4 August 2017

Cloud Data Management Solutions

Emerging Challenges

Companies are daily faced with new and varied challenges that tend to call into question the status quo of the systems that support them. One of the critical business systems is data management systems. It is in them that the history of the business is written and through which one tries to respond in a fast and objective way to the needs of the clients. It was (and remains) common practice that their choice is a time-consuming and thoughtful process because, as a rule, one tends to opt for solutions that are quite robust and scalable to allow some medium-term relief. However, these solutions bring high costs, both at acquisition and maintenance level, directly impacting the TCO (total cost of ownership) of the systems that are inherent to it. On the other hand, although scalable, these solutions have their physical limit derived from the hardware that was purchased, even if purchased with a large margin of scalability. Another of the very relevant topics whenever we talk about hardware is related to its availability, maintenance and agility of configuration. In each of these themes, there is always associated a huge operational complexity, a good slice of the budget and an interval of time that can sometimes imply a significant increase in time-to-market whenever it is necessary to reconfigure the systems to meet new challenges. At the same time, it is mandatory to take into account that companies must have disaster recovery and business continuity plans, plans whose implementation can become quite costly, as much as the value that the business contributes and of the systems that support it.

Solutions

Key players in the data management systems market realized the great opportunity they had ahead of them because of the huge potential that cloud systems have. The first steps were taken some time ago with the introduction of the concept of "Software as a Service" (SaaS) and expanded to the concepts of "Platform as a Service" (PaaS) and "Infrastructure as a Service" (IaaS). For the first time, they have the opportunity to offer a set of services where the win-win relationship between customer and supplier is taken for granted and quite visible. The customer of a solution of this type will have available several features that will provide a more accurate and less costly management of their systems. Nowadays, any of the market key players (Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, Google, IBM) offers the following set of functionalities:

> Creating databases in a short time interval (sometimes an interval of less than 30 minutes is sufficient)

> Resizing the storage capacity of databases and / or systems allocated in a simple and immediate way

> Resizing of the processing capacity of the databases and / or systems allocated immediately or parameterizable by time and / or time intervals

> Access to a graphic console where it is possible to do all the management of the various contracted modules

> Several modules out-of-the-box for handling and managing data:

> Business Intelligence

> Data Warehousing

> Big Data and Analytics

> Internet of Things

> Digital Marketing

> Mobile Integration

> E-Commerce

> ERP

> High Performance Computing (HPC)

> Cost control associated with the concept of paying user, only what is consumed is paid (whether is storage, processing capacity, availability of infrastructure, etc.)

If we see each of these modules as an independent supplier, we clearly realize that their integration will be a highly complex problem and that their management will bring high costs. It is, therefore, evident the set of advantages that these integrated systems bring to companies, both in terms of agility and speed in delivering the necessary modules, in their management and in their cost, that is always accounted by the modules contracted and the capacity processing available.

This way, it becomes quite simple to bet on new modules / technologies without the burden of the initial investment of acquisition. We simply use the required module and we are only charged for its use. Prototyping has never been easier!

In these systems, all situations occurring at the hardware level are entirely the responsibility of the suppliers and completely invisible to the customers. They are responsible for ensuring contracted availability and robustness.

Security: the elephant in the room

One of the big issues that is always present when we talk about cloud systems is security. Probably because we are not able to see and access data centers where our services are hosted and that causes a sense of insecurity about cloud systems. There are always a set of pertinent questions that are posed:

> Who manages access to the various applications and modules?

> How is access managed?

> How is my data protected?

> Since systems are in the cloud, how are communications between systems / clients communicating with my system protected?

> What happens in the case of an attack? How can I inhibit access and invalidate access?

As relevant issues, they can also be applied to on-premises systems, which makes the issue of cloud systems security a false issue. The access and management controls, the masking of data, are all based on the same algorithms and protocols that exist in the on premises systems. It is necessary to demystify this topic because it remains one of the obstacles to change to systems in the cloud. By no means, a well-configured cloud system is not less secure nor more exposed than a system on premises.

Transition

We can think in a very naive way that the total migration to this type of systems is peaceful and consensual but in the real world the existing feeling in who manages the current platforms of the companies is not well like this. If it is relatively simple to perceive the advantages inherent in this type of systems for a starting company that starts with a green field solution, it is already more complicated when we are analyzing companies that are at cruising speed and where their systems are a vital part of their operation. To deal with this situation, the generality of the existing situations allows the creation of hybrid environments where several existing systems are maintained on premises in conjunction with new systems in the cloud. There are already several mechanisms that allow its integrated management and synchronization. This kind of management in a hybrid environment is a great catalyst for the total migration of systems to the cloud and a guarantee that this migration will not be done in an abrupt and disruptive way that can cause damages to the organizations.

Conclusion

The strong bet that the main players of the market are making in this technology clearly points out that this will be the future for Data Management Solutions.

We can clearly say that investing in Cloud Data Management Systems is a wise choice, both for the reduction and control of operating costs, and for the flexibility and robustness they make available in a simple way.

 
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    Miguel Semedo
Specialist Consultant
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