Multi-Cloud Disaster Recovery
If this topic sounds confusing, we get it. With our experts’ advice, we hope to temper your apprehensions – while also raising some important considerations for your organisation before or after going multi-cloud. Planning for disaster recovery is a common point of confusion for companies employing cloud computing, especially when it involves multiple cloud providers.
It’s taxing enough to ensure data protection and disaster recovery (DR) when all data is located on-premises. But today many companies have data on-premises as well as with multiple cloud providers, a hybrid strategy that may make good business sense but can create challenges for those tasked with data protection. Before we delve into the details, let’s define the key terms.
What is multi-cloud?
Multi-cloud is the utilization of two or more cloud providers to serve an organization’s IT services and infrastructure. A multi-cloud approach typically consists of a combination of major public cloud providers, namely Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure.
Organizations choose the best services from each cloud provider based on costs, technical requirements, geographic availability, and other factors. This may mean that a company uses Google Cloud for development/test, while using AWS for disaster recovery, and Microsoft Azure to process business analytics data.
Multi-cloud differs from hybrid cloud which refers to computing environments that mix on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and a public cloud.
Who uses multiple clouds?
- Regulated industries – Many organizations run different business operations in different cloud environments. This may be a deliberate strategy of optimizing their IT environments based on the strengths of individual cloud providers or simply the product of a decentralized IT organization.
- Media and Entertainment – Today’s media and entertainment landscape is increasingly composed of relatively small and specialized studios that meet the swelling content-production needs of the largest players, like Netflix and Hulu. Multi-cloud solutions enable these teams to work together on the same projects, access their preferred production tools from various public clouds, and streamline approvals without the delays associated with moving large media files from one site to another.
- Transportation and Autonomous Driving – Connected car and autonomous driving projects generate immense amounts of data from a variety of sensors. Car manufacturers, public transportation agencies, and rideshare companies are among those motivated to take advantage of multi-cloud innovation, blending both accessibility of data across multiple clouds without the risks of significant egress charges and slow transfers, while maintaining the freedom to leverage the optimal public cloud services for each project.
- Energy Sector – Multi-cloud adoption can help lower the significant costs associated with finding and drilling for resources. Engineers and data scientists can use machine learning (ML) analytics to identify places that merit more resources to prospect for oil, to gauge environmental risks of new projects, and to improve safety.
Multi-cloud disaster recovery pain points:
- Not reading before you sign. Customers may face issues if they fail to read the fine print in their cloud agreements. The cloud provider is responsible for its computer infrastructure, but customers are responsible for protecting their applications and data. There are many reasons for application downtime that are not covered under cloud SLAs. Business critical workloads need high availability and disaster recovery protection software as well.
- Developing a centralized protection policy. A centralized protection policy must be created to cover all data, no matter where it lives. Each cloud provider has its unique way of accessing, creating, moving and storing data, with different storage tiers. It can be cumbersome to create a disaster recovery plan that covers data across different clouds.
- Reporting. This is important for ensuring protection of data in accordance with the service-level agreements that govern it. Given how quickly users can spin up cloud resources, it can be challenging to make sure you’re protecting each resource appropriately and identifying all data that needs to be incorporated into your DR plan.
- Test your DR plan. Customers must fully screen and test their DR strategy. A multi cloud strategy compounds the need for testing. Some providers may charge customers for testing, which reinforces the need to read the fine print of the contract.
- Resource skill sets. Finding an expert in one cloud can be challenging; with multi-cloud you will either need to find expertise in each cloud, or the rare individual with significance in multiple clouds.
Overcoming the multi-cloud DR challenge
Meeting these challenges requires companies to develop a data protection and recovery strategy that covers numerous issues. Try asking yourself the following strategic questions:
- Have you defined the level of criticality for all applications and data? How much money will a few minutes of downtime for critical applications cost your organization in end user productivity, customer satisfaction, and IT labor?
- Will data protection and recovery be handled by IT or application owners and creators in a self-service model?
- Did you plan for data optimization, using a variety of cloud- and premises-based options?
- How do you plan to recover data? Restoring data to cloud-based virtual machines or using a backup image as the source of recovery?
Obtain the right multi-cloud DR solution
The biggest key to success in data protection and recovery in a multi-cloud scenario is ensuring you have visibility into all of your data, no matter how it’s stored. Tools from companies enable you to define which data and applications should be recovered in a disaster scenario and how to do it – whether from a backup image or by moving data to a newly created VM in the cloud, for example.
