What is Reliability – and Does the Cloud Have it?
Blame the genius that gave us the term “cloud” as shorthand for distributed computing. Clouds, in many languages and cultures, are equated with things ephemeral and states of mind that are dreamy or thoughts that are vague.
Well, cloud computing is none of those “cloud things.” It is the place where huge capital investments, the best thinking about reliability, and the leading developments in technology have come together to create a value proposition that is hard to ignore.
When it comes to reliability, as a distributed system – really a system of distributed systems – cloud accepts the inevitability of failure in individual system elements and in recompense, incorporates very high levels of resilience across the whole architecture.
For those counting nines (those reliability figures quoted as 99.xxx) there can be enormous comfort in the figures quoted by cloud providers. Those digging deeper, may find the picture to be less perfect in ways that make the trusty mainframe seem pretty wonderful. But the vast failover capabilities built into clouds, especially those operated by the so-called hyperscalers, is so immense as to be essentially unmatchable, especially when other factors are considered.
The relevance of this for mainframe operators is not about “pro or con.” Although some enterprises have taken the “all cloud” path, in general, few are suggesting the complete replacement of mainframe by cloud.
What is instead true, is that the cloud’s immense reliability – its ability to offer nearly turnkey capabilities in analytics and many other areas, and its essentially unlimited scalability – means it is the only really meaningful way to supplement mainframe core capabilities and in 2021 its growth is unabated.
Whether it is providing the ultimate RAID-like storage reliability across widely distributed physical systems to protect and preserve vital data or spinning up compute power to ponder big business (or tech) questions, cloud is simply unbeatable.
So, for mainframe operations, it is futile to try to “beat” cloud but highly fruitful to join – the mainframe + cloud combination is a winner.
Indeed, Gartner analyst Jeff Vogel, in a September 2020 report, “Cloud Storage Management Is Transforming Mainframe Data,” predicts that one-third of mainframe data (typically backup and archive) will reside in the cloud by 2025 — most likely a public cloud — compared to less than 5% at present – a stunning shift.
This change is coming. And it is great news for mainframe operators because it adds new capabilities and powers to what’s already amazing about mainframe. And it opens the doors to new options that have immense potential benefits for enterprises ready to take advantage of them.