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A plethora of surveys show that more than 70% of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload
By: Jennifer Gill
Dec. 6, 2015 09:00 PM
Clouds Are Coming, So Learn How to Fly
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can't fix or cost it can't slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition.
A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production workloads, which suggests there is still apprehension in moving towards utilizing cloud for critical core infrastructure.
Some of these fears are aligned around security, although the lack of any major cloud service provider breaches suggests that this concern is ebbing away. A more common explanation is that moving to the cloud is a relatively unknown experience for many IT teams and combined with natural reluctance to move mission-critical applications from stable systems to anywhere else - palpitations are to be expected.
Faster than a speeding bullet...
Yet many enterprises are still asking the question: How do we start moving our production environments to the cloud? The logical first step is to move a use case into the cloud that will test the environment thoroughly and, at the same time, allow organizations to build confidence in the capabilities and security of the cloud. Disaster Recovery (DR) is the best use case for this as it more closely resembles a production environment and DR testing allows organizations to build confidence in the capabilities of the cloud. For many organizations, these still consist of backup processes where data sets or snapshots are replicated and stored at a distant datacenter. Yet this legacy, manual backup concept is also undergoing a massive rethink due to the slow recovery times and inability to deal with massive growth in data and application complexity. In an unsurprising development considering its characteristics of compute, storage and connectivity, the cloud is supplanting legacy backup and becoming the basis for delivering DR and business continuity (BC).
To the Hypervisor and beyond...
In operation, hypervisor-based replication is used alongside the virtual management console such as VMware's vCenter or Microsoft's SCVMM. As part of the control plane, anything that happens within the entire virtualized domain can be replicated to the cloud in near real-time. Hypervisor-based replication also uses a Virtual Replication Appliance (VRA) that is automatically deployed by the virtual management console into ESXi or Hyper-V hosts. The VRA continuously replicates data from user-selected virtual machines, compressing and sending that data to a remote site or storage target over LAN/WAN links. Because it is installed directly inside the virtual infrastructure, VRA capture the I/O before it leaves the hypervisor and is committed to disks. A copy is made, and the system sends that copy to the recovery site. The end result is that the disaster recovery position is not just a 12-hour-old backup of applications, but a full history of all the changes that took place within the application and data. A final ancillary benefit is simplicity and reduction in management overhead. Because the VRA is per host and not per VM, a single appliance can manage multiple guests instead of other legacy solutions that require an agent deployed on each virtual machine leading to more complexity and a potential drain on capital and operational resources.
Building DR offers cloud migration path
This trend is not just theoretical. A recent VMware survey of use cases for its cloud customers ranked "Disaster Recovery" as second most common requirement just behind "Packaged applications". However the third most common use case "Test and Dev" is another example where a cloud based BC/DR solution not only protects against outages but also offers major operational benefits. The ability to clone a production environment and spin it up in a scalable resource like the cloud is a developers dream. With the cloud's elastic nature, developers can run projects like complex stress testing at global scale using accurate model of the real production environment.
The super hero that is the cloud is unlikely to put away its cape anytime soon. For organizations still feeling a bit awkward, simply doing the necessary groundwork of a building cloud-based BC/DR solution is enough to gain an understanding of many of the processes involved. The next phase of successfully moving production systems over will be less daunting with much less risk and of course, reduced costs. Finally, the IT team gets to be the hero and not just the cloud.
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