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Beyond Hybrid Storage: The Future Is Multi-Cloud

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The term “hybrid“ seems to be ubiquitous in the storage world at the moment – for example hybrid storage (combining flash and traditional HDDs) and hybrid cloud (combining public and private cloud). However, as with all trendy buzzwords, we have to ask ourselves what the future really holds for hybrid architectures.

The Future For Hybrid Storage

I recently read an article that stated that hybrid storage architectures, combining flash and traditional HDDs, are always a bad choice. Hybrid is a compromise between a legacy concept and a new disruptive one, and in the long run, the newer concept wins 100% of the market, leaving any hybrid solution at a disadvantage. I couldn’t agree more about the inadequacy of hybrid architectures and would add hybrid cloud to the list. Where my opinion differs is on the extent to which storage architectures will become entirely all-flash anytime soon.

We are moving to a digital world where most business value will be created in a digital form. Therefore, businesses need to store more and more data, in the form of IoT, user-generated data, videos, documents, backups, archives of everything… Storing all this in all-flash is prohibitively expensive, even with compression and deduplication technologies, especially when you bear in mind that much of today’s unstructured data cannot be compressed further or deduped in the first place.

Expect A World With Two Types Of Storage

The first type is one with super low latency (sub-millisecond) for relational databases, virtual desktops, home directories, virtual machine farms, and big data analytics. With such low latency, data needs to be available then and there. All-flash solutions and hyperconverged systems are the right architectures for this.

The second type of storage meets the need for capacity storage, for storing the massive volumes of content generated by the digital era, starting with backups, videos, and data lakes. For Global 2000 enterprises, media and entertainment companies, the healthcare industry, and service providers, storing this mass of data on all-flash or hyperconverged systems is not economically viable.

The right architecture for this is a distributed system, where the data is stored on cheap industry-standard servers using very large hard drives, and where self-healing software guarantees that the data is safe and the load is balanced automatically. This is what each of the cloud giants are doing, and this is what we aim to offer with our object storage platform including all the necessary enterprise-level features, starting with authentication and security.

Beyond Hybrid Cloud

A much more significant change than hybrid storage will be redefining hybrid cloud. I don’t believe in hybrid cloud. I do believe in multi-cloud. We don’t think that Global 2000 enterprises will move 100% of their IT to the public cloud. Again, this is just not economically viable. When data is active, when a compute instance is used 100% of the time, public cloud is much more expensive than a well-designed private cloud infrastructure.

What we see for the future of Global 2000 IT is an infrastructure composed of multiple clouds. Large enterprises won’t be able to sustain the digital transformation with their traditional IT infrastructure, even if it is virtualised. Simply stated: it is not going to be competitive. In an era where most of our global economic value is being created digitally, if your costs for digital infrastructure are higher than your competitors’ costs, you cannot win the race. Global 2000 organisations will need to transform their IT into “Cloud IT,” with a mix of private clouds and public clouds where it is cost-efficient. They will need to move data from one cloud to another programmatically based on workloads. For example, if you produce videos, you probably want your main repository to be in-house.

When you want to distribute a video through the Internet around the world, you would copy this video to a public cloud, use the burst compute to transcode the video in multiple formats, and use the cloud CDN (content delivery network) to distribute the video efficiently. Once the distribution campaign is over, you can simply delete the video from the cloud thus avoiding additional storage costs. And when your video becomes obsolete and you want to archive it, you would move it to an archival cloud like Amazon Glacier. It is indeed data movement, but it is not the same as traditional tiering.

To stay competitive while meeting internal and external requirements, companies need to look for innovative technologies which help them to stay in control of their critical assets and manage unstructured data in a multi-cloud world. Enterprise storage is going through dramatic changes and we are redefining it to support today’s digital businesses. It’s a time of unshackled innovation and multi-cloud storage and data management will be a cornerstone for that.

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Jérôme Lecat, CEO and founder of Scality, is a serial entrepreneur and business angel with 20 years of internet infrastructure start-up experience. The Frenchman lives with his family in California and is very active building bridges between Silicon Valley and the French tech scene.