In general, IT organizations have been conditioned to think that the only way to obtain higher storage performance and to gain additional storage capacity is to periodically upgrade their storage infrastructure. While storage system upgrades can provide a boost in performance and capacity, it typically comes at a high cost both in terms of capital outlays and the man hours expended planning and implementing new arrays. Moreover, it can be a highly disruptive process that is often fraught with risk.
Meeting IT Storage Mandates
Fortunately there are solutions available today that enable IT organizations to increase storage performance non-disruptively without resorting to costly storage system refreshes. And perhaps more interestingly, some of these offerings even provide a seamless way to leverage the low cost of cloud storage. These offerings can help storage planners meet their dual mandate of delivering high storage performance to local applications while lowering the cost (both operational and capital) of storing data. One such technology that helps enable these capabilities is the “Cloud NAS” solution from Avere.
Edge Filer Powered
Avere Systems pioneered the “Edge filer”, an idea that is simple yet elegant. As an alternative to deploying ever larger NAS architectures to gain additional performance, the Edge filer functions as a “go between” by sitting in front of an existing NAS system(s) to directly service read and write I/O requests from end-user workstations and application servers. Typically an Edge filer is configured with SSD and high performance SAS storage resources which are made accessible via an NFS or CIFS mount point. There is no change to the user experience as access to data continues as before, via the usual NAS protocols.
By functioning as the storage performance tier, the Edge filer on average will offload storage read requests from the legacy NAS by a factor of 50:1. So only 2% of all storage I/O requests have to go back over the wire to the existing NAS system for data access. Write requests can also be accelerated provided the Edge filer is in a high availability cluster of at least 3 nodes. In a clustered configuration, when an application makes a write request, the Edge filer immediately sends back an acknowledgement and then asynchronously writes the data back to the storage repository (existing NAS) to maintain data consistency.
The net effect is that storage I/O intensive environments, like virtualized server infrastructure and virtualized desktops (VDI), are able to benefit from dramatically accelerated applications. And by offloading existing NAS systems from managing the vast majority of storage I/O requests, organizations can repurpose these assets to function as a capacity tier, or “core NAS”, and thus extend their useful life.
Performance And Capacity Separation
From a high availability and scalability perspective, Edge filers can start out in a 3-node configuration and fan out to as many as 50 nodes in a single cluster. This provides organizations a way to start out small but have the ability to massively scale as their application infrastructure grows. What’s more, all the RAM, SSD and SAS resources in an Edge filer cluster are shareable across the entire cluster. So users will see linear performance scaling as they add nodes. This “Edge-Core” architecture helps satisfy the need for very low latency, high performance storage access on the “edge”, where applications live, while enabling organizations to protect and secure data very cost effectively in the “core” data center environment on legacy NAS storage. In short, the Edge Filers are optimized for performance by utilizing SSD while the core filers are optimized for capacity by leveraging cost effective high density disk drives.
As stated earlier, however, organizations need a way to continue to drive down the cost of storing their business information. With data growth rates showing no signs of abating, organizations may want to consider storing their inactive data sets in secure cloud storage repositories. After all, with the major cloud service providers (CSPs) engaging in a “race to the bottom” to offer cheaper and cheaper cloud storage space, this may be a viable way to satisfy business demands to archive information long-term without breaking the bank. The latest technological innovation by Avere which allows businesses to exploit low-cost cloud storage is their “Cloud NAS” offering.
Avere’s Cloud NAS contains all the embedded functionality of Edge filer technology but also incorporates the application programming interfaces (APIs) to attach to public cloud storage resources like Amazon’s S3. In addition, Cloud NAS utilizes a global namespace (GNS) so that all the available storage resources can be managed as a single pool – whether it’s Edge filer storage resources, legacy NAS storage assets and/or private and public cloud object storage space.
By delivering all these various storage services under one storage management framework, Cloud NAS makes it very simple for organizations to mix and match storage repositories based on the attributes of the data. For example, data that requires ultra-high performance can be serviced up by SSD while inactive data can be placed on high density drives residing in the core filers or out on low-cost cloud “object” storage. Importantly, all the pooled storage capacity is completely abstracted from a user perspective. All the end-user will see is their normal NAS directory tree structure with all their folder and file names.
Private/Public Cloud Capacity
As the diagram below depicts, the Cloud NAS can be implemented in a high-availability configuration (highly available cluster up to 50 nodes) and placed close to the application server environment to provide very low latency and high performance read/write I/O storage access. As in the Edge filer configuration, data may be stored on legacy NAS assets (bottom right portion of the diagram) but in addition, businesses can leverage object storage solutions to attain even higher storage efficiencies.