The tool should help you orchestrate the recovery scenario and, importantly, test it. If the tool is well integrated with your data backup tool, it can also allow you to use backups as a source of recovery data, even if the data is stored in different locations – like multiple clouds. Our most recent SIOS webinar discusses this same point; watch it here if you’re interested. SIOS Datakeeper lets you run your business-critical applications in a flexible, scalable cloud environment, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud Platform without sacrificing performance, high availability or disaster protection. SIOS DataKeeper is available in the AWS Marketplace and the only Azure certified high availability software for WSFC offered in the Azure Marketplace.
12 Questions to Uncomplicate Your Cloud Migration
Cloud migration best practices
The “cloud is becoming more complicated,” it was the first statement in an hour-long webinar detailing the changes and opportunities with the boom in cloud computing and cloud migration. The presenter continued with an outline of cloud related things that traditional IT is now facing in their journey to AWS, Azure, GCP or other providers.
There were nine areas that surfaced as complications in the traditional transition to cloud:
- Users, Roles, and Profiles
- Applications and Licensing
- Services and Support
As VP of Customer Experience for SIOS Technology Corp I’ve seen how the following areas can impact a transition to cloud. To mitigate these complications, consumers are turning to managed service providers, cloud solution architects, contractors and consultants, and a bevy of related services, guides, blog posts and related articles. Often in the process of turning to outside or outsourced resources the complications to cloud are not entirely removed. Instead, companies and the teams they have employed to assist or to transition them to cloud still encounter roadblocks, speed bumps, hiccups and setbacks.
Most often these complications and slowdowns in migrating to the cloud come from twelve unanswered questions:
- What are our goals for moving to the cloud?
- What is your current on-premise architecture? Do you have a document, list, flow chart, or cookbook?
- Are all of your application, database, availability and related vendors supported on your target cloud provider platform?
- What are your current on-premises risks and limitations? What applications are unprotected, what are the most common issues faced on-premises?
- Who is responsible for the cloud architecture and design? How will this architecture and design account for your current definitions and the definitions of the cloud provider?
- Who are the key stakeholders, and what are their milestones, business drivers, and deadlines for the business project?
- Have you shared your project plan and milestones with your vendors?
- What are the current processes, governance, and business requirements?
- What is the migration budget and does it include staff augmentation, training, and services? What are your estimates for ongoing maintenance, licensing, and operating expenses?
- What are your team’s existing skills and responsibilities?
- Who will be responsible for updating governance, processes, new cloud models, and the various traditional roles and responsibilities?
- What are the applications, services, or functions that will move from IaaS to SaaS models?
Know Your Goals for the Cloud
So, how will answering these twelve questions will improve your cloud migration. As you can see from the questions, understanding your goals for the cloud is the first, and most important step. It is nearly universally accepted that “a cloud service provider such as AWS, Azure, or Google can provide the servers, storage, and communications resources that a particular application will require,” but for many customers, this only eliminates “he need for computer hardware and personnel to manage that hardware.” Because of this fact, often customers are focused on equipment or data center consolidation or reduction, without considering that there are additional cloud opportunities and gaps that they still need to consider. For example, cloud does eliminate management of hardware, but it “does not eliminate all the needs that an application and its dependencies will have for monitoring and recovery,” so if your goal was to get all your availability from the cloud, you may not reach that goal, or it may require more than just moving on premises to an IaaS model. Knowing your goals will go a long way in helping you map out your cloud journey.
Know Your Current On-Premises Architecture
A second critical category of questions needed for a proper migration to the cloud, (or any new platform) is understanding the current on-premises architecture. This step not only helps with the identification of your critical applications that need availability, but also their underlying dependencies, and any changes required for those applications, databases, and backup solutions based on the storage, networking, and compute changes of the cloud. Answering this question is also a key step in assessing the readiness of your applications and solutions for the cloud and quantifying your current risks.
A third area that will greatly benefit from working through these questions occurs when you discuss and quantify current limitations. Frequently, we see this phase of discovery opening the door to limitations of current solutions that do not exist in the cloud. For example, recently our services team worked with a customer impacted by performance issues in their SQL database cluster. A SIOS expert assisting with their migration inquired about the solution and architecture, and VM sizing decisions. After a few moments, a larger more application sized instance was deployed correcting limitations that the customer had accepted due to their on-premise restrictions on compute, memory, and storage. Similarly we have worked with customers who were storage sensitive. They would run applications with smaller disks and a frequent resizing policy, due to disk capacity constraints. While storage costs should be considered, running with minimal margins can become a limitation of the past.
