Does NAS Still Make Sense? – Panzura Briefing Note

When network attached storage (NAS) first came to market its initial use case was to store user data, typically found in file server home directories. All users wanted to be able to do is store and share data between a few internal employees, all typically located in the same building. The ROI was also simple, could the organization replace enough file servers by implementing a NAS to cost justify the investment? The financial savings, plus the added capabilities offered by the NAS, made the decision a no-brainer for many organizations. But times and use cases change, and organizations are trying to decide if using NAS to store user data still makes sense.

Users Have Moved the Cheese

The challenge facing NAS is that the original use case changed. The user of 2017 looks nothing like the user of 1996. While users still want a place to store and share the data that they create, the users that they want to share that data with are often not in the same location. Organizations have employees around the world and they need to collaborate. They also want to have access to all of their data no matter how old it may be. Essentially they are asking IT to retain data indefinitely.

Without a solution from IT users will take matters into their own hands. Initially cross-site collaboration was addressed by emailing files to collaborators, which consumed even more disk capacity and created version control issues. Then users discovered the cloud and started using services like DropBox to distribute files, putting corporate data in the cloud, out of the purview of IT, and nothing was done to stop version control issues.

Panzura – A Sensible Alternative to NAS

Panzura’s mission is to transform the traditional enterprise storage model to the cloud and unlock the power of data. It has a distributed cloud file system that can leverage high-performance flash at each site and leverage cost effective back-end cloud storage.

Panzura uses the cloud to meet two challenges. First it leverages the cloud as a giant data distribution mechanism, making sure the right data is at the right location at the right time. When a user creates and modifies data in one site it is stored on a local Panzura controller. That data is then replicated to the cloud, where it is stored and then distributed to the organization’s other locations, based on policy. The cloud file system manages this data distribution. It also manages version control by implementing real-time file locking, so users can interact with the same files without fear of having changes overwritten.

Second, Panzura’s cloud file system uses the cloud to cost effectively meet the long term storage demand. The controllers, by policy, are set to only store active or near-active data, older data is stored exclusively in the cloud. Panzura calls this capability, “Freedom Archive”. It combines the benefits of high-performance local cache for high speed, on demand access to important data, with the economics and limitless capacity of cloud storage to make archiving of petabytes of data dramatically simpler, faster and less expensive.

Gearing up for 2017

Panzura, a veteran of the cloud wars, has seen success with its approach. It had record growth in 2016, including adding over 100 new enterprise customers and expanding its channel and alliance presence with cloud providers AWS, Google, IBM and Microsoft Azure. It added over 26 new petabytes of enterprise storage in 2016 and its hybrid cloud NAS, archive and collaboration storage products were deployed in over 33 countries across industries and governments.

Panzura started 2017 closing a $32 million dollar growth capital round. It will use the new financing to continue its transformation of on premise storage market to a cloud first storage model and to expand beyond sharing user data to now include support for high performance database and virtual workloads, big data analytics and IoT applications.

StorageSwiss Take

Vendors that are successful in IT stay focused on solving a distinct set of customer challenges while they gradually expand their reach and scope. Panzura subscribes to this model. It patiently carved out a leadership position in the collaboration market by creating a global cloud file system. It created its initial niche in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) market, expanding to more general purpose use cases. In the meantime, NAS vendors are retreating to more high end use cases like databases and virtual workloads. Panzura, with its new funding, set its targets on these use cases too. Soon there may be no safe place for NAS vendors to hide.

Eight 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 and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 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 the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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