Will You Become a Cloud Hostage?

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© 2014 Avere Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. 1

Will You


a Cloud


Preserving Flexibility and Mobility by Avoiding Cloud

Provider Lock-in

Scott Jeschonek

Director, Product Management, Avere Systems

October 2014



Cloud is Now

Choose Your Cloud

Lots of contenders want your cloud investment. You’re ready—or have already started—to benefit from the flexibility, savings, and business opportunities the cloud model affords. But are you sure the provider you choose today will be the same one you want next year or in five years? What you can count on is that in time things will change—your business needs will evolve, the ecosystem of providers will ebb and flow, service terms will be modified, and innovation will keep you peeking beyond your current cloud to see what else is out there.

What you don’t want is to be held hostage where you are. You want to preserve the flexibility and mobility to go wherever your needs and opportunities lead. In this paper we’ll briefly review the current market and notable players in each of the public, private, and hybrid cloud spaces. Then we’ll examine the potential each of your technology

decisions—the compute, networking, and storage elements of your cloud solution—has for protecting your ability to move among providers. The choices you make now can secure your freedom to go wherever future business needs and best-provider prospects take you.

Infrastructure as a Service: No Longer Hype

According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle of 20141, cloud computing has

reached the “trough of disillusionment,” indicating that hype around cloud computing has slowed, and the technology is becoming accepted as a mainstream business practice. Tangible cloud options exist, and steady adoption is imminent.



Forrester Research2 offers similar conclusions. After publishing an

estimated 2014 cloud spend of $58 billion, Forrester revised its prediction in April 2014, increasing the forecast by more than 20% to $72 billion to suggest greater movement into the cloud than first anticipated.

Companies like RightScale and Cisco have published research pointing to the same conclusion, namely that many companies are already adopting

some cloud into their infrastructure. The Cisco Global Cloud Index3 not

only forecasts high growth over the next three years, but projects that as much as 63% of installed workloads will be running in cloud data centers by 2017.

At this writing, Amazon’s AWS cloud leads the charge in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) space. IaaS is an offering that provides compute,

networking, and storage for rent and to which customers apply their own OS, applications, and services. While Amazon does not publish specific revenue associated with its cloud offering, the revenue appears to be part of their “other revenue” category that has grown significantly yearover -year. Google, IBM, and Microsoft are all actively ramping up their

offerings and growing their support of cloud offerings.

Evidence clearly suggests that cloud is no longer something in the distant future. With that in mind, let’s investigate the general approaches to cloud adoption: public, private, and hybrid.

2 Forrester Research, http://bit.ly/sdj-cloud-forrester. 3 Cisco Global Index 2012-2017,




Types of Cloud

Public Cloud

Public cloud providers include companies and offerings such as: Amazon, HP, IBM, Google, Microsoft Azure, CenturyLink, Rackspace, and CSC. To break down the current market, let’s look at the providers in three

buckets: The Giants, The Giant Contenders, and The Pack.

The Giants The Giant Contenders The Pack

AWS Microsoft Azure Google IBM (SoftLayer) Verizon Terremark AT&T CenturyLink VMware HP CSC Oracle Rackspace Joyent ThinkGrid RightScale CloudSigma GoGrid ElasticHosts SingleHop

The Giants bring significant talent and branding to the market, while The Giant Contenders all are very big companies with the resources and strategic alignments required to play in the cloud market. Providers in The Pack are primarily start-ups or non-US-based companies striving to make their mark in this growing space.

AWS is by far the current leader in public cloud. In the IaaS Magic

Quadrant published by Gartner4, Microsoft was the only other company

4 Gartner IaaS Magic Quadrant, May 2014,



sharing the Leader quadrant, and its presence is easily missed due to its distance from the upper-right corner position held by AWS.

Competition among companies continues to heat up as they rapidly work

to grow market share. This gives buyers the upper hand regarding price

and service; for the moment, contenders need enterprises more than enterprises need them. Yet these favorable conditions will not last forever. The cloud market has many competitors now, but as the market matures, inevitable fallout in the form of failures, mergers and

acquisitions, and of course, wild successes will occur.

