Moving to the cloud? Choosing a cloud storage provider? Where do you start?

The public cloud is awesome. Cloud-native companies and enterprises are able to adapt and build new features faster than ever before.

Now, if you are sitting in an enterprise, having just been handed a mandate to “move to the cloud by 20XX,” you might be starting to freak out. That’s a totally valid initial response, but let us really unpack that mandate.

You have a timeline, and you have a goal to migrate to someone else’s data center. Ultimately, that is all the public cloud is, and if you start to think about it that way, the move gets a bit easier. Not easy, mind you, but a bit less “boil the ocean.”

If you were going to migrate to another physical data center, you would likely be faced with the same choices: forklift or rewrite.

A lot of times in the on-prem world, rewrite is more in line with “new apps first” than actual refactoring work. First, you would catalog your applications and workloads, before ranking them from easiest to hardest.

Through this process, those rankings will move, but watch out for small problems that can become big disasters.

Storage is only a small problem

A lot of enterprises today are still Windows shops and, as such, depend on some level of interoperability with Active Directory and with Server Message Block (SMB) shares.

If you open the dinner menu of services at AWS, for example, SMB is nowhere to be found. S3 is object storage, so not much to do there but use the S3 protocol to write objects. AWS’ Elastic File System (EFS) supports Network File System (NFS), but that does not get you too far.

This is a small problem is because it’s a self-imposed problem.

Neither Amazon, Microsoft, nor Google say you must use their services exclusively for your migration. Vendors still exist, and they still write software for the public cloud. In the case of storage, there are a lot of familiar faces, as well as some new players.

Choosing the right vendors

First, take stock of what you have on premises. Figure out if those vendors exist in the cloud (odds are good they do), and see what the offerings look like. If there are different storage systems for home directories and actual business workloads, take note of that as well.

What you do, and what vendors you choose, really boil down to the workloads and applications that are being moved.

Look for software vendors that have built cloud-native versions of their software.

Look for REST APIs even if you do not need them now.

Look for companies that can provide hybrid cloud solutions, so you can seamlessly move from on-premises to the cloud and maintain the same functionality.

Also, be sure to look to see how the vendors interact with the public cloud. Do they have cloud-native functionality using standard APIs in the public cloud? Or are they building hacks to maintain functionality as it was on premises, and introducing new bottlenecks and failure modes along the way.

Look for deployments that do not waste your money, especially compute and storage costs.

Warning signs to watch for when choosing a cloud storage provider

Legacy vendors have, in most cases, done the bare minimum to say they support the cloud, and the devil is likely in the details.

A couple of warning signs on the storage side:

  • If your storage provider describes the deployment as “scale-up,” you may want to reconsider. This means performance is not increasing as storage does.
  • Pay attention to whether or not API provisioning is available. If it’s not, this means that the deployment is largely going to be hands-on.
  • If they don’t offer a hybrid cloud solution, it may not be a good fit for what your business needs now.

The move to the public cloud gives an on-premises enterprise a perfect time to explore options, and modernize their storage, networking, and compute.

Qumulo offers a free trial, which makes choosing a cloud storage provider easier and less scary

John McGovern has seen over a decade helping companies integrate critical technologies into their infrastructure. At Qumulo, he is responsible for building Qumulo for the cloud, helping customers scale their storage systems beyond the data center.

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