The Troposphere

Sep 22 2017   8:13PM GMT

In cloud migration services, what’s old is new again

Trevor Jones Trevor Jones Profile: Trevor Jones

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Despite all the promise that the cloud will usher in the next wave of technical innovations, a very traditional distribution model has taken a central role for cloud providers.

With IBM Cloud Mass Data Migration, Big Blue is the latest large-scale vendor to lean on shipping companies to help get enterprises to its public cloud. The data-transfer appliance is similar to offerings from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, and it shows that even with advancements in networking and the proliferation of cloud facilities around the globe, snail mail is still the quickest way to get large amounts of data from here to there.

Enterprises may encounter a significant learning curve to adapt to a public cloud provider’s platform, so typically they map out a slow, deliberate move to the cloud that takes months to complete. With that kind of lead time, direct connections can be a viable option if a company’s private data center is close enough to the fat pipes that provide sufficient bandwidth for a cloud migration strategy.

But if there are issues with network reliability or concerns about moving data over the public internet, these shippable boxes can be a better option. And as these data transfers swell into the petabytes, enterprises simply want the fastest means to get that data out of their data center.

Every hyperscale cloud provider needs to offer this physical cloud migration service to satisfy enterprises’ large-scale cloud migrations demands, said Rhett Dillingham, an analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.

“Magnetic disc storage is so much more dense and efficient than network over the Internet or even direct connections,” he said. “It’s going to be years to decades before [snail mail] is surpassed by networking.”

The specs on these devices aren’t all that different. With 120 terabytes of storage, IBM’s device offers more capacity than AWS but less than Google. It’s shipped in a rugged container and IBM says the entire process of ordering the device, uploading the data, shipping it back and offloading it to its cloud can be done in under a week. Currently limited to the U.S., there’s a flat fee of $395 per device, which includes shipping costs.

The concept between these services certainly isn’t novel, as companies have shipped data on physical devices for decades for archival or disaster recovery. AWS was first on the market with Snowball in 2015, and its advancements portend a future where these boxes are more than just a faster means to backup data. Snowballs can be used to ship data between a customer and Amazon’s data centers, and the latest iteration, Snowball Edge, includes limited compute and networking capabilities so it can be used as an edge device.

It’s not surprising that IBM, which has shifted its cloud strategy to focus on platform as a service and AI with Watson, is not pitching its device as a means to clear out space in enterprises’ data centers and act as a surrogate for cold storage. Instead, Big Blue wants users to get as much data on its cloud as quickly as possible, so they can run advanced analytics.

That also fits nicely with IBM’s partnerships with VMware and SAP, with the expectation that many large enterprises will use this device to speed up those data-heavy migrations to the public cloud.

So whether it’s for moving legacy workloads or taking advantage of advanced cloud services, expect postal services to be an integral part of enterprises’ cloud migrations for the foreseeable future.

Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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