The “Information Superhighway” sounds pretty silly to us these days. It harkens back to when the Web was more of a promise than a reality. Lately, we hardly even hear people talking about the Internet. That’s because the Internet is part of our everyday life and is basically invisible to its users. Maybe now it should be, “You’ve Always Got Mail.”
We forget that smart phones, streaming services like Netflix, and, to a great degree, the way we pay our bills and manage our finances all rely on the Internet. We take it for granted, but that’s because we can afford to.
In the same way the Internet has become invisible, we’ll soon be there with the cloud. For the last five years, the IT world has been focused on the nuts and bolts of the cloud: virtualisation, application mobility and hardware optimisation. Meanwhile, the hype around the cloud’s capabilities has been building. Moving forward, we get to see the exciting reality of the cloud, and its full potential to give organisations more scalable, reliable and cost-efficient IT services. After all, technology is supposed to make things easier, right?
The cloud has the ability to add great value to how we store data. In fact, Gartner predicts more than a third of content will be in the cloud within just four years. But, we have to guarantee the accessibility and assurance of this data, or we forfeit the return on our investment in the cloud. Fundamentally, the next stage of the cloud is about end-point access. If we can make data fast, available and cost efficient for the enterprise, then 2013 is the year cloud storage becomes a reality.
Data availability is becoming more essential to the success of the enterprise. Gartner predicts that Big Data will compromise 232 billion in IT spending through 2016, and efficient data storage goes hand in hand with that. The good news is, you can be ‘data biased.’ That means being selective in what data to store and back up, and when – ensuring accessibility and availability for business critical functions, while preserving costs and resources.
This involves a tiered storage strategy, with strategic implementations of physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure components. Rather than resembling the ‘Frankenstein’ infrastructures of the past, with legacy and ‘best-of-breed’ components tacked on as needed, new cloud-optimised infrastructures will seamlessly integrate environments, while prioritising data for optimal efficiency.
That brings us to another point: how to effectively store and back up data in a hybrid world. Seventy percent of IT decision makers surveyed in the 2012 Acronis Disaster Recovery Index said that the greatest challenge in managing data backups was the migration of data across multiple environments. Business continuity is a key motivator for cloud adoption.
However, backing up the massive amounts of data enterprises accumulate can be challenging, expensive and cumbersome; leaving some wondering: is it worth it? It is, but we need the right solutions to ensure that data can migrate across physical, virtual and cloud-based environments without causing business interruption, downtime or information loss.
A working cloud storage strategy should also address the rising bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. Harris Interactive found that 81 percent of employees use at least one personal device for business use. Those employees aren’t just storing data on their smart phones, either. They’re backing it up to third party services like DropBox and iCloud.
So, what’s the enterprise to do? IT managers need to accept that iPads and third party cloud services are infiltrating the enterprise, and deal with it constructively. They need to institute holistic policies and find comprehensive solutions that address the security and availability of data both inside and outside the traditional IT infrastructure.
The forward-looking enterprise isn’t hiding from IT trends that aren’t going away: virtualisation, cloud, Big Data and BYOD. On the contrary, they are embracing these trends and finding ways to make them work for their business. Cloud is not just a piece of this, it is the sum of the parts. Cloud storage is an essential part of making data manageable across multiple environments, and keeping it secure in complex new infrastructures.
But shhh… don’t tell EMC (or IBM, or DELL) about this new paradigm of the cloud. They want to stick to what they know and sell outdated technologies while continuing to deem the cloud as a special label innovation. On the other hand, more nimble and agile innovators emphasise the simplicity and elasticity of the cloud. These companies are going to leapfrog competitors and shrink the market. Ultimately, this will result in making data faster, more available and cost efficient.
A Forrester study has already found that you can cut costs as much as 74 percent by storing data in the cloud. And, this is only the beginning. The cloud is ultimately restructuring both storage and economics. If data is the lifeblood of your business, then 2013 is about making sure the cloud is ready to help sustain your organisation. But, even more than that, the cloud is changing the way IT works, and how we do business, in the same way the Internet did. The Internet delivers information instantly from everywhere and on demand. Cloud, and therefore IT, should work the same way.
When data is highly available and accessible, the user is guaranteed availability, and IT is not circumvented. And, the less visible IT is, the more visible the results are, creating a seamless IT user experience in a virtualised environment. We’re beginning to enter the phase of IT where the cloud is no longer on a pedestal. It will become such a part of our everyday experience in the enterprise that it won’t be noticed, and will be taken for granted. That’s a good thing. And, that’s why 2013 is the year the cloud becomes invisible.