The VMware File Services Problem

One of the challenges facing virtualized environments, especially hyperconverged ones is how to provide file services to their users because after virtualization users still need to share data. One method is to select a storage system for the virtual infrastructure that is in itself a network attached storage system (NAS). This system will host the virtual machines and provide file services to the users. But if the environment went hyperconverged or with a block storage system, then IT will have a file sharing problem. This is an issue VMware users face.

The most common workaround to the VMware file services problem is to create a virtual machine running Windows Server that acts as a file server. For Windows users, a virtualized file-server solves much of the problem, but it may be a challenge for Linux or Mac users. It also is overkill to dedicate an entire Windows VM to file-serving. Also the file server may not have the same robust features that a real NAS would.

Another common workaround is a freeware or open source NAS software solution. While these solutions are lighter weight than a full Windows server they often sacrifice some Windows compatibility. There is also a concern over support, especially for a Windows “mostly” data center.

Even the NAS as the primary storage solution has issues. First, it simply is not an option if the organization is heading down the hyperconverged path. Second, modern NAS solutions are typically overkill for user to user file sharing.

Finally there is the broader issue of that most NAS/file-servers don’t do what users want them to do anymore. Allow them to get to their files from anywhere on any device. Instead of leveraging the cloud for data distribution and data protection, most NAS systems totally ignore it, refusing to admit it is even an option.

Click here to watch our on-demand webinar, “Do Hyperconverged Systems Need File Services?” We discuss the various challenges with providing file services to virtualized environments and how the cloud may be an option to overcome them.

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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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2 comments on “The VMware File Services Problem
  1. dansnetapp says:

    Good article. I think your last point about integrating with the cloud or having cloudy like services is the one thing that continues to bafle me. It always seemed to me that they NAS manufacturer that pulled that off would have a great competitive edge, but I have not seen it in the mainstream. I am not sure if they view the cloud as competition or if it’s some technical reason but it’s to bad because you are correct in saying, that’s what consumers want. It’s certainly what I want.

  2. Jason Montgomery says:

    Or you could use the Nexenta plug in for file services.

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