For example, in early June of 2014 and after losing a very large government cloud deal to AWS, IBM announced the acquisition of SoftLayer to solidify its cloud offering. If competition remains strong enough for price and service to still matter, then consolidation may make buying options easier and better. However, as many customers can relate from experience, this is not always the case. As happened in many big industries like airline and telecom, the number of players inevitably shrinks. Loss of competitive options introduces uncertainty into buying strategies as enterprises face likely price increases or reduced quality of service.

In addition to the uncertain vendor outlook, enterprises have concerns about security, compliance, loss of control, complexity, and other factors as yet unknown.

Private Cloud

Enterprises concerned about data security or government compliance may consider implementing their own private clouds. Vendors in this space include Cisco, Citrix, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, and VMware. These vendors incorporate all cloud functions,

including compute, networking, and storage, and some provide their own bundles of the popular OpenStack cloud infrastructure. Additionally, pure



object-storage vendors such as Amplidata, Cleversafe, and SwiftStack can provide the backend storage for those cloud-infrastructure solutions. Private-cloud proponents cite many reasons for adopting this technology.

According to a 2014 InformationWeek5 survey, the top reasons include:

1. Significant operational cost savings

2. Significant capital cost savings

3. A compelling technical advantage

4. Lower cost to entry

5. Industry standards for product integration and management and

Successes at other organizations like ours (tied for 5th-ranked)

But implementing a private cloud is not without its challenges. The basic technology is not a quantum leap from traditional on-premises data centers, but the overall management of private cloud solutions does require new skillsets, possibly including programming skills. Enterprises will still be faced with infrastructure maintenance and staffing, property management, and the complexity of running a data center as part of the business. One argument for public-cloud adoption is to “get out of the IT business” so the enterprise can focus on core, customer-oriented

business functions. With private cloud, the management of on-premises resources would continue to be—and potentially become even more— challenging.

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid approach that uses both public and private cloud can allow an enterprise to offset the disadvantages of each technology and benefit from the advantages of both. With a hybrid cloud, enterprises enjoy:

5 InformationWeek 2014 Private Cloud Survey,




• A flexible architecture

• The ability to maintain critical data locally

• The ability to leverage the economics of public cloud where it makes

sense to the business

• A check on infrastructure spend

• Control of where data resides

• The ability to develop a risk-management strategy for business needs

Figure 1 offers an example of a hybrid-cloud infrastructure for enterprise. The flexibility of this type of architecture can provide options to mitigate risks while offering cost savings and accessibility to compute and storage.



Cloud Hostage Prevention

Merriam-Webster defines “hostage” as one involuntarily controlled by an outside influence. A “cloud hostage” suggests an enterprise locked into a specific cloud provider, even if that provider makes unfavorable changes to terms or lags behind in technology innovation. Decisions made for deploying data to the cloud—private, public, or hybrid—can impact an enterprise’s ability to move to and from providers. So how do you prevent lock-in and protect both flexibility and mobility? For each of the primary components of IaaS (compute, networking, and storage), let’s look at the potential for lock-in.

Cloud Compute

The market offers an abundance of products and technologies that help enterprises spin up, tear down, migrate, expand, and scale compute environments. With the availability of tools like Docker, Elastic Beanstalk, Chef, OpenStack, Pivotal, and Puppet Labs, the compute element of IaaS is not likely to hold you hostage to a cloud provider. Hypervisor

differences may pose a threat, but container-based deployments can keep compute flexible and easy to automate, and allow for rapid deployment. Standards are not solidified, but compute is already transient.


A major revolution in the past few years has been the move to eliminate heavyweight-networking equipment (that does not lend itself to easy reconfiguration) in favor of a flexible, virtual-appliance model that can be controlled programmatically. The proposed approach to achieving this goal includes two major architectures: Network Function Virtualization



(NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Engineers already have the ability to configure and reconfigure networks problematically. Networking is transient, and with these new technologies, moving between cloud providers will be easier because of the ability to move network functions or easily adopt a new provider’s network functions. For these reasons, we can eliminate networking from the list of likely reasons for being held hostage to a cloud provider.