Understand Business and Governance Changes
The final group of questions help your team understand schedules, business impacts, deadlines, and governance changes that need to be updated or replaced because they may no longer apply in the cloud. Migrating to the cloud can be a smooth transition and journey. However, failing to assess where you are on the journey and when you need to complete the journey can make it into a nightmare. Understanding timing is important and can be keenly aided by considering stakeholders, application vendors, business milestones, and business seasons. Selfishly, SIOS Technology Corp. wants customers to understand their milestones because as a Service provider it minimizes the surprises. But, we also encourage customers to answer these questions as they often uncover misalignment between departments and stakeholders. The DBAs believes that the cutover will happen on the last weekend of the month, but Finance is intent on closing the books over the final weekend of the same month; or the IT team believes that cutover can happen on Monday, but the applications team is unavailable until Wednesday, and perhaps most importantly the legal team hasn’t combed through the list of new NDAs, agreements, licensing, and governance changes necessary to pull it all together.
As customers work through the questions, with safety and empathy, what often emerges is a puzzle of pieces, ownership, processes, and decision makers that needs to be put back together using the cloud provider box top and honest conversations on budget, staffing, training, and services. The end result may not be a flawless migration, but it will definitely be a successful migration.
For help with your cloud migration strategy and high availability implementation, contact SIOS Technology Corp.
– Cassius Rhue, VP, Customer Experience
Learn more about common cloud migration challenges.
Read about some misconceptions about availability in the cloud.
Reproduced from SIOS
Cloud Migration Best Practices for High Availability
In 2020 we have seen more enterprises migrating more of their mission-critical applications, ERPs and databases to the cloud. However, not all of these migrations have been smooth. I have personally witnessed cloud migration projects dramatically slowed and even stopped due to a lack of planning for application availability, the complexity of retrofitting ‘DIY High Availability’, misunderstanding related to what a ‘lift and shift’ entails and unexpected costs.
There are a number of best practices, cloud checklists, and other ways for organizations to prepare for the cloud. The following best practices should be factored into every migration strategy for high availability clustering for those who have either hit pause on their 2020 cloud migration, or plan to forge ahead in 2021.
Cloud Migration Best Practices
Gather the requirements
Many organizations moving to the cloud think that the cloud is an on-premises architecture moved to the cloud. This misunderstanding in cloud migration often leads to stalls and delays when networking, storage, disk speeds, and system sizes for on-premises collide with the cloud reality. A smoother transition to cloud begins by gathering the real requirements for the infrastructure, governance and compliance, security, sizing, and related controls and resources.
Design and Document
In the design phase, the architecture of on-premises environments is mapped to the cloud environment that has been chosen for maximum availability and thoroughly documented. In this phase, as the architecture takes shape and you identify the strategy for IPs, load balancers, IOPS, and data availability. Teams need to look at how availability native to the cloud needs to be augmented with a robust application and infrastructure availability solution capable of automating complexities of the cloud. At SIOS, our experts in AWS and Azure clustering and availability work with customers to swap on-premises NFS for AWS EFS, Azure ANF, or a standalone NFS cluster tier. Additionally, a key part of the successful implementation in this phase will be documenting everything. Documentation is an often-neglected, but essential element of migration success.
Plan for High Availability
Achieving high availability in the cloud requires understanding the requirements, creating the design, and documenting a plan that lays out a strategy for achieving those requirements. A basic plan should include staffing, staff training, deploying a QA system testing, pre-production steps, deployment, post deployment validation, and on-going iterations. The best outcomes for cloud migration arise from a deliberate, planned process; not an ad hoc, break-fix approach.
How well is your team staffed for the cloud migration? Traditional help desk, client/server IT, or IT teams may not be enough for the cloud migration. If your team is new to the cloud, it may be time to consider adding more resources or professional services-based solutions. Migrating to the cloud can be taxing, tedious, and difficult without the proper insight, information, or training. Does your staff need to incorporate training related to the cloud environment? And while you are looking into training and professional services to assist your IT team, check with your vendor for training related to the availability solution. Many vendors provide flexible training for the HA solution and cloud training can be obtained with the cloud vendors or popular sites such as Udemy.
The QA deployment phase is the phase in which the team executes the plans for deploying the actual systems into the cloud. Successful deployment teams validate their plans and strategy, understand the data migration process, uncover any missing dependencies, and prepare for the next step in the process, especially testing. When this step is skipped or skimped on, the once-promising migrations often stall or fail. When you reach the QA system deployment phase, your team will do the heavy lifting of the initial migration and configuration of the applications, databases, and critical data in the cloud.
