The cloud has radically changed the way businesses operate, giving organizations nearly unlimited freedom and flexibility to move and access data wherever they do business. However, migrating data around between cloud/multi-cloud environments and on-premises infrastructure isn’t as easy as it would seem. Today’s modern applications are powered by datasets that have grown in some cases to hundreds of terabytes. Transferring this data can take months using traditional services – even with fast online speeds.

As a result, high-performance, high-capacity data transport devices have a key role to play in enterprise IT environments – especially in data intensive fields such as research, oil and gas and film production. In these industries where large amounts of data or content are captured or generated in remote places, there is a real need for alternative ways to enable data mobility into, out of and across cloud and on-premises infrastructures.

When Internet Speed Isn’t Fast Enough

Data transport devices are a result of the success of cloud service providers (CSPs) to get enterprise customers to move most or all of their data to the cloud, and huge investments were made to upload large amounts of data to cloud environments.

According to IDC, in 2023 nearly 70% of all data stored in enterprise datacenters is stored on the cloud. (IDC, Worldwide Global StorageSphere Forecast, 2023-2027, Doc #US50673423, May 2023). The rise of the multi-cloud world has exacerbated the problem even further. Large amounts of data need to flow freely between cloud environments and on-premises data centers to meet agility requirements. In fact, CSPs have recognized this new business imperative, and many have stopped charging egress fees. But as capacities continue to grow, the ability to move data quickly between environments over online infrastructure is not currently sustainable and can be a major business inhibitor.

Additionally, today’s data-intensive applications in research, video production and machine learning have changed the playing field. These applications are now powered by petabytes of data, and Internet and network speeds just aren’t fast enough to move these huge amount of data quickly.

The Need for Better Data Transport Devices

New high-capacity data transport devices, like the new Western Digital Ultrastar® Transporter, provide a solution by allowing organizations to load large datasets onto a storage platform filled with high-performance NVMe™ SSD drives and physically transport it to another data center where it can be uploaded in a fraction of the time it would take to transfer over the Internet. Essentially, these solutions act as the world’s largest thumb drives – providing large capacity in a ruggedized, mobile footprint.

This type of solution is ideal for moving large capacities of data to the cloud, from the cloud and between cloud environments. These devices can also be used in edge cases where large volumes of data are generated in remote places on the edge of the network – such as a research station, an oil platform or on location filming. Moving petabytes of Geographic Information System (GIS) data from an offshore oil platform over satellite Internet would take months, for example. Instead, it makes sense to physically load the information on a data transport solution and physically move it back to a cloud or private data center, where data could be transferred in a matter of days.

But not all data transport devices are created equal. Here are three things to look for in a solution: 

1. High performance, high capacity

The most important characteristics to consider are how much data you can store on the data transport system and how fast you can move it on and off. No one wants to go back to the days where administrators carried boxes and boxes of tape and other external storage media around in the trunk of their cars. Fortunately, some data transport systems, like the Western Digital Ultrastar Transporter, have capacities of up to 368TB1 NVMe storage and include data retrieval capabilities that can enable data transfers approaching 100 TB per hour.

2. Ruggedness

A rugged form factor and footprint is also critical. The data transport device needs to be shock and drop tested to withstand the rigors of shipping services. Nothing would be worse than shipping a large amount of valuable data across the country only to have the data unreadable due to damage to the device. Also, look for a solution that can be mounted in a server rack for easy data transfer and can also be wheeled around in a hardened case, protected from bumps and harsh environmental conditions.

Western Digital’s Ultrastar Transporter comes with a ruggedized case with wheels for safe, easy transport. It also includes a rail kit as the device is rack-mountable when needed.

3. Security

Any time data leaves your data center – whether it’s over the Internet or wheeled out the door – you need to make sure it is secured. Data should be encrypted, of course, but also look for other security features such as physically secured ports, unlabeled packaging, designed for FIPS 140-2 Level 2 security and Trade Agreement Act (TAA) compliance.

Support Data Mobility Initiatives

Fast, huge-capacity data transport solutions are becoming an increasingly critical medium for modern data mobility initiatives. When online speeds are not fast enough, physically moving data in hardened storage enclosures becomes a more efficient option. Instead of taking week or months to transfer 100s of terabytes, loading the data on a transport solution could reduce the time required to move massive amounts of data to just a few days. Just make sure you have a solution that can handle the journey without putting your data at risk.

One terabyte (TB) is equal to one trillion bytes.  Actual user capacity may be less due to operating environment.

Scott Hamilton is senior director of product management for Western Digital.

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