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Hybrid Cloud Model.jpgAs cloud computing gains traction, so does cloud-enabled storage.  But if you are like most people, you still don’t have a handle on what exactly an enterprise cloud is and what makes cloud-enabled storage different from regular old storage.  In this blog, I’ll open the clouds up and shed a little light on the topic.


Cloud computing can be described as “compute resources delivered as a service over a network”. The cloud is typically broken into three segments: private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud.  The only real difference between these three is who owns the equipment and who manages the data.  IT folks like clouds because they create an infrastructure that’s elastic and able to respond quickly to unpredictable growth and inconsistent performance demands, all good things since IT seems to be busting at the seams these days.


To build a private cloud, you start with the servers, networking gear, and storage arrays that are already in the data center and then turn them into a set of virtual resources by adding virtualization software to your servers and creating GuestOS’s using a built-in hypervisor.  Once the Guests are in place, applications are installed on them and they use the servers CPU and memory resources as needed.  If one Guest doesn’t need all of the server’s CPU and memory, then another Guest on the same server uses it.  That’s the way server virtualization works.  If you have too many Guests and too little CPU, you can silently move the Guests to another server and no one is the wiser.  Through the magic of server virtualization, you’ve just built your own private cloud!


The public cloud works much the same way, except you rent someone else’s servers, networking gear, and storage.  From the comfort of your desk, you install your GuestOS somewhere out there in the cloud; and whoever rented their servers to you figures out where the Guests should reside. They take care of the server load balancing for you too.  Amazon is probably the best-known cloud service provider, through their Elastic Compute Cloud service, otherwise known as EC2.


This brings us to the hybrid cloud. As the name implies, this is a combination of public and private clouds.  The exact definition of hybrid cloud is a bit elusive, but here are a couple examples.  Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for example, you could load your Guests on servers in your data center private cloud and use Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, or S3, to host your data in the public cloud.  Or, perhaps more intriguing, you could build a private cloud in your data center, rent a public EC2 cloud from Amazon with S3 storage, and move your guests and your data between the two clouds based solely on your business requirements.


Why does a hybrid cloud built on Amazon and NetApp make sense? Today, IT finds itself at the crossroads between a private cloud sanctuary and public cloud flexibility.  If cost were no object, IT would always choose a private cloud model.  Unfortunately, private clouds consist of finite resources and fixed costs, whereas the public cloud consists of infinite resources and variable costs.  Therefore, when IT is given a fixed budget and an incessant demand for more applications and more data, the public cloud suddenly becomes a necessary part of the infrastructure.


To accommodate variable demands within a fixed spending domain, the IT infrastructure of the future will utilize the resources within their private cloud to the maximum extent, and any overages will routinely spill into the public cloud.  Think of the hybrid cloud as a relief valve for IT.  When pressures build in IT as resources start to strain, some of the applications and data are automatically “vented” to the public cloud based on policy thresholds set by administrators in advance.  Conversely, when these applications need resources that only the data center infrastructure can provide, they are automatically pulled in from the public cloud.


The technology to build a hybrid cloud has existed in the server and networking realms for some time, but data security and storage management limitations limited the willingness for mainstream adoption. NetApp has recently taken a big step forward in enabling hybrid cloud storage with its partnership with Amazon Web Services. Policy-based migration enforcement via NetApp Workflow Automation (WFA) combined with nondisruptive data migration of Data ONTAP, all under the common framework of NetApp OnCommand, has put a mainstream hybrid cloud within our grasp.



NetApp Private Storage for AWS Press Release

NetApp OnCommand Web Page

NetApp Workflow Automation Web Page


Data Storage Matters,