Virtualisation in the age of smart data

By Gareth Donald, Actifio strategist

By now, there should be little surprise that businesses are moving more of their infrastructure and applications into the cloud. That’s because with the cloud, more than at any time in technology, the promises of the benefits and advantages are borne out of practice. However, challenges still remain – and are largely centred around antiquated approaches to data management, which continues to bind application data to physical infrastructure. By moving towards the concept of virtual smart data - transformative flexible cloud models can be achieved.

American Analyst 451 Research recently said that within two years, 34% of enterprises and 47% of marketing departments will have 60% or more of their applications on a cloud platform.

But to truly enable cloud-based IT - data and its storage are the final frontier.

While enterprises want to put data into the cloud to take advantage of reduced costs and improved performance and accessibility, they need absolute assurance that they can flexibly control, move and manage that data.

The inflection point for many comes when they realise that to address storage issues they must do more than just buy more hardware. Instead they need to consider applications and data – to allow them to scale.

CIOs continue to experience frustration in their attempts to control and efficiently manage data lifecycles. It’s expensive, too slow, too complex to manage, protect and secure. Yet at the same time, they need to derive maximum value from it. Moving their data into and out of the cloud proves unwieldy, particularly with the constant demands of the business and the shifting sands of technology specifications.

At the same time physical copies of data continue to grow with their own problems, not the least of which is a constant increase in capacity requirements, and difficulty in standardising on a true master copy.

These issues obstruct progress to flexible cloud models and get in the way of the benefits of truly virtualised environments.

So what’s the answer? It lies in challenging the traditional ‘infrastructure-centric’ view of data management. Instead, focussing on a ‘data-centric’ approach which doesn’t constantly require the purchase of new storage capacity. It stops the notion that a new box will solve the problem and even takes advantage of existing capacity and infrastructure, combined with the power of advanced data virtualisation strategies.

The focus should be on binding data with the application in the cloud as opposed to binding it with the underlying physical infrastructure. Quite literally, it requires thinking outside of the box.

By creating smart virtualised data, where in effect, within its own metadata the data knows where it originated i.e. from which application; at what time; at what level of protection and who had authorised access. The data ties directly to SLAs that direct what needs to happen throughout its lifecycle.

With smart data, businesses can accelerate the advantages of cloud models for rapid time-to-value, time-to-insight, time-to-market. Smart data means streamlined and demonstrable data agility through real-time access, regardless of location.

With virtualised smart data, everyone gets the data they need for their task at hand: the application developers, the software testers, the backup and disaster recovery team, the business analysts and executives as well as those responsible for archiving.  By working off virtualised data copies, multiple needs are served in parallel with near-instantaneous availability.

Most significantly, virtual smart data is mobile and free of infrastructure constraints. It moves quickly to and from the cloud wherever and whenever required. It can move seamlessly between data centres, among field locations and to individual users at the edge.

Smart virtual data changes the way in which data is viewed. It forever unshackles it from the hardware, while delivering a true copy to those who need it, when they need it. And it finally empowers companies to take full advantage of cloud computing at scale.

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