IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
April 21, 2016
How to Get More Out of Your Cloud Storage
Editor's Note: Sirius and Forsythe are now one company. Sirius acquired Forsythe in October 2017 and we are pleased to share their exceptional thought leadership with you.
If you’re in IT, you likely spend too much time dealing with emergencies and not enough time innovating.
Studies have shown that 70% of IT budgets is used to keep the lights on. Out of the remaining budget, 20% goes towards software and 10% buys new hardware.
However, today’s IT organizations can no longer just keep the lights on. They’re under pressure to deliver real value to the business.
If your services aren’t better and faster than your competitors’, your customers will look for other options. A lack of agile services makes IT appear out-of-touch with customer needs. It also leads to shadow IT and the security issues that come with it.
Although many IT organizations want to provide more value to the business, they can’t build agile services in-house. They have small, overworked staffs that lack the required cloud and software development skills.
IT organizations are turning to the cloud for faster, more agile services
Due to this lack of internal resources, IT organizations are turning to third-party cloud services to provide apps faster and stay relevant.
According to a SpiceWorks survey, 93% of organizations use at least one cloud service. Meanwhile, 30% of these organizations expect to put more than half of their IT services in the cloud within three years.
Offering cloud-based services allows you to respond quickly to customer needs and make your business more competitive.
As you can see in the image below, your storage impacts numerous verticals in your business. For example, it intersects with disaster recovery, systems management and security.
3 ways to optimize your cloud storage
One of 2016’s top storage trends is flash-based arrays. A decade ago, flash storage cost more than $1,000 per gigabyte. Now, you can get it for less than $10 per gigabyte. These dramatically lower costs make flash storage cheaper than many traditional storage systems. Flash’s performance has also greatly increased in the past decade, which makes it an attractive option if you need high business and application reliability.
However, you don’t need to jump on the latest trend and run to flash.
The right storage choice―or choices―depends on your business needs, budget and plans for growth. As you optimize your IT environment, you can adopt a hybrid storage solution that allows you to manage your risks when moving to the cloud.
Here are three ways you can do this:
Take baby steps when you have legacy applications that aren’t compatible with the cloud. Start by conducting an inventory assessment to understand what assets you have and how you are using them.
Leverage these assets as much as possible to improve your efficiencies before you invest in the cloud. For example, some of your applications may allow for virtualization or have connectors that make it easy to move them to the cloud.
Then, look for places where you’ve over-subscribed to services and make cuts. Decide if you want to retire any of your legacy assets or replace them with new technologies that enable you to better serve customers.
This may include consolidating your storage by moving spinning disks to a flash array. When you move legacy applications to the cloud, you free up capital expense (CAPEX) and operational expense (OPEX) to invest in software development that will give you a competitive edge.
After you assess your inventory, conduct a gap analysis of where you would like to be in three-to-five years. This will detail your storage roadmap. For example, which apps need a faster turnaround time? What new services must you provide to keep customers happy? What type of data growth do you expect?
You should also crawl if your data center architecture is more than 10 years old but you can’t afford the high costs of building a new data center. Moving to a hybrid data center that supports a mix of legacy and cloud systems can be your best option.
You’re ready to walk after you’ve successfully executed a full inventory and have a clear view of how you’re using your infrastructure.
During the walk stage, you’ll start to match solutions to your business requirements. This requires an understanding of the business’ goals. For example, how much does the business need to grow to maintain or gain market share?
Then, conduct an application assessment. IT organizations often don’t have a clear view of their inventory. You’ll likely find 100 applications that all serve the same purpose!
Assessing your apps shows you redundancies, so you can consolidate your workloads and free up your resources to pursue more strategic initiatives. It will also show you which assets to upgrade or refresh as you move to the cloud.
For example, an assessment will show you how much your legacy apps cost to run and maintain. You’ll also learn which apps are essential and which ones you must add to better serve the business.
In the walk stage, you should also ask what IT skills you lack internally. Many organizations struggle with the IT skills gap and can’t find and retain top talent. If you don’t have the knowledge in-house, you can form partnerships with cloud or managed service providers. Partnering with others allows you to innovate and take advantage of the latest storage technologies — without burdening your in-house team with extra work that is outside your core competencies.
Before you move to this stage, identify your technological and operational gaps. Also begin the conceptual design for your cloud strategy to understand which efficiencies you will gain.
Now, you’re ready to right-size your environment and match your cloud products to your needs.
The first key is to understand your end goal. For example, are you merging two companies and all your technology? It’s wise for the CIO to get involved in the merger and create a merger and acquisition runbook – ensuring that all of your systems are ready to go on day one.
To achieve your ultimate business goal, you must align all of your people, processes and technologies. You need a clear message to cascade down, so everyone in the company can support your end goal.
You can also offer storage-as-a-service to standardize your storage offerings, provision services faster and reign in your costs.
During the run stage, moving to all-flash arrays can help you achieve your ultimate business goals, as it improves your application service levels and allows you to handle complex workflows.
How to get started
As the amount of enterprise data rapidly increases while flash prices drop, now is the time to build a business case for cloud storage. A good place to start is by performing a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis of your applications, as this gives you visibility into your storage costs. It also shows you if flash can bring you cost savings and performance improvements.
You don’t need to rush to an all-flash environment. Taking even small steps towards a storage-as-a-service model allows you to transform your IT organization and stay relevant in the quickly-changing IT landscape.