Cloud Expert Q&A: Providing Flexibility and Easy-Data Management in Cloud Environments

ThunderCat Technology has been doing business and providing IT solutions for the Federal government for over 10 years, specializing in cloud, cybersecurity, DevOps, data infrastructure, and so much more. MeriTalk sat down with ThunderCat’s Senior Cloud Architect Randy Pierce to get his insights and thoughts on where hybrid and multi-cloud environments are headed in 2020.

MeriTalk:

In your own words, how is ThunderCat revolutionizing the hybrid and multi-cloud environments?

Randy:

From a hybrid and multi-cloud environment ThunderCat is able to provide a best of breed solutions, leveraging our deep customer knowledge and experience to provide a fully integrated solution that best meets the customer’s needs

MeriTalk:

With the need for increased flexibility, we’re seeing more hybrid and multi-cloud approaches being adopted. Why are agencies moving towards these cloud approaches? What benefits are these approaches offering

Randy:

One of the main drivers of hybrid and multi-cloud approaches are Federal mandates. But, in my opinion, one of the biggest benefits for the agency are options and flexibility at a faster response rate. They don’t want to be tied to a proprietary solution. With choice and flexibility in these hybrid and multi-cloud environments, it allows agencies to quickly respond to important business or demands, so if something comes up rapidly, they can respond faster. Before, it would take weeks to months to respond to the request. These environments are essentially game changers from a business standpoint. If I can get results and data, and the data-driven report quicker, that’s meaningful to the business.

MeriTalk:

Following up on that question, the ease of data management from the cloud and back can often be an important factor for agencies. How are ThunderCat and NetApp providing agencies with increased flexibility and easy-data management within cloud environments?

Randy:

When you boil it down, the thing that is most important to an organization is the data and the application, and thus accessing that data. If we can facilitate and streamline that, it creates a huge value add-back to the customers. The data follows the workload – it’s not tied to a specific silo or vertical or little enclave that can be accessed by the entire organization, which is exciting, basically “freeing the data” from these vertical silos or stovepipes.

One of the key enablers for Data Fabric is NetApp SnapMirror. NetApp SnapMirror allows data to seamlessly traverse from a private cloud to public cloud or vice versa. It enables data consolidation and then with the Data Lake, we can start running analytics on it to produce actionable items that are intelligent, and that the agency can respond to.

MeriTalk:

Concepts such as Data Fabric and Data Lake allow data to reside on-prem or in the cloud, while also breaking down data silos. How are these concepts aiding Federal agencies in streamlining their cloud approaches?

Randy:

Before doing anything, we’re seeing a lot of agencies performing a data inventory, or data poll. They think they know where all of their data resides, but separate silos exist that are not being leveraged to their fullest. Once they consolidate and know how much data they have within an agency, it allows them to then run AI/ML. Data Lake and Data Fabric enables easy migration of the data and greater consolidation. Once you have the data centralized, agencies can develop actionable items.

MeriTalk:

Think of a time when an organization/agency adopted Data Fabric. How did that transition tangibly benefit the organization/agency?

Randy:

One customer in particular performed a data inventory and found out they were only accessing 70% of their data from their central databases, and therefore they were only receiving 70% of the benefits. Just doing that simple data inventory allowed them to get their arms around the entirety of their data.

Some of the biggest obstacles to implement any sort of Data Fabric or Data Lake are typically non-technical, they’re political. Agencies must ask themselves “there’s data here, so how do we get it all in one location, and make sure it is securely accessible.” That’s where the actual data analytics come into play. Once they have the data centralized, they have more meaningful analytics, which is key because you can only make decisions based on the data you have. With access to 100% of the data, you can now make actionable item requirements, which increases your confidence level on decision making. This allows you to provide accurate insight that will benefit the customers.

MeriTalk:

As more organizations move towards hybrid and multi-cloud environments, how do agencies balance security concerns while optimizing on-prem performance? And where do agencies feel the most pressure – the security or optimization piece?

Randy:

The quick answer is both – it’s a balancing act between security, and then optimization combined with security. You need to have both – you can’t have any hybrid or multi-cloud environment without having a security discussion. Security must be paramount. And then it’s just a balancing act between both. The pressure they face is equal part security as well as optimization, and they should be both built into any solution from day zero.

MeriTalk:

How does Data Fabric stand out from the crowd among cloud services? What opportunities does it provide agencies?

Randy:

One of the key factors when looking at NetApp is they’ve transitioned from a storage company to a data services company, which is a key pivot. They have created a foundational delivery architecture for workloads in their data. A lot of times what we’ll see with other providers is they either have workloads or data. With Data Fabric, you have the ability to combine both workload and data together. You have the data that is paramount and an application, and those two things are the lifeblood of the company. They want the application to be fully functional, available wherever, provide real time analytics with the proper security. With Data Fabric, that becomes a reality.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.

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