The Next Generation File Server

For years, IT professionals have struggled with managing file data. This dataset has become increasingly problematic, often filling up file servers and breaking data protection processes. In recent years, organizations have asked for the distribution of file data to remote office and mobile users. Cloud storage offers a potential solution, but enterprises need more than just a file sync and share solution that claims to be enterprise. They need a next generation file server. Companies like Nasuni are delivering a next generation file server which leverages an on-premises appliance and the cloud to provide a self-protecting, distributed file data storage resource.

The File Data Problem

Traditionally, file data came from office productivity applications (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) but now that data set also includes audio, image and video files. User data does not typically need to be on the highest performing storage, but its storage system needs to offer adequate performance, and maybe more relevant, it needs to scale to meet the unprecedented growth in file data.

Protection of file data is critical and challenging. The chances of a user needing a file restored because of an accidental deletion or overwrite of a file are not uncommon. File data is the largest data set in the data center, meaning high-capacity storage systems for both production and backup use cases. The number of files and total capacity put a strain on protection processes, and backup failure when protecting it is not uncommon.

File data also needs to be retained indefinitely. No user wants their data deleted to save capacity. While they all want IT to keep these files “just-in-case”, there is an increasing number of legitimate reasons for its retention, like legal hold and data mining. Ideally these files should be archived to a less expensive storage tier. The problem is that IT professionals often count on the backup process to be the archive, something it is not designed to be. The net impact of not managing file data is slower backups and lengthy searches to find data and even longer restores.

The Cloud Shortfall

Cloud storage was supposed to be the way out for IT professionals, but most solutions fall short. Cloud storage solutions typically solve one aspect of the file data problem, like file sync and share or cloud archive, few solve the production NAS issue and fewer still do it all. What the data center needs is a consolidated solution that provides file distribution, file archive, NAS consolidation and eliminates the need to backup file data. Essentially it needs a NAS designed for the next generation data center.

Nasuni A Converged Cloud Strategy

Nasuni’s Cloud NAS solution includes an appliance that is installed on-premises and acts as a large cache, making sure that the most active files are instantly available to those users. Data is first written to the cache and then quickly replicated to the cloud. Storage administrators can trigger snapshots of data stored in the cloud an unlimited number of times based on a schedule they define. The chosen cloud provider will typically replicate that data to at least one other location. The combination of snapshots and replication eliminate the need to backup file data. Unlimited snapshots can provide a point in time recovery, and cloud replication provides protection from a disaster.

The Nasuni Cloud NAS also provides distribution of data between remote offices and, with a Nasuni client, mobile users. The solution can make sure that a traveling user’s data follows them between offices and that a road warrior always has access to the data they were working on even when not connected.

StorageSwiss Take

File data is a thorn in the side of IT. It is data that is important to the users, but not necessarily critical to the enterprise. It also typically consumes more capacity than mission critical applications and causes more problems for the data protection process. Shifting the problem to a cloud-based solution is an ideal way to solve the problem if problems with the cloud can be addressed. Solutions like Nasuni eliminate file server sprawl, data distribution problems and file data protection problems.

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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Posted in Briefing Note

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