Lessons Learned From The Nirvanix Demise: The Pain Of Migrating Data

Migrating Data From A Failing Cloud

Migrating data between clouds is a real challenge, especially when the data's owner and its partners are under the gun. And that was the case when cloud storage technology developer Nirvanix in mid-September suddenly warned customers it would shut down.

Nirvanix told customers all data would have to be migrated off Nirvanix-based clouds by the end of September, although that deadline was delayed to late October. That, along with Nirvanix's Oct. 1 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, sent partners scrambling to help customers migrate data to other clouds. As of this article's publication date, that Oct. 1 Chapter 11 application is still tied up in court as creditors negotiate the terms of the bankruptcy and potential buyers consider their options.

"There are a ton of hidden costs," said Jamie Shepard, regional vice president of Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider.

Here's a look at some of those costs.

Where To Go?

Customers have a lot of choices about where their data can be migrated, but the decision might have to be made quickly.

For customers in a hurry, contracting space with a public cloud is much faster than deploying a public cloud. Public cloud providers like Amazon have the capacity in place to take large data stores with little advanced notice. However, for sensitive data, or data for which performance is an issue, a public cloud may not be the first choice.

For solution providers, the Nirvanix demise points to the need to have relationships with multiple cloud storage providers, both public and private. That will help provide alternatives to customers who may not have the time to develop those relationships on their own.

Is The Bandwidth Available?

Many of the customers who used Nirvanix technology for their cloud storage requirements, especially some of the nation's top media companies such as Fox or NBCUniversal, stored multiple petabytes of data in those clouds.

Migrating multiple gigabytes of data is difficult enough. Petabytes is a whole new level. Few cloud providers have wide enough "pipes" to push that amount of data from one cloud to another. Cloud providers and solution providers have to prioritize:

-- What data absolutely must be migrated regardless of cost?

-- What data can be more easily pulled from other sources, such as secondary backups?

-- Can the migrations be staggered so that one company does not hog all the bandwidth for less-important data at the expense of the mission-critical data of other customers?

Tool Box

Tool Box

What's In Your Toolbox?

Having the right tools is critical in migrating data while under a tight deadline.

There are tools available from companies like Panzura and Attunity that specialize in migrating data between different cloud vendors, and many cloud providers have their own tools and inside expertise to manage the migration, which cuts down on solution providers' headaches.

And there's one tried-and-true technology to keep in the back pocket just in case: Have that data backed up to an appliance, or even to tape, and then take the device to the next data center.

Of course, even before a company like Nirvanix, companies should have their data backed up to a second source just in case it becomes unavailable. Shame on customers and partners who did not have an extra copy of that data.

What Are The Opportunity Costs?

Migrating huge data stores under an extremely tight deadline is no easy task and involves huge opportunity costs for customers and their channel partners.

The primary cost is people. Someone, and usually many expensive someones, has to drop everything else s/he is doing to get the data moving. That not only means other projects might be delayed but also the work involved in the migration, depending on how contracts are written, might not be billable, making the job a temporary loser in terms of revenue and profit.

Other potential opportunity costs include having to beg, borrow or purchase new tools to handle the migration. And, in a case like that of Nirvanix, training on those tools may need to be done on the fly.

Image Is Everything

Even if the migration is successful, if the data owner's customers find out there was a problem, or potential problem, getting access to that data, its business image could suffer.

Sure, there are excuses: "It was Nirvanix's fault" or "They didn't give us enough advance warning." But that does not fly. The owner of the data, or the partner entrusted with ensuring that data is safe and available as promised, is the company that will suffer the black eye as far as clients are concerned. Especially in cases where the name of the cloud storage provider is not even part of any conversations, as often happens with service providers that wrap multiple vendors' services under an umbrella brand.