Test Your High Availability
Testing in your QA environment is a critical step. These tests are not a waste of time; they are a time saver. Deploying environments in the cloud is often easier than deploying on-premises. Your QA environment can be scripted with tools like Ansible, deployed quickly as templates from the cloud marketplace or a cloned image, or deployed and built from cloud formation templates. Once deployed, disaster scenarios can be ironed out and optimized before a disaster, not in them. Test scenarios can be leveraged to identify overprovisioning, under-provisioning or bottlenecks with networking or disk speeds. A full test scenario can also be used as a part of an on-boarding strategy for new staff. Additionally, testing should be performed on snapshots and backups as well.
When the testing phase completes, and your team has validated the test results, the next phase is to move from QA to pre-production, and from pre-production to go-live. The testing phase is the last phase of the heavy lifting involving final user acceptance testing, a final cutover and update of the production data, and then the users.
Review, Revise, and Repeat
A successful migration does not end once you reach the go-live phase, but continues through the lifecycle phases. In the post go-live phase of the cloud migration strategy, your team continues to review, revise, and repeat the steps from ‘Gather’ through ‘Deploy Production’. In fact, your team should repeat this process again and again, based on requirements specific to releases, application updates, security updates, related system maintenance, operating system versions, disaster recovery planning, as well as the requirements from your high availability vendor’s own best practices. The cloud platform is always evolving and adding new features, functionality, and updates that can enhance your existing HA solution and architecture. Reviewing, revising, and repeating the process will be a necessary step in successful onboarding.
In 2021 we’ll see more enterprises migrating more mission-critical applications, ERPs and databases to the cloud. A key major factor in their success will be utilizing cloud migration best practices to avoid delays and failures throughout the process. Understanding your business requirements and needs, documenting the design and plan, deploying in a QA environment with purpose built clustering solutions, and executing extensive testing before go-live will be essential. Contact SIOS Technology to understand how the SIOS Protection Suite can be included in your thoughtful cloud migration best practices.
-Cassius Rhue, VP, Customer Experience
Reproduced from SIOS
How To Choose A Cloud When You Need High Availability
Understand the cloud market
A number of analyst firms are predicting an ever-increasing number of deployments of applications, databases, and solutions in the cloud. According to Gartner, firms are “moving to the cloud at an increasing rate.” In fact, Gartner and other analysts expect the pace of cloud migration and deployment will continue to accelerate, driven in large part by the pace of innovation in the cloud. In a TechTarget article by Kurt Marko, of MarkoInsights, Marko notes that the pace of innovation that is “being undertaken in the cloud likely can’t be replicated on premises due to the elastic, scalable, and on-demand nature of managed public cloud services.”
We see more and more companies that had been using the cloud only for DevOps applications and databases that were not essential to their business, are now moving mission-critical applications, ERPs and databases that require high availability protection to the cloud.
If you are considering a move to the cloud – and it seems likely that you are – there are several keys to understand when you need high availability.
Familiarize yourself with the cloud high availability options
To plan for the proper availability solution for a cloud or hybrid cloud deployment, consider what the pain points are with regards to both availability (99.9% uptime) and high availability (99.99% uptime). You also need to understand the options that are available for high availability with an eye towards your plans to migrate to the cloud. Notable analysts and experts suggest looking for solutions that will not only mitigate and reduce the pain of migrating your workloads, but will also provide a balanced and comprehensive approach to availability throughout the lifespan of your cloud architecture. Note, it is also wise to consider solutions that can provide protection and high availability for portions of your workload that may one day repatriate from the cloud back to your on-premises environment.
Here are ten things to consider when comparing your availability options in the cloud:
1. The deployment method. Is it possible to deploy the availability solution you are considering using an image, CLI, UI, or other repeatable solution such as cloud formation template or packaged scripts.
2. The system requirements. Most notably, consider the operating system (OS), disk, CPU, and memory requirements.
3. The deployment environments. Do your availability options support on-premises only, one or more public clouds, or can they support a mixture, and/or hybrid cloud deployment. Is there a SaaS offering available as well?
4. The breadth and depth of application protection. “Breadth” meaning what types of applications, databases, front-ends, networking, and infrastructure components can be protected? Is there a flexible framework for adding new applications and variants? “Depth” meaning – is the solution application-aware – and able to maintain application-specific best practices throughout the application failover/failback processes?
