Nirvanix's Demise Emphasizes The Need For Hybrid Clouds And Storage Mobility

The untimely demise of Nirvanix has left over 1,000 customers scrambling to migrate data off of the cloud storage service provider and with a short two-week timeframe to save their data. While providers have gone to great lengths to make data import into the cloud easy by eliminating data ingest fees, large data sets in the cloud are difficult to retrieve or migrate to a new target. The recent example with Nirvanix highlights why customers should also consider exit and migration strategies as they formulate their cloud storage deployments.

One of the most significant challenges in cloud storage is related to how difficult it is to move large amounts of data from a cloud. While bandwidth has increased significantly over the years, even over large network links it could take days or even weeks to retrieve terabytes or petabytes of data from a cloud. For example, on a 1 Gbps link, it would take close to 13 days to retrieve 150 TB of data from a cloud storage service over a WAN link.

To minimize risks in cloud storage deployments and facilitate a graceful exit strategy (just in case things go sour), I recommend customers take the following steps:

Leverage Direct Connect.  Amazon, Nirvanix, IBM's SoftLayer, and other public cloud storage providers have forged agreements with carrier-neutral data center providers such as CoreSite and Equinix to establish (1 Gbps or 10 Gbps) Ethernet cross connects between public cloud storage and other resources available at the data center site. With direct connect, customers can take advantage of LAN bandwidth within these sites to quickly migrate data to a colocation resource or another cloud, and avoid slow and costly data transfers over WAN links. 

Use shuttle services for import/export of large data sets. For payloads that are too large for your WAN link to handle in a timely fashion, some providers have shuttle services, such as Amazon's Import/Export, which allow for speedy data retrieval or import by shipping portable hard drives. While the thought of physically transporting data may seem archaic, a box full of disks shipped overnight will transfer data faster than a WAN link, especially in remote areas where bandwidth is not as easy to attain.

Tap multiple clouds with gateways. Cloud gateways from vendors such as Panzura, Ctera, TwinStrata, and Nasuni have become increasingly popular since they provide an on-premises cache of frequently accessed data to minimize data access requests to a cloud service provider. WAN optimization and data deduplication technologies are also used in these systems to reduce the amount of redundant data that is shipped between a customer and the provider to establish a hybrid cloud environment. In light of the Nirvanix incident, the ability to simultaneously write to multiple cloud storage services is also important since it will allow customers to have copies of strategic content stored in multiple sites in the event of an outage.

A Quick Take report with more in-depth recommendations for cloud storage strategies will be available to Forrester customers tomorrow.



The gateway provider

The gateway provider recommendation is a bit shortsighted, as it only moves the failure issue from the cloud storage provider to the gateway provider. Each of the vendors mentioned stores customer data its own proprietary format, meaning if they fail, the customer is stuck without access to their data.

Sure, they may own the equipment if the company goes away. But even in this “best case scenario”, customers will be forced to undergo two full data migrations: First to get the data out of the gateway back into its native format, and then again back into the cloud storage provider using some other method. And shuttle services won’t help the customer here- the data must be retrieved through the gateway over the network in order to get it back into a useable format.

Thanks for your comments

Thanks for your comments Adam.

The cloud gateway recommendation was also made with an eye towards future deployments - not just the Nirvanix situation. Leveraging multiple clouds and blending on-premises storage will give customers and alternative to entrusting all of their data to a single provider.

Cloud storage gateways are not exclusive to Cloud Storage services. Customers can also use them to move content to an on-premises storage alternative.

Your company, Maldivica is also an option in this market, and I should have mentioned that in the post.

The shuttle service recommendation was also more for future planning. More providers should offer this.

Cloud like any market will

Cloud like any market will have winners and losers and customers need to do diligence on their provider which should include off boarding meaning how easy is it to get your data back in a usable format and move elsewhere should you choose or need, Good cloud providers will make this easy and are open and up front about their provision for this,. Cloud is a long term play as a provider , not a quick buck market and unless you differentiate the customer value you deliver you can rapidly become marginalised and commoditised. The issue in this case is the lack of time allowed to their customers to take the required action due to not provisioning contingency into their own business models ahead of time. Cloud in the majority is a highly positive outcome for the customer, their will be exceptions like this along the journey of cloud evolution as there was in the product world.

Ian Moyse

Mitigate the risks, embrace the disruption

Good write-up, Henry.

I think this is just a bump in the road. Think of cloud services like any other service. The provider needs to be sound. The technology has to be useful and serve a real need. Reasonable strategies must be in place to deal with unexpected situations.

Cloud storage is just like physical storage in the sense that the software matters. If you want to store things in a certain location, if you want to retrieve things a certain way, the software must do the job. Pure "IaaS" players like Nirvanix need the right "application" to get the job done.

We managed to successfully help several thousand Nirvanix-based users migrate out through the right technology and a little old-fashioned sleeve rolling.

Leo Leung
Oxygen Cloud

Thanks for your comments Leo.

Thanks for your comments Leo. I agree. This is not the end of cloud storage - but customers need to think about flexibility and data mobility.

Cloud or no cloud, the backup rule of three should still apply:
3 Copies of important data
2 formats (Cloud & Tape, Cloud & Disk, 2 different Clouds)
1 Copy offsite (at a minimum)

Cloud changes a lot of things, but core enterprise IT principles should still apply, when you choose to use the cloud.