As Cloud Storage Adoption Grows, Scalability Demanded

By Jack M. Germain

How are you set for cloud space this year? No doubt, you will need more before you know it.

An independent survey of IT executives found that storage scalability tops their wish list of strategies for managing data storage in 2017. That ranking is twice as much as the next highest demand in the survey.

So, if you were guessing your storage needs will be more along the lines of new storage hardware or more features for other cloud tasks, think again. Storage scalability ranks far higher.

In a first-of-its-kind survey, global market research firm Vanson-Bourne polled IT execs in the US, Germany and the UK. The results corroborate recent research on cloud deployments as a whole. Those studies show that scalability is the primary reason for moving to the cloud in the first place.

The new data, commissioned by Zadara Storage, underscore the importance of storage scalability as a key strategy for meeting business growth demands this year. Many of the survey participants indicated that storage scalability remains an unmet demand.

The survey results reflect the rankings offered by 400 IT leaders. The IT professionals totaled 100 in Germany, 100 in the UK, and 200 in the US. Vanson Bourne’s researchers conducted the survey in late November 2016.

Survey Says

The survey’s bottom line: the IT industry’s need for symmetrically scalable cloud storage is unquestionably the most critically pressing. The storage must instantly scale up or down to meet business requirements.

Clearly, that is a key challenge to growth in 2017. Other research confirms that assessment. Plus, the analyses of IT demands for storage scalability will not disappear in the coming year.

Here is a quick summary of the 2017 wish list results:

  • 33% — Deploy cloud storage that scales up and down according to my organization’s needs.
  • 17% — Obtain stronger service level agreements (SLAs) from my organization’s cloud storage vendor.
  • 13% — Deploy new storage hardware.
  • 11% — Deploy storage-as-a-service to make management easier.
  • 11% — Enjoy important storage updates in the cloud that are also available on-premise.

Size Really Doesn’t Matter

Organizational size had little to no impact on IT ranking of 2017 wish list items, according to the survey. The tallied responses came from IT leaders in organizations with between 1,000 and 3,000 employees, and from enterprises with over 3,000 employees.

The results followed the same ranking as the aggregate, and their percentage wish list items varied by only a percentage point or two. The survey asked respondents to share their top strategy for managing their organization’s data storage in 2017. Scalability was cited by nearly twice as many as those who selected the next highest response, outranking other mission-critical IT demands.

Geographic location did not seem to skew the survey results either. One-third of IT decision makers responding in Germany, the UK and the US, ranked “having cloud storage that scales up or down according to my organization’s needs” as their top wish in 2017.

Only Slight Differences

IT leaders around the world were remarkably united in their sentiment on their desire for scalability. Their responses displayed only minor differences.

For example, 15 percent of UK IT leaders ranked strong SLAs as their main wish. That wish tied for second place with deploying software-as-a-service features, so as to make their architectures more manageable.

The second most popular wish for IT decision makers in both the UK and US this year was getting stronger service level agreements from a cloud storage vendor. However, German respondents ranked getting important storage features in the cloud that match on-premise features as second.

In this case, twice as many — 20 percent — of IT leaders in the US wished for stronger SLAs. Just 11 percent of their counterparts in Germany put stronger SLAs on the wish list.

Another slight difference involved ranking services to complete mundane storage tasks markedly higher. Unlike their peers in the UK or US, German IT leaders ranked that need at 14 percent of total German responses. That compared to 9 percent in the UK and 6 percent in the US.

This demand for freedom from the mundane tasks was tied with deploying storage-as-a-service so that IT management would be easier. Some 15 percent of the German respondents also were interested in obtaining important on-premise features in the cloud. They ranked this wish as the second most important item for 2017.

Lower wish list items ranked these three less popular needs:

  • employing other strategies including features to complete mundane storage tasks — 9 percent;
  • getting new storage software to provision the organization’s data — 7 percent;
  • other options, such as budgeting and process improvement assistance — 1 percent.

What It Means

IT decision makers are ever more frequently relying on the public cloud. However, concerns around the integrity of data and level of service from cloud vendors have yet to be addressed, according to the report writers.

Based on the survey results, regardless of whether cloud users rely on the public or private cloud, IT decision makers need a flexible, scalable and reliable data-storage solution first and foremost. That storage solution must work to handle the organization’s short-term needs. It also must be able to rapidly adapt over time.

Other industry research conducted in the interim corroborate those assessments. They confirm that scalability is the main reason for moving to the cloud in the first place, as reflected by 51 percent of the respondents. Other migration reasons reflect business agility (46 percent) and cost (43 percent).

Defining Scalability

Scalability requires an elastic, agile storage architecture. That structure must provide IT leaders with the flexibility to define the storage by their business needs rather than the other way around, according to Zadara Storage.

That is far more readily achieved with a software-defined storage platform, noted Zadora. A traditional legacy solution no longer is a smart way to go with storage. You seek a better solution than always purchasing more than you need, and then having to manage it. Upgrading it and then replacing it every three to five years is an inefficient and cost-wasting strategy.

Scalability also requires both technical and business model changes, Zadara recommends. The architecture has to support a variety of enterprise-grade capabilities. Think in terms of any storage type, such as file, block or object.

Also consider any storage location, such as public or private cloud, as well as private, hybrid or multi-cloud. You need to consider any storage protocol. That includes NFS and CIFS, which are hard to find in the cloud, as well as FibreChannel, iSCSI, S3 and Swift.

Another issue to consider when dealing with scalability is the capacity to change on-the-fly swap out media. For example, you can change SSDs for HDDs, high-RPM SAS, SATA or 6TB 7200 RPM repository drives, or swap out the type of storage or location at will, without days or even hours of lead time.

More importantly, the storage provider cannot lock in customers with bloated, up-front payments and long-term commitments. Instead, they have to enable scaling down and scaling up. They have to charge on a pay-as-you-consume basis, after the storage is consumed and not before.

Scalability, flexibility, reliability and hourly billing are the linchpins of Linode’s forthcoming Block Storage plan, being readied for beta release this summer.

Case In Point

Take the reality Sam Coyl, CEO of Netrepid, faced. His company recently decided to scrap a Dell EqualLogic system in favor of another storage scalability solution. A large part of that move resulted from traditional storage being too hard to scale up/down and manage.

“With traditional storage, we were confined to the storage we had purchased. To expand our capacity, we needed to invest a lot of capital, and there was significant delay while waiting for additional storage…to arrive and be installed. This made it hard to be as responsive to our clients, both internal and external, as the market demands,” he said.

The agility and client responsiveness that resulted was a dramatic improvement. His company can now spin-up storage nodes in minutes rather than waiting a week for new storage hardware to arrive.

“We turned a technical challenge into a tremendous business advantage,” said Coyl, acknowledging the intrinsic advantage of using cloud storage.

Please feel free to share below any comments, questions or insights about your experience with cloud data storage solutions, including scalability, flexibility, and reliability and hourly billing. And if you found this blog useful, consider sharing it through social media.

About the blogger: Jack M. Germain is a veteran IT journalist whose outstanding IT work can be found regularly in ECT New Network’s LinuxInsider, and other outlets like TechNewsDirectory. Jack’s reporting has spanned four decades and his breadth of It experience is unmatched. And while his views and reports are solely his and don’t necessarily reflect those of Linode, we are grateful for his contributions. He can be followed on Google+.