5. Performance requirements. We often think of RTO and RPO, but what about other performance needs of your solution. Will your availability solution cause performance issues on failover?
6. Resilience requirements. How large a cluster can the availability solution support?, How many faults and failures can it detect and recover from. How will replication be handled while keeping metadata in sync?
7. Supportability and maintenance. Does the availability vendor have experience with a wide range of availability needs and configurations? Do they have longevity, and a support system designed to address issues that may go beyond their solution? Can they help you minimize disruption and planned downtime during your system management and maintenance (patches, upgrades, and general maintenance).
8. Total cost of ownership. There are entire industries and services dedicated to helping you calculate the total cost of ownership, so we won’t cover that here. Suffice it to say, your calculations will be unique to your organization, cloud provider, applications, and IT team. You should consider whether your availability solution vendor can help you identify strategies for saving utilization, licensing, and other costs? Does the solution automate manual tasks, reduce IT labor time?
9. Licensing and pricing model. How do you consume the cost of the software? Is there a subscription fee, subscription model, pay-as-you-go offering, bring your own license (BYOL), or combination of flexible options. How will you enable the product licensing? Is there a license server, licensing service, or encrypted key based on virtual machine deployment details, such as address, hostname, MAC address.
10. The impact on IT staff. How much training with the solution require? How much manual intervention will be needed in the event of an application failure event or disaster? Will it require specialized scripting that needs to be maintained? Who will be responsible for ongoing maintenance?
Weigh the benefits and trade-offs
Like every important decision, you need to understand your tradeoffs and choose the best balance to meet your needs. For example, I recently asked a friend to recommend a good walking shoe. I bought a pair he raved about – noting how lightweight they were, how strong and durable the fabric, and how stylish they were. I went for my first long walk-run in them, and I donated my first pair of “one run” shoes immediately thereafter. When I went to ‘Fleet Feet’ to get an expert’s opinion I ended up with a heavier shoe, with more breathable fabric (also less durable), and an unrivaled level of hideousness. I made a tradeoff between appearance and function that worked for my needs and budget.
Like running shoes, there is no silver bullet solution that will be the right fit for every company, every application, every database, and every possible server and architecture. You are officially free to stop looking for it. Instead, settle into the activity of weighing the trade-offs to determine what is the right fit for your company’s needs. Think about your tradeoffs. For example, if you’re sure you will be a full Microsoft shop, the importance of GCP and AWS support should be a little lower in your evaluation process.
Take your IT infrastructure dynamics into account
Think holistically about availability in your entire IT infrastructure – both on premises and in the cloud. The reasons to do so are best explained with another analogy. In 2018, I was the coordinator for an outreach program feeding the homeless and hungry in Columbia, South Carolina. Our group met once a week to serve a meal and a message of hope to over 100 men, women and children. When we considered expanding – adding more days of the week, more hours, or additional services, we had to think well beyond simple scheduling requirements. Knowing that we were providing a critical service to clients who depend on us, we had to consider all the factors that affected our ability to deliver those services consistently for the long-term, such as: cost, ages of our team members, outside obligations, alternative methods to achieve our goals, risk factors, and other dynamics within our parent organization.
When you are choosing your solution, after you’ve understood the market, familiarized yourself with options, and weighed the trade-offs, the last step is to take into account the various other dynamics in your overall environment. Will the solution meet the needs of your business as a whole? Will your critical data be protected from loss? Will your end-user productivity be protected from downtime? What training will be required to move to the cloud and how will that impact your ability to manage or maintain the solution that you choose? What IT roles will be added, removed, or changed in your cloud journey? Will any responsibilities for application availability move to any line-of-business owners? And how will the shifts in responsibilities, or team make up improve or decrease your overall potential for success. Consider whether your team needs to take a step-by-step approach, migrating smaller workloads first.
As VP of Customer Experience, I have seen a wide range of cloud migrating planning – some straightforward others extremely disruptive. In one instance a customers’ move to the cloud was highly contentious because management saw it as an opportunity to eliminate an entire IT department. I’m not suggesting that you play politics, but you should be aware of all of the factors at play in these complex projects.
Migrating to the cloud is supposed to save money, time and resources while affording improvements in availability and resilience. Regardless of which cloud you choose, make sure that you consider these tips and select the corresponding availability solution that gives you the flexibility to deliver the protection you need in the configuration you want.
Learn more about cloud high availability options with SIOS.
– Cassius Rhue, VP of Customer Experience, SIOS
Reproduced with permission from SIOS