SoftNAS Cloud – NAS for Amazon Web Services

When an organization decides to move some or all of its applications out of its data center and into Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), one of the key decisions is how they will store and access data. While Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage (EBS) is an option it has some limitations that many data centers can’t tolerate or work around. As a result they have to search for a compatible alternative, often a scale-out file system. But even these are sometimes found to lack the enterprise capabilities that administrators are accustomed too. They need something that is a feature-for-feature replacement for their on-premise storage. SoftNAS thinks they have the answer.

The Elastic Block Storage Challenge

Amazon’s EBS presents several challenges to organizations as they begin to move their data centers into the Amazon infrastructure. EBS provides a very limited amount of IOPS performance and limited redundancy, since data is not easily replicated across availability zones. It also doesn’t provide the type of instant, space-efficient snapshots that administrators are used to. Instead EBS snapshots are relatively slow and expensive, since each snapshot is actually a deep copy of the EBS volume’s data.

While there are an increasing number of scale-out file systems for EC2, SoftNAS is taking a different approach. It is an Amazon Marketplace-ready NAS, based on the popular ZFS NAS solution that’s common today in many data centers.

Full-featured Data Protection for EC2

SoftNAS delivers full NAS features on Amazon EC2 in an EC2 software instance that an organization can have up in running in minutes. These are the features IT is accustomed to getting from the more traditional NAS appliance vendors. Capabilities include instant, space efficient, copy-on-write snapshots which provide a cost effective data protection strategy that data centers can count on. Another data protection capability of SoftNAS is to organize EBS volumes into RAID groups so that the outage of a single EBS volume does not mean a data loss.

Completing the data protection picture SoftNAS provides “block replication” in case of an availability zone outage. Data is replicated at the changed-block level between two SoftNAS nodes in different availability zones. Availability zone protection can be quite complex and SoftNAS removes all of that complexity.

Full-featured Performance for EC2

SoftNAS can also deliver the performance that applications need, up to 10,000 IOPS per node. RAIDed EBS volumes enhance raw EBS performance, then multi-tier caching provides the fastest possible data access to all cloud servers. This caching can include RAM based cache for bus speed access to commonly used data and optional Flash SSD for extending cache sizes. SoftNAS can leverage this Flash SSD area as a write-log cache that accelerates data write operations while ensuring transactional data integrity.

Storage Swiss Take

Once you’ve decided to move a data center, or just an application, to the cloud the last thing you want is to learn a whole new way of managing storage. This is especially true if getting the features you’ve become accustomed to increases complexity and puts data at risk. SoftNAS provides the comfort of a familiar GUI-driven NAS environment that allows you to focus on application deployment and operation instead of re-inventing your storage architecture. For organizations moving to the cloud it deserves strong consideration.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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