As Storage Switzerland has covered in past articles, object storage is well suited for storing large unstructured data files like streaming video, rich multimedia, images, user files and machine sensor data. Now through Avere’s integration with Cleversafe’s and Amplidata’s object storage platforms, IT storage architects can build a private cloud storage solution (lower center) which integrates an object storage service in a primary and/or secondary data center location and centrally provide global access to this repository via the Cloud NAS global namespace.
Likewise, organizations can opt to connect with object storage services offered by providers like Amazon. Cloud NAS is fully S3 (Amazon’s Simple Storage Service) compatible so data can be stored in the Amazon cloud to give businesses a way to efficiently secure data on low-cost cloud storage in a secondary or tertiary facility. What’s more, to help minimize cloud storage consumption, data is first compressed before it is stored on cloud storage and for heavily modified data, Cloud NAS supports over-writes and will only send the last update out to the cloud. Furthermore, IT administrators can granularly export data to S3 at a file, folder or subdirectory level.
To gain even higher storage efficiencies, Avere’s Cloud NAS will also provide integration with Amazon’s Glacier service. Glacier is essentially an archive like offering from Amazon. It can be used to store information that is rarely accessed and allow organizations to store vast amounts of data at approximately 67% less than the cost of S3. One of the typical challenges, with using Glacier, however, is that when data needs to be recalled, it often has to be done in bulk, which can result in long retrieval times and higher recall fees. Avere’s Cloud NAS remedies this issue by providing IT administrators with a pre-viewable catalogue of all the data in the Glacier archive. Individual files or folder can then be selectively imported from Glacier to S3, saving organizations the time and money from having to do a full-blown import of all their data residing in Glacier.
But cloud security remains a major concern for many organizations. Once business data is stored with a cloud provider, how vulnerable is it to being hacked or pilfered? Avere’s Cloud NAS addresses this issue by utilizing full AES-256 bit encryption for data at rest in the cloud. Furthermore, encryption key management is completely handled by the on-premise Avere Cloud NAS so administrators don’t have to worry about manually filing away keys or be concerned that the provider will somehow gain access or be forced by court order to divulge the information.
Granular Data Movement
In addition to security concerns, many organizations have limited network bandwidth connections. For these companies, moving data to the cloud may require purchasing additional bandwidth from their telecommunication provider and/or upgrading their networking infrastructure to accommodate cloud data movement. Cloud NAS makes the “on-ramp” to consuming public cloud storage capacity less onerous from a networking perspective. Through its “FlashMove” software management tool, data can be gradually moved over time, out to cloud storage resources so that other forms of network traffic are not disrupted during the migration. Likewise, the FlashMove technology can be used to migrate data out of the cloud. If there is a need to move data from S3 to the core NAS, an administrator can initiate this movement with just a few clicks of a mouse.
In addition, FlashMove allows file folders and directories to be moved between any storage resource across the global namespace. For example, if an administrator wants to move a directory residing in local NAS storage out to the cloud, they can use FlashMove to seamlessly migrate the information on-the-fly. And since the GNS supports multi-write functionality, a write operation can still occur even if this information is in the process of being migrated to another storage resource; the GNS will simply ensure that locally written data is echoed to the targeted migration destination.
For those business data assets that require the replication of data to alternate data center locations, Cloud NAS utilizes a software technology called “FlashMirror”. With this tool, system administrators can choose select directories or subdirectories to replicate data for offsite protection.
For years, IT organizations have been continually asked to do more with less. But the problem is, how do you squeeze blood out of a stone? With soaring data growth rates and more demands being placed on existing storage assets by data intensive systems like data analytic applications and virtualized server infrastructure, something has to give. Avere’s Cloud NAS solution may just be the proverbial godsend that many IT organizations have been looking for.
In summary, there are four primary benefits that Cloud NAS brings to the table:
- Vastly accelerated performance – typically a 50x performance increase (while repurposing an existing NAS).
- Lower costs – since 98% of data requests are serviced by Cloud NAS, organizations can often consolidate multiple racks of storage into a much denser disk footprint utilizing high capacity disk drives.
- WAN Efficiency – Since only 2% of data requests ever have to go back over the wire to access data, core filers can be placed in remote locations for centralized management and DR without a need to configure additional network bandwidth.
- Easy to manage tiered storage – organizations can mix and match storage from any onsite or offsite storage repository and stitch it all seamlessly together through the Avere global namespace. This enables massive storage scalability without increasing management overhead.
Since Avere’s Cloud NAS can start out with 3 nodes to provide high availability and accelerated storage I/O for both reads and writes, organizations can start out with a relatively modest investment and scale out as additional performance is needed. And by using a global namespace, virtually any storage service, whether on premise, or in the cloud, can be leveraged to help enable maximum storage efficiencies. The combination of these capabilities can enable IT storage planners to meet the dual mandate of providing high performance at a lower cost without resorting to supernatural acts.
Avere Systems is a client of Storage Switzerland