Disaster recovery in the cloud is a complex business

Outsourcing data recovery to a third-party provider in a cloud model, rather than set up one’s own data centres for the purpose, is catching on with enterprises


Cloud computing allows companies to pay for software modules or services used over a network, typically the Internet, on a subscription basis. Photo: iStockphoto
Cloud computing allows companies to pay for software modules or services used over a network, typically the Internet, on a subscription basis. Photo: iStockphoto

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) said on 27 October that it is buying Bengaluru-based Sanovi Technologies Corp. for an undisclosed sum (bit.ly/2faHWUK). Just a couple of days earlier, another Bengaluru-based company, NxtGen Datacenter and Cloud Technologies Pvt. Ltd, announced a strategic partnership with enterprise cloud services provider Nutanix Inc. to develop, market and sell hosted private cloud services and a cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) model from NxtGen’s nine data centres across India. (bit.ly/2fcOKy4)

These developments once again put the spotlight on DR as a service (DRaaS), a segment which is witnessing growing traction among enterprise users.

Outsourcing data recovery to a third-party provider in a cloud model, rather than set up one’s own data centres for the purpose, is increasingly catching on with enterprises globally as well as in India. Cloud computing allows companies to pay for software modules or services used over a network, typically the Internet, on a subscription basis.

Business continuity refers to an organization’s capability to carry on business as usual, or with minimum disruption, in the event of an untoward incident or calamity.

According to research firm Gartner Inc.’s Magic Quadrant for Disaster Recovery as a Service report published in June 2016, “In recent years, IT disaster recovery (DR) as a whole and DRaaS specifically have gained momentum for small and midsize organizations due to improved affordability and functionality. Gartner estimates the DRaaS market will nearly triple in the next three years to a revenue point of $3.4 billion by 2019. In addition, DRaaS Interest has grown significantly among large enterprises during the past year, as Gartner witnessed a 77% increase in inquiries from these organizations throughout 2015.” (bit.ly/2avRrIo)

As companies face increasing business risk due to factors such as natural disasters, sabotage and terrorism, the ability to move operations to secondary facilities—in effect the data centres that act as the hub of all enterprise activity in a connected world—quickly, reliably and cost-effectively is becoming more critical than ever.

What’s more, chief information officers (CIOs) and other information technology (IT) decision makers need to free themselves up from routine tasks such as taking backups in order to spend more time on innovation.

Ritu Madbhavi, CIO of FCB Ulka Advertising Pvt. Ltd, for one, believes that activities such as DR, back-up, storage, and replication are highly manpower-oriented and time-consuming—things that should function as pure hygiene rather be on a CIO’s agenda (bit.ly/2fDleE2). She moved backup and DR to the cloud, on Microsoft Corp.’s Azure cloud platform.

CIOs across sectors are increasingly looking at the cloud as a workable option to move not just the plain old email but other tasks too such as back-up, DR and software applications for payroll and customer relationship management.

They are being wooed primarily by two types of vendors competing in the DRaaS market. One is the large, so-called “horizontal” cloud service providers such as Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and IBM. The other set comprises specialists in this segment such as Sanovi, Axcient Inc., Bluelock Llc, Sungard Availability Services, Commvault Systems Inc., Veeam Software and many others.

Despite the market gaining maturity, however, the associated complexities are posing challenges for IT decision makers in choosing the right-fit DR solution for their particular business. According to the Gartner report cited above, “Even though substantial market growth and increased provider service maturity have occurred, it is still difficult for many organizations to know whether they are making appropriate decisions or asking all the right questions of prospective DRaaS providers. These providers all offer a wide range of supported server platforms, service onboarding methodologies, recovery time service levels and different pricing policies.”

Another challenge, according to Gartner, is that the use of a DRaaS provider does not mean that internal IT departments are no longer responsible or accountable for successful recoveries. This implies that CIOs and their lieutenants will have to work closely and actively with the cloud providers to “manage recovery assurance”. As such, how the CIOs sift through, negotiate and monitor service level agreements with DRaaS providers will assume greater significance.

Gartner further cautions that service-level commitments of providers may vary by configuration size and required computing platforms. Problems may also arise due to platform interoperability issues—which may occur when a company wants to move from one service provider to another—in case of lack of open application programming interfaces or accepted standards in this domain.

Other analyst firms concur on the need to take a precautionary approach. Ovum Consulting, in its report Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a Data Availability and Protection Solution for the Cloud Era, 2016-17, points out, “Cloud computing and the move to an as-a-service delivery method is also beginning to create tensions and splits in organizations’ data protection and availability strategies, with questions being raised about location, security, and latency (delay in movement of data through a network.). The issue for CIOs is that these technologies need to be administered and configured correctly to provide solutions to the many different requirements for resiliency that organizations demand.”

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