We all learned Newton’s 3rd law at school. But how often do we recognize it happening to us? When we’re walking on the street, the thought of the pavement pushing back on every step never occurs to us. But for much larger efforts, like moving your company file data to the cloud, those opposing forces can be far more appreciable – and powerful.

Yet, as businesses around the world look to phase out legacy data centers and modernize their operations, cloud migration is becoming inevitable. As you contemplate this, you may feel caught between two forces: the organizational mandate to move “everything” to the cloud and the gravitational pull of petabytes or exabytes of data, supporting dozens of applications and workflows, anchoring your apps to a perpetual on-prem future. Meanwhile, your on-prem applications are the result of years and decades of investment. Some are business critical and must be always kept available. There are reasons to be nervous about a migration.


Fabrice Gourlay, VP Sales EMEA, Qumulo

Cost predictability

Imagine paying upfront for a truck rental only to receive a surprise bill for miles driven! For many, the cost of running workloads and storing data in the cloud is hard to prepare for simply because 1) it may not be clear what you will be billed for, and 2) cost-modeling for a single application is difficult. The problem is compounded if you are dealing with multiple on-prem workloads simultaneously. For example, you’d have to calculate your spend for data-at-rest, sustained throughput, and transactional costs while ensuring you’ve selected the right tier for a specific workload.

Not only that, but file storage in the cloud can be 10x to 20x more expensive than on-prem for the same use-case. For workloads that may be challenging to accurately model, establishing a higher performance tier upfront as a buffer can become expensive if overestimated, as you won’t be able to come down to a less expensive tier in the future. Lastly, not being able to “guardrail” your costs with the help of data visibility or optimization tools adds another element of unpredictability for your monthly invoice.

Management Complexity

New tools always come with a learning curve. But when your margin for error is small and the chances for something to go wrong are high, few will sign up for change. Turning to the cloud for file storage means your teams will have to contend with unfamiliar management interfaces, feature disparities, and completely different toolsets requiring more than a steep learning curve. Team structures need to be re-envisioned, with new roles and workflows re-architected, mindsets shifted, and third parties often involved for migration. With so many moving pieces all at once, something is bound to go wrong along the way. It’ll just be a matter of when and where. Those looking to hedge their bets with a hybrid model will still deal with these issues.

Massive Data Sets

IDC estimates the global datasphere will grow to 175 zettabytes in just a couple of years. As data piles up, it makes sense to work with the cloud, but getting your mountain of data there is another story.

You might first look at some inexpensive options to migrate data and quickly realize it’s too slow. Yet, faster tools will cost you more and may still take considerable time depending on how much data you must move. On top of that, even if you’re able to spend the time and money to move all that data over, many of today’s cloud-native file storage solutions have limitations with scale. For example, if you have multiple petabytes of data to move to the cloud, but limited to 100TB per volume, migrating all that data over will also mean more of the complexity mentioned above to manage the same amount of data in the cloud.

Skills Gap

People are the key to successful transformational change. But what if there’s simply not enough proficient workers to meet the demand for cloud skills? Some IT leaders are calling this shortage an “existential crisis”. A recent survey1 by IDC reported 70% of respondents are experiencing a cloud skills gap in their organization with nearly half saying it’s “severely impacting” their delivery, performance, and growth. Nearly one in ten survey respondents admitted to fearing for their company’s very survival.

Like most IT leaders, you may be faced with a dilemma; upskill your existing workforce or outsource/hire for new talent? While upskilling allows you to preserve the human capital you acquired and retained through the pandemic, it will take time and money to reskill them.

On the other hand, outsourcing to an MSP or recruiting a new team might accelerate your in-house cloud proficiency and help you execute on your strategy faster. However, involving 3rd parties or building new teams can lead to interdepartmental tension, operational complexity, and institutional resistance. On top of that, it can get pretty pricey.

The right approach for your organization may not be “either/or”, but more of an integration. Some new talent will be needed to collaborate with existing staff. Fostering this partnership allows your organization to benefit from the institutional knowledge of veteran workers while instilling new cloud proficiencies, strategies, and mindsets across the team.

Control, security, and compliance

Transferring control and residence of your data from owned infrastructure to a 3rd party vendor may feel like sending your child away to boarding school. Not having physical control over your data can raise security worries, especially now that you’re having to re-architect years of judiciously planned and executed security and governance policies. You now have to trust (and verify!) that your cloud vendor has a hardened security posture that meets or exceeds your business requirements. You may also be in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare or financial services (or any vertical in the EU for that matter), requiring you to follow strict rules and policies when it comes to data storage and management.

In the U.S., regulatory frameworks like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provide strict requirements to prevent the exposure or theft of Protected Health Information (PHI). The onus is on you to ensure all PHI is being stored on a HIPAA-compliant solution. In the E.U., General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws require you to maintain full control over how and where someone’s personal data is used.

When it’s in the cloud, data locality, ownership, and control must be clearly defined in contractual agreements, consistent with applicable laws, between you and the vendor. Many cloud platforms offer compliance certifications and attestations for multiple laws, standards, and frameworks, but it’s still on you to verify the security and integrity of your systems and data when you move to the cloud.

Does file have any place in the cloud?

Too costly, too complex, too large, no cloud proficiency, and loss of control — is file data forever grounded in the core data center? Will file-based workloads remain only on prem for the foreseeable future? Not a chance. In due time the hurdles we listed out here will be lowered and more file-based workloads will find a second home in the cloud.