Network Attached Storage (NAS) filers were originally designed to be a central repository that provides fast access to frequently changing files on primary storage. NAS also makes it simple to add more storage capacity over existing Ethernet networks. However, the ever-rising tide of unstructured data, combined with legal compliance requirements that force organizations to retain much of their data for longer periods of time, have led to storage sprawl. It’s forcing organizations to purchase more high performance storage to keep pace with the rising data flood, and continue to provide high performance access for “hot” (active) data sets. An additional problem is that a large percentage of the data most NAS systems store is cold data the organization no longer accesses, but it still consumes valuable primary storage space it needs for active data sets.
While newer scale-out NAS systems make it possible to scale local storage into the petabyte range, they do so with certain limitations such as greater complexity and higher costs. What organizations need is a way to scale-out existing and new NAS acquisitions without the additional expense and complexity of traditional scale-out NAS systems.
The Object Storage Alternative
Object storage addresses the various challenges of NAS limitations by providing much of the same flexibility of deployment and accessibility as traditional NAS and scale-out NAS systems. But at the same time, it uses much less expensive commodity disk to build out large, multi-PB storage repositories that can store an almost infinite number of files.
Object storage systems also have other advantages such as erasure coding, which is a highly efficient technology that protects data while minimizing the amount of disk storage it needs while also providing faster volume rebuild times. Additionally, object storage systems store data based on its metadata and content rather than by filename and directory location. This makes it easier to find particular objects months or even years later.
A Different Approach
Given the continuing need for NAS performance in dealing with “hot” data sets, a more cost effective method of scaling out a NAS system would be using a Software Defined Storage (SDS) solution that would allow you to effectively scale-out NAS capacity through thin provisioning of primary storage. It would provide support for the necessary NAS protocols, like NSF and CIFS/SMB, allowing you to couple a NAS system to scalable object storage that functions like an endless, but intelligent and resilient, JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) tier built on less expensive commodity hardware.
Additionally, it would also provide intelligent, policy driven life cycle management that automatically handles migrating “warm” and “cold” data from primary storage to less expensive tiers. “Warm” means there is a reasonable chance someone would access this data in the near future. “Cold” means data is inactive, no one needs to access now nor probably will again. But, in the event someone needs any of this “warm” or “cold” data, it will be instantly retrievable back to the NAS high performance, primary storage tier.
With flat IT budgets and the ever-increasing amount of unstructured data, as well as the high percentage of cold data consuming expensive primary storage on NAS systems, organizations clearly need a cost-effective way to efficiently store and manage all this data. A strong, flexible SDS solution that facilitates the use of thin provisioning and object storage with NAS systems will provide organizations the budget-friendly means to meet this difficult challenge.
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