So that leaves storage, our final candidate and also the potential captor. Let’s investigate the reason why the implications of your storage strategy may create lock-in conditions.

Storage is viewed as a commodity, and the cost for data storage will continue on the same downward path it has followed since 1955.

Therefore, the overall cost of storage (in terms of bytes stored, excluding CAPEX costs) does not represent an overall risk in the current competitive environment.

In addition, storage technologies will continue to evolve as vendors innovate to meet the

ever-increasing demands for capacity. These innovations should aid in maintaining the downward trends in costs.

The potential for lock-in comes from the difficulties or costs of

moving datasets. We’ve

established that we can spin up

compute and configure networking virtually at will, but we still need storage—the element that will represent the bulk of your cloud presence.



Enterprise data must be located where the compute can use it. While it is inexpensive to store large datasets in the public or a private cloud,

moving datasets between or among storage providers can be costly. Storage architectures and data mobility should be a major factor in enterprise cloud strategies.

Even with the most diligent planning, enterprises can at some point experience issues with a selected cloud provider. Lack of quality support, escalating costs, and changing business environments such as mergers and acquisitions or shuttered operations can drive a provider change— and a major data migration. Consider the recent case of a Gartner top-ranked provider—Nirvanix—that gave customers just two weeks to pull their data before turning off its lights.

Enterprises do have the option to connect cloud providers over network links. However, while networking speeds and capacity continue to increase, demand may outstrip networking capacity such that large datasets may not be easily relocated or accessed by compute solutions, presenting new latencies and thus costs in time. In addition, it may not be in your incumbent provider’s interests to optimize such links.

Global storage demands may also impact future flexibility. “The Internet of Things” promises unprecedented data growth over the next three to

five years. IDC6 predicts a 50-fold increase between 2010 and 2020—

that’s a whole lot more data that must be physically saved.

On the other side of the coin, innovation is happening right now, and a new provider may offer more perfect solutions for business needs. Your company may want to move to a specific cloud provider to take

advantage of the right technologies.



So what’s the key to preserving your freedom and flexibility to move among providers? Data mobility.

Data Mobility

Data portability helps preserve the ability the change vendors. To avoid becoming a cloud hostage, enterprises must make data as mobile as possible. In 2012, the General Accounting Office (GAO) distributed its “Cloud First” policy

for Federal Agencies, emphasizing data portability as defined “to preserve their ability to change vendors in the future.”

For any organization striving to preserve the ability to change vendors, a recommended mobility solution should include three components:

1. An Edge-core storage topology to facilitate multiple sources of data

2. Data diversification to gradually move data between sources

3. Policy to selectively choose the data to be moved

Implementing a solution with these components enables gradual movement of data that facilitates cost averaging over time.



Figure 2 - Example of a hybrid storage topology using Edge filers

Information technology is rapidly changing, and cloud will be a key component of near-term enterprise data center infrastructures. By securing data mobility, businesses can avoid significant costs and roadblocks, preserving sufficient service to users and customers most efficiently through data compute and access. Architect wisely today, and you’ll be able to move freely about the clouds in the future.



About Avere Systems

Avere is radically changing the economics of data storage. Avere’s hybrid cloud solutions give companies—for the time time—the ability to end the rising cost and complexity of data storage via the freedom to store files anywhere in the cloud or on premises, without sacrificing the

performance, availability, or security of enterprise data. Based in Pittsburgh, Avere is led by veterans and thought leaders in the data storage industry and is backed by investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital, and Western

Digital Capital. For more information, visit www.averesystems.com.


Figure 1 - Example of hybrid-cloud architecture for global enterprises

Figure 1 -

Example of hybrid-cloud architecture for global enterprises p.7


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