," said IBM's Buckellew, who noted that his company sells tape.

And there are cases where moving to cloud data management makes sense. Alex Ferguson, system administrator at Abilene Christian University in Texas, said the school's previous backup setup was tape-based.

Recovery could take hours or days.

"It was extremely burdensome," Ferguson said.

The university is shifting to a SaaS-first philosophy and uses Actifio to protect 31 TB. Now recoveries take minutes.

"It's been a drastic improvement for us," Ferguson said.

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