Picking up the Pace of Data Migration on the Cloud

Arthur Cole
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Just How Strategic is the Cloud?

Most see cloud computing as a strategic move, but security is still a prime concern.

Ideally, the cloud functions as another resource tier in much the same way that multiple physical tiers exist today in many enterprises.

And while deployment and provisioning of the cloud tier is greatly simplified compared to physical infrastructure, you still can't avoid the fact that it represents a potentially enormous data migration challenge.

Migration, in fact, has been pegged by both cloud providers and platform developers as one of the chief inhibiting factors in cloud deployment, equal to both infrastructure and security/reliability concerns. It's to the point where just about every leading cloud service is coming pre-loaded with sophisticated new technologies aimed not only at building the cloud but streamlining its operation as well.

A case in point is VCE, the joint venture from EMC and Cisco, with heavy backing from VMware and Intel. The service recently turned to CA Technologies to address Tier 1 application migration and VDI deployment for customers of its Vblock offering. The service was designed on a multi-platform framework, but that still left automation, management and orchestration between customer-based and cloud resources to deal with. Ideally, VCE would like CA to foster a ready-to-use environment using integrated solutions to manage workloads and services across the entire Vblock architecture.

One of the key obstacles to a smooth cloud migration is the fact that most services are still built around proprietary systems, requiring some fancy footwork on the part of IT staff to foster an integrated data environment. Some providers are offering a work-around to this problem by, in essence, ceding control over their own resources. Nirvanix, for example, has launched the Cloud Sideloader program that gives customers greater leverage over where and how their data is stored, simplifying migration by providing access to a range of storage and compute platforms around the world.

Independent software providers are also targeting cloud migration, primarily by integrating their platforms into leading cloud services. Racemi's DynaCenter 4.0 system, for example, is tailored to the Amazon EC2, Rackspace and Terremark platforms, giving customers a leg up in shifting workloads between the three. This arrangement also allows Racemi to effect migrations without having to change server workloads. No word yet on how quickly Racemi plans to add other services to its stable.

Technical issues are only part of the migration challenge, particularly once you start to view the cloud not just as a data storehouse but an actual application environment. Lack of coordination between users, administrators and other groups can cause countless headaches, as the city of Los Angeles discovered when it tried out a cloud-based Gmail service last summer. As applications and data try to make the shift in a haphazard fashion, bandwidth constraints and policy confusion can significantly hamper performance.

As efficient as the cloud may be, there is still no substitute for fostering an integrated data infrastructure that spans all available tiers - physical, virtual or otherwise. Perhaps by shifting the focus from "How do I get on the cloud?" to "How do I produce the most efficient and effective data environment?" the transition to the cloud could be carried out with much less guesswork.

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