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Nevertheless, virtual infrastructures can benefit from the actual public cloud to augment what they are doing. The public cloud can help provide smaller businesses a place to send data for off-site backup storage, a place to recover in the event of a disaster, and even a place to move applications when peak loads have exceeded the capabilities of the internal data center. Let's look at the possibilities.
1. Public Cloud As Off-Site Backup.
One of the earliest and most frequent uses of cloud storage is as a backup target. First, it was used to back up laptops and desktops, but now it is being used to protect physical and virtual servers. Using cloud storage creates an ideal separate location from the data center, and most providers have multiple geographically dispersed facilities as well. The farther your data is away from you the better protected it is from a regional disaster.
[ Here's how one organization is moving every operation possible to the cloud. How The USO Makes Most Of Cloud. ]
The challenge, though, for many virtual backup processes is that the use of cloud storage is not integrated directly into the virtual backup software. It has to be added on as an afterthought via some sort of gateway appliance. This separation reduces efficiency and increases complexity. As we will discuss in our upcoming webinar, "Using The Cloud To Solve the SMB VMware Backup Problem," integration with the cloud is critical for virtualized backup applications going forward. It should be just another checkbox within the backup software.
2. Public Cloud As Disaster Recovery Site.
Several data protection suppliers and cloud providers are beginning to leverage the fact that they have your virtual machine images in the cloud to provide disaster recovery in their facility. As I discussed in the article "Hybrid Cloud DR", this capability is ideal for the small- to medium-size business that does not have a fully staffed second site that can be used for disaster recovery. It allows cloud providers to add value by becoming more than just a storage tank at the end of an Internet connection -- they are providing full-service recovery.
3. Public Cloud As Bursting Option.
Finally, you can use the cloud for more than just backup and disaster recovery. You can use it as a destination point for applications when peak loads hit the data center. The concept, called cloud bursting, allows for additional instances of an application that can be started in the cloud or less active applications can be moved to the cloud temporarily to accommodate a peak load. The challenge has been how to integrate the move to the cloud with the existing virtualization investment. Bridging the gap between a local hypervisor and a cloud compute environment can be complex and expensive. But help is on the way. Companies such as HotLink are providing the capability to integrate multi-hypervisor management, including cloud compute, into the vCenter infrastructure.
The cloud can offer many benefits to data centers of all sizes, but its benefits can be especially useful to the medium-size business. These data centers need to start considering the cloud for more than off-site data storage. Cloud-hosted disaster recovery and bursting are now within the reach of these companies.
Our four business scenarios show how to improve disaster recovery, boost disk utilization and speed performance. Also in the new, all-digital Storage Virtualization Gets Real issue of InformationWeek SMB: While Intel remains the biggest manufacturer of chips in the world, the next few years will prove vexing for the company. (Free registration required.)