A free gateway on-ramp to Commoditized Cloud Storage

Is there a road to zero storage costs in the future? From witnessing the ongoing storage pricing wars taking place amongst the industry cloud service providers (CSPs), this doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. In fact, some industry observers believe that the large CSPs will eventually eliminate the cost of storing data in their facilities altogether, and make up for it by selling value-added services like virus scanning and data analytics services.

In order to exploit these cost savings opportunities, however, businesses need a way to seamlessly attach to the public cloud without having to undergo the burden of re-writing existing applications to interface with public cloud storage APIs (application programming interfaces). Cloud gateway technologies, like Panzura’s, can provide this on-ramp to the public cloud by attaching to applications on the front-end with familiar storage protocols like CIFS/NFS and doing the translation to public cloud storage REST and S3 protocols on the back-end.

Free Cloud Connectivity and Capacity

But Panzura is upping the ante by offering the virtual edition of their cloud gateway appliance for free as a software download. This is essentially a modified version of their gateway technology that will enable businesses to attach to public cloud providers, like Google, to move data into the cloud for archiving and DR purposes. On top of that, Google is offering Panzura users 2TB’s of free storage for one year.

Secure Cloud File Sharing

So what’s Panzura’s end-game in commoditizing their gateway technology? The company believes the real differentiation lies with their global file-locking capabilities. As file data is shared across multiple hybrid cloud computing environments, businesses need a reliable way to ensure that data consistency is maintained, data corruption issues are eliminated and collaborative activities are enhanced. To achieve this, Panzura’s offering ensures that file-writing privileges are assigned to only one user at a time.

This helps to maintain file data integrity and avoid data corruption issues. As importantly, the fact that data is centralized in the cloud, remains completely transparent to the end-user. As far as the local user is concerned, the data looks and performs like it is being accessed off a local storage resource. And it does all of this while reducing storage consumption and eliminating the need to increase network bandwidth.

Hybrid Cloud File Sharing

In fact, Panzura’s solution can be leveraged in combination with on-premises object storage systems, to support a private cloud storage deployment or be used in tandem with public cloud storage to enable hybrid cloud access. This flexibility is important as some businesses may have storage assets that they wish to repurpose across their private data centers. They may also have offices to support in far-flung locations that would get better file access response times by accessing storage from a cloud provider with a presence in their region.

One of the keys to making cloud based storage perform as fast, or faster than local storage, is how Panzura’s cloud file system architecture manages read and write access requests. First, all read and write requests are performed locally off the Panzura appliance. Secondly, from a write perspective, once a user checks in a file, all updates to that file are performed off the local appliance. Locking files ensures integrity on a global basis and is the only way to avoid data corruption issues that are inherent with file versioning. Since locking is accomplished via file metadata, file consistency is maintained globally in seconds instead of minutes.  And global deduplication and compression ensures that a minimal amount of data is transferred between sites.

Cloud Storage Efficiencies

Perhaps one of the most interesting value propositions that Panzura brings to the table is the ability it gives businesses to replace legacy NAS systems. For years, some organizations have deployed physical NAS storage systems into their remote offices around the globe. Invariably the utilization of these storage systems widely fluctuates. In other words, some NAS systems are barely used while other NAS systems get filled to the brim with data. The challenge is that there’s no simple way to share physical storage resources that are highly distributed. As a result, businesses can end up buying more storage than they really need.

Panzura claims their solution can be the cure all for this problem. Instead of provisioning storage across multiple sites, businesses can store their information in a private or hybrid cloud and dramatically reduce the amount of physical capacity that they consume. Since storage assets are “centrally” managed in the cloud, there is far less waste than would otherwise occur when they are “siloed” out across individual office locations. In some cases, Panzura has seen their customers reduce storage costs by a factor of four, all the while improving application performance user workflow and collaboration.

StorageSwiss Take

Businesses that have a need to share critical files amongst multiple users spread out across wide geographies may like what they see in Panzura’s Cloud FS File System offering. The Cloud FS value proposition is two fold. First, organizations can significantly lower costs by centrally managing storage resources in a private or hybrid cloud. Secondly, Cloud FS’s global file locking capabilities help to ensure smooth collaboration between users while maintaining data consistency and integrity. And now, between Panzura’s free edition of their virtual gateway software and Google’s 2TBs of free cloud capacity for a year, IT organizations can try out the cloud, with no risk.

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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