Tag Archives: Cloud

Choosing a Cloud Provider: 8 Storage Considerations


Amazon Web Services, Google, and Azure dominate the cloud service provider space, but for some applications it may make sense to choose a smaller provider specializing in your app class and able to deliver a finer-tuned solution. No matter which cloud provider you choose, it pays to look closely at the wide variety of cloud storage services they offer to make sure they will meet your company’s requirements.

There are two major classes of storage with the big cloud providers, which offer local instance storage with selected instances, as well as a selection of network storage options for permanent storage and sharing between instances.

As with any storage, performance is a factor in your decision-making process. There are many shared network storage alternatives, including storage tiers from really hot to freezing cold and within the top tiers, differences depending on choice of replica count, and variations in prices for copying data to other spaces.

The very hot tier is moving to SSD and even here there are differences between NVMe and SATA SSDs, which cloud tenants typically see as IOPS levels. For large instances and GPU-based instances, the faster choice is probably better, though this depends on your use case.

At the other extreme, the cold and “freezing” storage, the choices are disk or tape, which impacts data retrieval times. With tape, that can take as much as two hours, compared with just seconds for disk.

Data security and vendor reliability are two other key considerations when choosing a cloud provider that will store your enterprise data.  Continue on to get tips for your selection process.

(Image: Blackboard/Shutterstock)



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Hyperconvergence Paves Way To Private Cloud


With its promises of greater data center agility and efficiency, hyperconverged infrastructure has been one of the hottest IT trends in the last couple of years. At Interop ITX, analysts from Enterprise Strategy Group provided insight into the technology and advice for enterprises before they take the plunge.

Hyperconverged systems – as well as their predecessor, converged infrastructure – are something of a flashback to the all-in-one mainframe systems IT shops used to buy from companies like IBM, ESG Analyst Dan Conde said. Mainframes gave way to the best-of-breed, do-it-yourself approach to IT infrastructure

“I liked that world where we could pick and choose and create the system we wanted,” Conde said. This freedom to choose IT components came with a price, though, which has led to interest in converged systems and hyperconvergence.

“We’ve suffered trying to mix and match things and make them work,” Conde said. “It was a pain because of the collective failure of the IT vendor community and standards bodies to make things work in a completely transparent way.”

Converged infrastructure like FlexPod or Vblock combine compute, storage, and networking in one system and bolt them together with management software, ESG Analyst Jack Poller said. “When you have a problem, you have one vendor you can complain to,” he said.

Scaling this type of environment requires adding another full rack. “You still have to do all the work to pull it together,” he told attendees.

Hyperconverged infrastructure take the integrated concept a step further by providing a Lego-like approach to storage, networking, and compute resources and using software to cluster them together into a single pool, Poller said. This enables scaling on a smaller level. “What’s important about hyperconvergence is the software stack,” he added.

Right now, hyperconverged systems, including those from Nutanix and SimpliVity (acquired earlier this year by HPE), are fundamentally about aggregating storage resources, Conde noted. Enabling software-defined networking may require additional specialized software.

For enterprise IT pros under pressure to improve agility and have regulatory compliance requirements that require them to keep hardware on premises, hyperconvergence is a way to build private cloud, Conde said.

“Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something with cloud speed on premises, use hyperconverged infrastructure,” he said.

An ESG survey found that 70% of 308 respondents plan to use hyperconverged infrastructure; 15% use it now. Fifty-six respondents said they plan to use converged infrastructure; 32% have deployed it.

The top drivers for converged and hyperconverged infrastructure adoption include improved service and support, improved scalability, and increased agility of virtual machine provisioning, according to ESG research. “It’s a way to make our private cloud as competitive as the public cloud,” Conde said.

The survey also revealed enterprise concerns with the technologies: Performance concerns around data locality, lack of flexibility when scaling, and vendor lock-in.

ESG also found that many enterprises – 57% of 308 those polled — plan to stick with their traditional best-of-breed approach to IT infrastructure.

While many organizations have deployed or plan to deploy converged/hyperconverged infrastructure, they don’t expect the new systems to completely replace their traditional on-premises infrastructure provisioning, according to ESG.

 



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7 Ways to Secure Cloud Storage


Figuring out a good path to security in your cloud configurations can be quite a challenge. This is complicated by the different types of cloud we deploy – public or hybrid – and the class of data and computing we assign to those cloud segments. Generally, one can create a comprehensive and compliant cloud security solution, but the devil is in the details and a nuanced approach to different use cases is almost always required.

Let’s first dispel a few myths. The cloud is a very safe place for data, despite FUD from those who might want you to stay in-house. The large cloud providers (CSPs) maintain a tight ship, simply because they’d lose customers otherwise. Even so, we can assume their millions of tenants include some that are malevolent, whether hackers, government spies or commercial thieves.

At the same time, don’t make the common assumption that CSP-encrypted storage is safe. If the CSP uses drive-based encryption, don’t count on it. Security researchers in 2015 uncovered flaws in a particular hard drive product line that rendered the automatic encryption useless. This is lazy man’s encryption! Do it right and encrypt in the server with your own key set.

Part of the data security story is that data must maintain its integrity under attack. It isn’t sufficient to have one copy of data; just think what would happen if the only three replicas of a set of files in your S3 pool are all “updated” by malware. If you don’t provide a protection mechanism for this, you are likely doomed!

We are so happy with the flexibility of all the storage services available to us that we give scant consideration to what happens to, for example, instance storage when we delete the instance. Does it get erased? Or is it just re-issued? And if erasure is used on an SSD, how can we get over the internal block reassignment mechanism that just moves deleted blocks to the free pool? A tenant using the right software tool can read these blocks. Your CSP may have an elegant solution, but good governance requires you to ask them and understand the adequacy of the answer.

Governance is a still-evolving facet of the cloud. There are solutions for data you store, complete with automated analysis and event reporting, but the rise of SaaS and all the associated flavors of as-a-Service leaves the question of where your data is, and if it is in compliance with your high standards.

The ultimate challenge for cloud storage security is the human factor. Evil admins exist or are created within organizations and a robust and secure system needs to accept that fact and protect against it with access controls, multi-factor authentication, and a process that identifies any place that a single disgruntled employee can destroy valued data. Be paranoid; it’s a case of when, not if!

Let’s dig deeper into the security challenges of cloud storage and ways you can protect data stored in the cloud.

(Image: Kjpargeter/Shutterstock)



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