In Cyber Space No One Can Hear You Scream

No doubt you fans of sci-fi and “vintage feature films” out there instantly recognize this famous (and hauntingly memorable) movie tagline.  Hint:  For those of you who regard Hollywood movies and horror futuristic science fiction as being alien to your “core” interests or even remote curiosity…

Yes, “Alien” was a ground breaking, Cyber Space Screammemorable sci-fi horror flick directed by Ridley Scott.
First released in 1979, it was a trend setter for sure… and one that launched a whole bevy of Aliens.  It changed everything in terms of high action, high thrills (and scares) science fiction drama flicks.  Of course, I first saw it much later on VHS when I was old enough to watch it without having nightmares… (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…)

And — yes — in the vacuum of outer space sound doesn’t propagate or travel…so indeed no one can hear you scream. Turns out, no one can hear you scream in cyber space either… particularly where the Public Cloud is involved.

As good as the Public Cloud and various service providers are, the simple fact is that you lose control of your storage and compute resources once you get on the Cloud wagon.  More importantly, you lose control and access of your valuable data once you upload it onto some Public Cloud service provider’s infrastructure.

Need some ‘fact checking’ validation here?  Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the biggest Public Cloud service provider, followed by Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and a number of others.  It’s been a tough week for AWS customers.  They’ve had two service outages last week alone!  The dreaded ‘D word’ in IT….Downtime!  The silver lining?  Well, at least AWS customers’ monthly usage service fees will be lower this month…

You can bet a lot of enterprise IT directors and admins were doing a lot of screaming (and maybe even crying) this week, even though we couldn’t hear them.

It’s one thing to store and/or archive your personal photos or records to some Cloud data storage site.  Outages aren’t a big deal … unless your friendly IRS office is cordially requesting your presence (and records) for a helpful ‘audit’. Incidentally, a public service announcement: Don’t be FOOLED by those IRS dunning/threatening phone calls by “IRS agents” or “investigators”. The IRS only notifies you via snail mail. 🙂

But if you’re a business — any kind, type or size — relying on AWS’s Cloud for your primary, near-line or even frozen data storage (EC2 compute resources, too) service outages of any length of duration are very problematic, disruptive and concerning.  This is what happened again to AWS last week. And — by the way — even hosted web service provider “Skype” had an outage last week too. The Public Cloud outage ripple affect…

Well….as they’re fond of saying in US Government circles, “I’m here to help you.”

The concept, value proposition and actual operation/implementation of Public Cloud services are very important and valuable in this day and age of digital information creation, storage/archival and retrieval.  Service providers such as AWS, Azure and Google have truly changed and reshaped our enterprise IT operations….as well as our own personal IT habits.  After-all, it’s hard to argue with “why buy the cow when you can get the milk free”?  OK, so public cloud services aren’t necessarily free.  You get charged monthly usage fees, much like your iPhone voice and data plans.  But the beauty of the Public Cloud is that you can expand (or contract) the amount of compute and storage resources/capacity you need….virtually on the fly…(well…at least monthly) and just get billed for what you’ve actually used in a given month.  Just be sure to go over those detailed bills carefully.

You can leverage any Public Cloud using OPR — other people’s resources — without needing to purchase new servers or DAS, SAN, NAS or object storage hardware.  Great stuff!   Down goes your CAPEX spend.  Until you experience an outage….just when you need that expense record or file or image from way back when — that just happens to be stored on AWS via S3 object, EBS (Elastic Block Storage for persistent block data), EFS (Elastic File Services for unstructured file data) or Glacier for archival.  What’s the cost of downtime, irate users, lost business or other opportunity costs?

So while Public Clouds in general, theory and practice are a really good thing overall and have a place in our enterprise (and personal) IT worlds, one has to be somewhat wary of relying on them exclusively…or even just a lot.  Unless, of course, you like to scream… Remember, it’s not just about availability, outages or down time.  Been keeping track of all those hacking incidents lately?  Public Clouds are not invulnerable to those either. Personally, I like to play my “Trump” cards close to my vests…and my important data even closer.

The alternative?  Private Clouds located on premises or at another data center that are completely controlled by their enterprise IT shop owners are an attractive alternative to relying on Public Cloud services.  Control of your resources and data is retained.  But — yes — even with Private Clouds service outages and under or non performing SLAs (service level agreements) causing …ah….”internal customer distress and annoyance” can cause you to scream.  Especially if you’re the guy or gal responsible for that particular Private Cloud.

True, Private Clouds – as well as traditional storage hardware platforms – are susceptible to service outages too.  The difference is in the magnitude and pervasiveness of a Public Cloud outage; resulting downtime and the number of users and businesses potentially impacted (directly or indirectly, immediately or during the aftershocks). This is especially true for Enterprise businesses with 24×7 operations and/or mission critical data being stored in that Cloud. Everybody is affected…ah…not in a good way either.

A simple relatable analogy?  It’s like having access to a Private Jet versus being tied to a Commercial carrier.   At least with a Private Jet you have more control and options as to being assured a seat, adjusting take-off times and routes and even destination(s).  Far, far fewer passengers are adversely affected…and you’re not locked in an airline, route system or long customer service line trying to book an alternate flight.  Point?  Private Clouds indeed may experience ‘service outages’ too…but the impact is far less extensive and catastrophic.  You have options, especially with on-prem traditional storage hardware platforms that your business can control and/or fall back on.

Enter the Hybrid Cloud.  Increasingly, enterprises are 1) building up their own Private Cloud (and Data Lake) storage platforms on-prem with their own clustered/LAN hardware with WAN connectivity to other sites while 2) augmenting their data centers by leveraging Public Cloud services for older, legacy non-mission critical data (of all types).  Thus data that essentially is ‘very old, cold or frozen’ and that otherwise would take up valuable hardware resources in their data centers can use OPR and be charged with monthly utility usage bills.  By its very nature, archival of cold or frozen data implies you don’t need it right now…or even today.  So service outages are less of a problem, though still annoying. The key to remember is that data can flow both up to the Cloud and down from it.  All the more reason to transfer in some older data for an upcoming project…copied right back down to your data center storage resources.

My grandparents always warned me “not to put all your eggs in one basket”….or “take care of what’s dear and important to you”.  To me…for any size of a business or enterprise or government agency….the Hybrid Cloud backed by a locally installed Data Lake storage platform or purpose built shared/cluster storage hardware for block, file and object data is the best way to go. It’s quite sensible and prudent too. The good news is that IT enterprise storage companies like EMC have a bevy and large portfolio of well proven various hardware and/or appliance based; software defined, virtualized/hyper-converged and Private/Hybrid Cloud storage based solutions to help address all of your IT storage needs and get you into the Cloud and Data Lake space comfortably and securely.

I’m talking about products like Isilon, ScaleIO, ECS Appliance, EMC Hybrid Cloud and so forth.

Don’t scream or cry.  No one can hear you in cyber space…or in the Public Cloud space either.  But we do want to help you…and we really will.

About the Author: Rodger Burkley