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What’s the Easiest Way to Start Using the Cloud? Three Cloud Onboarding Approaches

Your on-premises data center has served your company’s needs for years. It’s performant, it’s familiar, and it’s where you clock in every day. But what happens when management comes down with a directive that the company is going all in with the cloud? Suddenly you are facing the considerable task of moving as many of the company’s workloads as possible to the cloud—and as quickly as possible.

In this article we look at three different cloud onboarding methods and the supporting NetApp cloud solution for each of them: lift and don’t shift (Cloud Tiering service), lift and shift (Cloud Volumes ONTAP), and data migration/synchronization (Cloud Sync).

Lift and Don’t Shift: Cloud Tiering

In this onboarding method you do not touch your application layer. Instead, you simply extend your on-premises data center to the public cloud. In order to support this approach, NetApp’s Cloud Tiering service leverages FabricPool, a NetApp Data Fabric technology, to automatically identify and seamlessly tier inactive (cold) data from on-premises NetApp AFF or SSD-backed FAS clusters to low-cost object storage in the cloud — and back. 

You choose which volumes to tier, define the tiering policy to be applied to the selected volumes (with different policies to tier all inactive data, snapshots only, or entire volumes), and choose the target object storage provider. Generally available since June 2019, the Cloud Tiering service currently supports tiering data to AWS S3, Azure Blob and Google Cloud Storage object storage services and can manage multiple ONTAP clusters.

Once set up, ONTAP automatically tiers to the object store any data that reaches your predefined thresholds for inactive data, which is known as the data’s cooling-period. If it is detected that cold data on the cloud tier is being accessed, those blocks are automatically redefined as hot and moved back to the performance tier.

The advantages of “lift and don’t shift” onboarding supported by the NetApp Cloud Tiering service include:

  • NetApp customers continue to benefit in the cloud from NetApp’s built-in storage efficiencies.
  • Automated optimization of the workloads running on on-premises clusters frees up valuable space for additional workloads.
  • Zero change to the applications layer.
  • Being able to embrace a consumption-based and OPEX (versus CAPEX) model.
  • Centralized management and reporting across hybrid storage.
  • Reduced data center operating costs by saving on hardware, electricity and space.

Lift and Shift: Cloud Volumes ONTAP

In the “lift and shift” cloud onboarding approach, you shift your existing workloads to a cloud infrastructure without making any significant changes to the workloads themselves. To support this type of onboarding, NetApp offers Cloud Volumes ONTAP—an enterprise-grade data management solution that runs on cloud infrastructure in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP uses native cloud services for compute and storage (both block and object). Although Cloud Volumes ONTAP is tightly integrated with NetApp on-premises clusters, it is a stand-alone product that can be used by all enterprises, even if they are not NetApp customers.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP leverages NetApp’s SnapMirror® data replication technology to securely and seamlessly migrate workloads across complex hybrid and multicloud environments. Cloud Volumes ONTAP also provides automated data tiering as described above for the Cloud Tiering service as well as other storage efficiency features such as thin provisioning, deduplication, data compression, and compaction that can reduce storage footprints and costs by 50-70%. Cloud Volumes ONTAP also secures data with out-of-the-box encryption of data-at-rest as well as NetApp SnapLock® for cloud-based WORM (write once read many) data immutability.

The key enterprise use cases supported by Cloud Volumes ONTAP include:

  • File sharing that is accessible by any protocol (NFS, SMB/CIFS) and operating system.
  • Shared block storage using iSCSI along with all the leading data management features.
  • Robust, cost-effective backup and disaster recovery solutions.
  • Highly available unified storage, with zero data loss and recovery times of less than 60 seconds.
  • DevOps, with instant cloning (FlexClone®) of volumes for agilely spinning up and tearing down development, testing and staging environments.
  • Integration with Kubernetes to meet the persistent storage needs of containerized workloads, leveraging NetApp Trident.

Last but not least, NetApp Cloud Manager, a centralized control plane for the hybrid cloud, provides a single-pane frontend to monitor, administer, and orchestrate your enterprise-grade ONTAP data management solutions, whether on-premises or across multiple clouds—Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files included.

Data Migration: Cloud Sync

The migration of massive amounts of data can be a major obstacle in smoothly onboarding your company onto the cloud. To meet this challenge NetApp offers the Cloud Sync data service that lets you replicate and then automatically synchronize NAS data between any on-premises source and any cloud object or file storage target.

In addition to data migration and cloud onboarding, Cloud Sync supports a number of important enterprise use cases such as data transformation, data consolidation and collaboration, big data analytics in the cloud, data tiering and archiving, and more.

Establishing a Cloud Sync relationship between source and target platforms is a simple drag-and-drop operation. Once the source data has been converted to meet the requirements of the target platform, it is transferred securely and quickly. Your data is now fully available on both the source and the target so that you can get your data where and when you want, and in any format.

In short, Cloud Sync is seamless, simple, fast, reliable, secure, cost-effective, and scalable.


As your cloud use cases and maturity evolve, it’s good to know that there are different cloud onboarding methods to meet your objectives. These onboarding methods are by no means mutually exclusive and they can live comfortably side by side within your infrastructure architecture. All companies can benefit from Cloud Volumes ONTAP and Cloud Sync, while NetApp customers have the added benefit of Cloud Tiering.New call-to-action

Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist