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Public cloud is not just price and performance

by Chris Kranz on March 4, 2016

If you deploy x technology implemented by y vendor, you’ll be three times faster than AWS and half the price! *slow clap* Well done, you’ve misinterpreted what AWS is and offers completely! I use AWS as an example in the same way many seem to, but the same is true of Azure, Google, and many other public (and private) cloud vendors. The argument is familiar, use our (sometimes monolithic) hardware solution and you’ll be cheaper and faster than doing things in the cloud. Doing things in the cloud is a security risk, it’ll fail all the time, you’ll lose data, etc. etc.

You're missing the main benefit of Public Cloud

The fact that AWS can provide EC2 (virtual machines) and S3 (lots of storage) is a side-line, and if you are only using public cloud for only these 2 use-cases then you’re missing a whole world of benefit. I’d almost guarantee that any on-prem solution will be able to be cheaper, or faster, or cheaper and faster than just running AWS EC2 and S3 all the time. However, what happens when you want to turn these things off? Or you want to spin up ten, a hundred, even a thousand new virtual machines and then switch them off 5 hours later and never use them again? What if you want your storage globally accessible, with minimal latency and you don’t have a CDN network or global data centres?

But this is still focusing on just compute and storage. The public cloud has hundreds of service offerings, including on-demand databases, Hadoop, streaming services, video encoding and, one of my favourite's, on-demand-code where all you pay is the number of milliseconds (or less) that your code actually runs for, no need for virtual machines at all! If you have a use-case that’s able to utilise a wide array of public cloud services, including the dynamic and global nature, then you’ll struggle to get an on-prem solution that’s better.

Amazon Web Services Products & Services: https://aws.amazon.com/products/

Microsoft Azure Cloud Services: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/services/

Google Cloud Portfolio: https://cloud.google.com/products/

If you have performance sensitive workloads that need to be on 24x7x365 with minimal risk of single virtual machine failure, then maybe the public cloud isn’t for you (or at least isn't for these workloads!). If you have data sovereignty concerns, then firstly read the security guidelines to make sure these concerns aren’t unfounded, but then if they still are return to your on-prem infrastructure.

How does Hedvig help with Public Cloud?

So as a predominantly on-prem vendor, how can we at Hedvig compete with AWS, Azure, Google and the public cloud in general? Why aren’t we as worried as our competitors seem to be with their “We’re half the cost, three times the speed as AWS” marketing? At Hedvig public and private cloud is to be embraced, not competed with. Public cloud services are flexible by nature, just like we are. While not everyone is an Easter egg company that needs 90% of their annual peak capacity for only 1 month per year, many people do have variable workloads that need to occasionally burst out of the data centre. Gambling companies in the UK have a massive spike around the Grand National, or FA Cup Final. Online shopping services have a tremendous Christmas peak. Banks and Finance companies often do large weekly or monthly batch processing runs which only needs a large amount of compute temporarily. The key is embracing the use-case and adopt a hybrid cloud strategy rather than struggle trying to shoe-horn it into your on-prem data centre.

So how does Hedvig enable this? We have two key areas that we can provide a massive benefit over a single site storage solution.

Public Cloud use case #1: Storage clustering extension

We can extend our entire storage cluster into a public or private cloud. You can run our storage nodes in an always on manner. This probably makes sense to run this as a pre-paid model rather than an on-demand model (depending what is available from your chosen cloud vendor), as storage nodes are harder to scale-down dynamic due to the nature of data movement (scaling out is easy!). These are simply provisioned as EC2 instances (or any sensibly sized compute nodes) with a selection of EBS storage devices (or suitably sized and shaped block storage devices) presented to them, extending your Hedvig cluster into AWS (a VPN or direct connection may be preferable). This allows you to simply extend your Hedvig cluster into a public cloud service, without the expensive headache of hosting a storage array in someone’s data centre that is latency close to the cloud, but actually host it directly in the cloud!

Hedvig_-_Hybrid_Cloud_with_Storage_Nodes.png

Public Cloud use case #2: Private storage, public compute

Secondly, and this is by far my favourite as it is much more “cloud like”, is to simply provision our Storage Proxies directly as compute nodes. This extends the access layer to the cloud and gives the usual performance acceleration advantages of our Storage Proxy, but now locally available directly next to your cloud workloads. With deduplication enabled, you have both a read cache and the ability to accelerate deduplicated writes, you don’t have the normal bottleneck or limitations of trying to access your centralised storage from an external cloud. You’ve just made your enterprise storage into a hybrid cloud! While I may be a hybrid cloud skeptic usually, this is actually quite cool, I can dynamically provision, destroy, re-provision and scale-out these Storage Proxies, depending on the cloud requirement, and extend my storage system without having the heavy lifting of moving an entire storage array or dataset into the cloud, just move the hot blocks you need.

Hedvig_-_Hybrid_Cloud_with_Storage_Proxy.png

Using Hedvig to combine public cloud economics with private cloud

At Hedvig, we can be cheaper and faster than the public cloud (and we can help accelerate and enable your private cloud aspirations with our tight integration with solutions like VMware, OpenStack and Docker), but this isn’t a defensive play for us, or a competition, it’s a business decision and an IT option. If you want to have some high performance, low cost on-prem storage, do it! If you want some dynamic, always changing, always scaling, globally accessible storage in the public cloud, any public cloud, do it! If you want to do both, do it! Gartner’s BiModal IT isn’t a choice of one of the other, it isn’t two distinct siloes or divides in the IT infrastructure, it is something that should provide you a dual strategy that places the correct workload in the correct model and has your storage, network and other IT services follow it. If your current vendor is defending against AWS, Azure, Google and other public cloud services, question how much they are limiting your own IT organisation from getting these advantages. We have seen organisations that fight public cloud the hardest are often most affected by shadow IT going off and taking cloud services regardless.

If you'd like to learn more about how Hedvig is an enabler for BiModal IT and Hybrid Cloud, please watch our free on-demand webinar: Four Strategies to Help You Think Differently About Hybrid Cloud. If you think the public cloud is a risk your business is unwilling to take and want to build your own private cloud with all the key tenants and advantages of a public cloud, then please reach out as we have a cloud native storage system that enables your enterprise IT to gain all the advantages of public cloud without the (perceived) risks.

Watch Webinar

Chris Kranz

Chris Kranz

Chris is a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) and senior systems engineer at Hedvig. Chris has in-depth experience in cloud, virtualization, storage and data center technologies gained from his work across numerous practices including web development, systems administration, and consulting. His advisory expertise helps customers better adopt and adapt to the technologies that best fit for their business requirements.
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