“No one understands the cloud. It’s a [BLEEP] mystery.” —Jason Segel

Perhaps more than a few of us got a kick out of theFuture trailer from one of this summer’s blockbuster movies. In this clip, the cloud is the villain.

If your family is like mine, meaning not that tech savvy, so their only exposure to the cloud is limited to what’s available on their favorite Apple device, then, yes, the cloud may seem as vaporous as its heavenly counterpart.

But if you’re a tech-savvy CEO, CIO, application or data protection administrator, or business line manager, understanding the cloud and its potential value to your business has become critical. In fact, not understanding the cloud won’t be an option moving forward, which will hold true whether you’re in the IT business (like me) or a different industry altogether. We’re all on a journey, and the cloud will play a part in everything we do.

Let me explain.

Big Changes at Our (Virtual) Doorstep

Over the last few months, I wrote a three-part blog series that sparked strong interest amongst our readers. The series took a look at what life will look like in The Second Machine Age. Yes, enormous changes are at our virtual doorstep.

I wanted to look at the world our kids’ kids will live in, and how the flow and use of data will impact the world, transforming it into something that’s pretty much unrecognizable by the current generation of techno geeks and those before us—Me included.

I looked at just three example industries from a consumer’s point of view: healthcare, retail and transportation. However, similar changes are in store for every industry…education/academia, finance…you name it.

In fact, many of these changes are already taking place. Driver-less cars are expected to hit UK streets within six months, and self-parking cars are already in the queue by Toyota, BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and more.

On the healthcare front, we’re already tracking everything from heart rate, to calorie consumption, to sleep patterns and more, and the number of Fitbit-like devices is multiplying fast. Looking at the retail world, the concept of an “on-line mall” is driving changes in the retail processes and systems.

Businesses and individuals who stand still risk irrelevancy, or worse. In this world, data (or information) increases exponentially in value. In fact, for many organizations, it becomes their number-one asset.

In this world, applications are extremely agile; they’re always on (or should be) and they’re always connected. They are “born in the cloud” not in the data center; they’re managed in the cloud; and they’re protected across clouds.

The data (or information) these applications generate is different; it lives anywhere and everywhere… whether in the cloud under our control or hosted where it can be served up to anyone, anywhere, and at any time with the right permissions (hopefully).

In this world, metadata, or the information about our information, becomes important. It’s essential for analytics, tracking, correlating, sharing, data movement (between private and public clouds), data management, compliance, security, and data protection.

Basically, metadata, as a single source of truth, becomes the linchpin.

Adoption Comes in Waveswaves of change

Today, the majority of organizations still have an on-premise data center component. They’re virtualized. But they’re thinking of ways they can leverage a hybrid cloud to improve IT and (to a lesser degree) business processes. For example, they are using the cloud:

  1. As a tiered infrastructure to reduce CAPEX and OPEX expenses.
  2. As a smart cloud for application consistent disaster-recovery spin-ups—in other words, even if you run an application in a virtualized environment, you can actually use the data in the cloud as a disaster recovery solution.

But for many IT organizations, there’s also a strong element of fear of the cloud, specifically of business managers taking IT into their own hands and rolling their own applications in the cloud: “I fear that cloud will be done to me if I don’t do it to my business.” —Insert your favorite IT exec.

Sound familiar?

While I completely understand this concern, what’s more worrisome is the next wave of change. This is when the bulk of our applications are truly born in the cloud, when we’re generating lots of data away from the data center and we’re looking to the cloud to help with “small data sprawl.”

This is the world I wrote about in my series, and this is the world in which the cloud becomes pivotal. However, as with most good things (and “born in the cloud” being one of them), there are potential “gotchas” that could derail good business intentions if organizations aren’t careful.

Agility Is Paramount

What people love is the “just-in-time” data center that cloud produces. They love the utility of it; they love the cost-efficiency of it.

But what worries organizations is what happens when they put all their data in the cloud and things change? Cloud prices go up? Business strategies (yours or your cloud provider) change? Acquisitions occur? Etc.

When you own your own data center, it’s simply easier to do the migrations. However, if you don’t own any infrastructure, things can get a little diceyif you don’t give proper thought into planning, visibility and accountability.

That’s why my belief is that what customers really want is an organization that looks after their data loads and is able to deploy and re-deploy from their cold storage or storage of their choice. If that storage of choice is the cloud, then it allows them to move things around easily, transparently, and without obviating the business benefits of leveraging the cloud to full advantage.

We understand that customers want to:

  • Be able to use multiple clouds
  • Redeploy applications and data in the cloud and tier data as needed
  • To have visibility into their clouds to make sure their data is still going through it…just because you can’t see the box or touch it, you need to able to audit it as if were a physical box. Think Master librarian or single source of truth

Do we have the vision to make this happen?

Yes, without a doubt.

Already with technologies like EMC RecoverPoint and EMC VPLEX, as well as our continuum of data protection solutions and our protection storage architecture, we have the ability to provide high availability across clouds and agile protection wherever you’re data is… on-premise, in a virtualized environment or in a hybrid cloud…and wherever it’s going.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we get that.

It’s definitely going to be an exciting journey and we couldn’t be happier to be on this wild ride with you.

Guy Churchward

Guy Churchward

President, Core Technologies
Guy Churchward is President of the Core Technologies Division at EMC Corporation. He is responsible for a division that is redefining storage through a comprehensive portfolio of core storage solutions encompassing the award-winning VMAX, VNX, VNXe, XtremIO, VPLEX, and Data Domain technologies and a cutting-edge software portfolio that delivers simplified storage systems management, continuous availability, replication, backup, and archive solutions. He has more than 27 years of experience in the IT industry, with broad international experience that spans executive management, engineering, sales, marketing and business development capacities. He joined EMC in May 2012, when he served as Senior Vice President of Engineering for the Backup & Recovery Systems Division, before becoming Division President in October 2012. He was appointed to lead the Core Technologies Division in October 2014.
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