If it doesn’t connect to, or integrate with the cloud, you shouldn’t buy it

According to the latest ESG research 97% of companies are already either using cloud or have active plans in place to start using the cloud, regardless of what your position is within your companies IT operations you have to ask the question as to how any technology that you buy will enable you to connect to or integrate with the cloud. This must be in your mind when you’re developing an RFP or considering making any technology purchase.

It’s an evolution from a comment that someone made to me several years back which was “if you can’t manage it through an API then you shouldn’t buy it”.

Back then a lot of companies were focused on building ‘Private Cloud’ type environments that could be far more simply managed, with higher levels of self service for consumers and it meant that you had to be able to integrate and automate all levels of the stack in order to do this, if it didn’t have an API then it was typically the wrong technology for what you were trying to achieve.

Roll forward to today and with the strategic focus that nearly every organisation has on where the cloud will fit with their business today and in the future then you have to consider this as part of any technology investment.

I think this is especially true for data and storage.

Data defines so much today and is so valuable to your businesses that you cannot make a storage decision without understanding how it helps you with your current or future cloud plans. The kinds of questions you need to be asking a vendor should be…

  1. Can this device natively replicate data into any or all of the hyperscale cloud providers? Maybe you don’t today, but increasingly we’re seeing more and more of our customers replicating data for test / development, disaster recovery, or simply to run analytics where you can rent massive compute resources on demand
  2. Can I do this for any of the hyperscale providers across all of the regions we operate in? can I take advantage of availability zones? You’d be surprised that companies that claim to be Cloud connected are frequently very limited in features, often only support one of the hyperscale providers and are only available in a limited number of regions.
  3. Can it archive data to the cloud? Does the system you’re buying offer native integration to any or all of the hyperscale providers so that you can tier data to a lower cost medium when it makes sense to do so, without having to buy additional software solutions.
  4. Will this technology help me to migrate to the cloud when the time comes to move applications? There’s an increasing number of companies moving apps like SQL and SAP into Azure, does the technology you’re going to invest in help with this?

For storage companies with relatively mature products that are just embarking on making themselves ‘cloud integrated’, when you pull back the covers and look at the details of exactly what is and what is not available you may be in for a nasty surprise.

For any company launching a new product to the market today they face even greater challenges. First you’ve got to get parity with all of the features that people expect an enterprise grade storage product to have, this is difficult. It’s then got to prove itself to be reliable, highly available and to deliver real performance in real world environments, this takes a lot of time. And now it’s got to be able to connect to and integrate with the cloud.

Don’t believe the marketing slides on this either, tech companies are very good at claiming their technology will solve world hunger and eliminate third world debt (I know I work for one), ask for references, if it does connect to the cloud then who is doing this and how simple was it to setup.

I speak from experience when I say that building out native storage and data services in every cloud provider across nearly every region is a massive undertaking, it’s taken us a number of years to get to the point where we can offer this. Any vendor looking to do this for a new product is right at the beginning of this multi-year effort.

All NetApp products and services have been designed to enable you to build your data fabric, you can find more details in my post here. A data fabric not only helps you with your cloud plans, more importantly it enables you to start linking technology investments to business benefits.

Maybe a different question to ask yourself should be…”Does this technology help me to build my data fabric?”

2 thoughts on “If it doesn’t connect to, or integrate with the cloud, you shouldn’t buy it

  1. Hi Matt, very true and well captured. This should be one of the key RFP requirements for Storage (=data repository), HCI (=Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure) and Object Storage. I am wondering why we still get so many RFPs that are not challenging this theme and make sure the investments are future proof.

    1. Peter, what’s been interesting to me is to see how quickly companies move from “We can’t and won’t use the cloud” to “We have to have a cloud plan”. I went to Switzerland about 2 years back to meet with some big finance companies and was told “We cannot use the cloud, we’re Swiss finance companies”, I went back 18 months later to meet with the exact same companies and was told this time, “We have to have a plan, we are going to move workloads to the cloud and any technology we buy needs to help us with this”.

      Even if companies don’t beleive the cloud is part of their immediate future, in nearly all cases it will happen within the current procurement cycle and as such simply has to be included on any RFP’s being created today.

      Thanks for commenting…Matt

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