Azure’s Storage Guru on Customer Adoption and File Data Migration

Interview with Karl Rautenstrauch, Principal Program Manager, Storage Partners, Microsoft Azure

Interview with Karl Rautenstrauch

Principal Program Manager, Storage Partners, Microsoft Azure

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Storage-Karl

You’ve been working in storage-related roles for many years not only at Microsoft but also NetApp and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Explain the evolution of enterprise storage management and technologies over the years?

KR: I’ve been working in this industry for 24 years and over all this time, the problems have stayed the same. Thankfully, the solutions have changed and become much more attainable for customers. One of the biggest problems has remained managing the always growing amount of data. Twenty years ago, there was a big push to use tools to remove stale content and store it on a lower cost platform where it is no longer polluting the production environment and complicating data protection. An unfortunate truth is, the more data you have to move between platforms, the more painful and risky the process becomes. The tools were designed to mitigate that, but they were very expensive and complex and the choices of where you could move the data were not that much less expensive – and still required data migration at the end of each platform’s life.

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In the last five years, two things have changed for the better: the rise of SaaS platforms and cloud storage. SaaS platforms offer less for customers to manage and the cost benefits of multitenancy. Cloud storage brings the end of data migration. End of life is the problem of the cloud provider and platform level migrations are now a thing of the past. These developments have really changed the game.

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What’s exciting for you about working in a partner-facing role at Azure?

KR: I have one of the best jobs at Microsoft. I get to see innovation across the industry, meet partners frequently and learn new ways to solve problems. This means I can bring the best available solutions to our customers to solve very real problems. I get to choose the partners from across the globe that I work with too. This has taken me to places where I had never imagined I would go, such as Romania.

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Why is storage a cool space right now?

KR: I always say that storage is not the sexy in IT but it’s never dull and it’s always in demand. Data is and will remain the lifeblood of any company in any industry. If you are adept at managing, protecting and sharing that data securely you are a hot commodity. Being a storage and data specialist is one of the best career decisions you can make. The same innovation we’ve seen in phones we’ve seen in storage. There is always faster, bigger and easier tech emerging in storage, such as–ways to get infinite copies of data to developers in seconds. I’m seeing an endless series of innovations that make it never boring.

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Let’s go back to Azure. What are some top challenges or barriers that enterprise customers have today in adopting cloud storage? How is Microsoft helping alleviate those pain points?

KR: In storage, it’s all about understanding the right platform to use for a particular application workload. It’s rarely easy. The only time it’s easy is when you select a service where there is no choice of storage like Azure SQL. But otherwise, you need to decide what remains on disk storage, what should be on shared file storage such as NAS in the cloud and what can move to object storage. That can be very stressful. And then you need to determine how long it will take to move data and afterward, verify that everything did indeed move – or did I miss an alert that something went wrong? Azure has built guidance for customers which clearly outlines our platforms capabilities to make it easier for customers to decide which platform to use. And we’ve done a fantastic job of solving how to move virtual machines and databases. Now, we’re offering simple automated solutions in the unstructured data management space so customers can embark on a risk free and simple migration. This is a very strategic initiative for us.

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You’re referring to Microsoft’s new program for file data migration, which has enlisted the partnership of a select group of ISVs including Komprise. Can you talk about the genesis for this program and how it will help customers?

KR: We are 100% customer driven. This program was born from customer conversations and escalations with moving large amounts of file data to Azure. The tipping point came about a year ago. We had a large strategic customer in the energy space and watched them struggle with a file migration, even with their massive and skilled staff. Throwing bodies at the problem didn’t make it go away. You need the right technologies. We chose to partner rather than build. We had existing relationships with best-of-breed companies like Komprise. The key thing to solve was what we in fact created–customers expect migration tools to be free.

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Through our partnership with Komprise, we can bring elastic data migration to our customers for free and meet their expectations for cloud data migrations.

Learn more about the Komprise for Azure File Data Migration program here and read Karl’s blog with the Azure perspective.

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What do you see as the market differentiation with Komprise?

KR: Ease of use equaling time to data. I get frustrated when I have to go deep into a manual. Not once did I need to open Komprise documentation or reach out to a peer at Komprise to get clarity on how to perform an operation. Within 15 minutes of using the software, I felt I could pass a certification test. That gave me comfort that our customers could be up and running quickly and wouldn’t have difficulty completing what is typically a time-intensive task.

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On a personal level, what do you most enjoy doing outside of work?

KR: I am an avid runner. I’m training for a 15K right now. I have three boys who span middle school to college. I love spending time with them. I’m an avid sports fan. I will watch any football or hockey game. I also love to build things, like messing around with home automation. Finally, I spend a lot of time researching off-the-grid living– for the next stage in life.

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