Many years ago when the NAS market was born, it was very simple to distinguish between NAS systems and SAN systems. SAN systems ran on Fibre Channel and NAS systems ran on Ethernet. SAN systems used block protocols like SCSI and NAS systems used file protocols such as NFS and SMB. Today, the lines are blurred.
Unified Storage 1.0
Many customers are trying to simplify their environments as much as possible. Historically, they might have been interested in buying a Fibre Channel system to handle block needs and a NAS system to handle file needs. Now they’re much more interested in systems that can handle multiple needs. This makes things simpler and more flexible.
If a single system can handle both block and file needs, then the storage needs of a given environment can change over time without forcing a customer to purchase more storage. For example, if an environment needs more block storage, they can simply allocate more resources to the block functionality of the product.
Conversely, if they stop using a particular protocol as much as they did before, using a unified storage system allows them to reallocate those resources to other needs.
Unified Storage 2.0
Another way in which things are different than when NAS first came to bear is block and file are no longer the only game in town. Object storage is clearly the new game in town. The popularity and ubiquity of the S3 API, for example, suggests that it has already become a predominant way that customers are storing data.
Another example of object storage’s popularity is in the incredible number of object storage products now available. But the challenge many customers are experiencing is while a lot of people are using S3 and other object protocols, a majority of customers are not necessarily using them yet.
Therefore, object storage products that only speak object storage APIs are finding that they need to add some type of NFS and SMB support in order to increase their footprint. At the same time NAS systems are adding S3 or object protocol support to their existing capabilities.
Tape is Still Alive
Even the role of tape has changed in the last several years. Considered dead by so many for so long, there are multiple cloud storage companies that now offer storing data on tape. This is because tape still offers the most reliable and least expensive way to store data for long periods of time. It is also the best way to maintain a disconnected copy of data, safe from ransomware and other cyber attacks.
Scale-out NAS 2.0 – Flexible Protocol Support
Scale-out NAS 2.0 systems take all of these changes into account and allow for simultaneous use of all of these protocols. For customers wanting NFS and SMB access, it gives a scalable place to put their file data. For customers with an interest in block access, it supports using a portion of the storage for block protocols and simultaneous access to volumes without NAS protocol overhead.
Organizations interested in native object storage need a system that can understand these APIs, and especially the S3 API, since many products are now learning how to write to it. A NAS 2.0 system enables a smooth, gradual transition to object storage. Finally, customers that want to leverage tape as part of their storage architecture should buy a storage system that understands and integrates it and leverages it for what it’s good for.
Simplicity and flexibility is the key. A single storage system that can handle file, object, and block needs – and leverage tape – is in good position to be all things to all people. Add the value of a scale-out architecture that allows easy scalability to meet IT’s needs, and organizations have a very strong offering to consider.
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