Adding Object Storage Capabilities To NAS – iXsystems Briefing Note

Object storage is rising in popularity in data centers of all sizes. While many object storage vendors try to position it to be a replacement for NAS, doing so requires the vendor to provide some form of emulation so the data center can continue to use NFS and SMB. What if the problem was solved from the other direction, adding object storage capabilities to the NAS system? That’s exactly what iXsystems did in the recent update to its TrueNAS Enterprise operating system.

Do You Need Object Storage?

Most data centers make the jump to object storage to store a specific type of data, often created by modern applications or devices that communicate via the S3 protocol. As part of this conversion they also want to leverage the cost effectiveness and scalability of the object design vs. the expense and rigidness of their existing legacy NAS system.

What if instead of jumping to object storage, IT decided to implement a more cost effective and scalable NAS, one that had a file system that could support the volume capacities and file system counts of today’s data center? If that NAS was also sold at a reasonable price, instead of the somewhat overbearing price points of legacy NAS vendors, then there may not be a need to go to object storage.

The NAS vendor could steal a page right out of the object storage playbook. Create a software defined NAS that can run on commodity hardware. iXsystems is an example of a company that has done just that with its TrueNAS solution.

Object Storage is Needed

Despite how powerful and advanced the standard NAS file system becomes there is no question that many organizations will need an S3 object storage capability, either now or in the near future. They will have devices or applications that require S3 support. In many cases though, that need will remain small. Instead of buying a whole new platform it may make sense to just add S3 to the existing NAS. Ideally the system should allow a single volume to have access via NFS, SMB or S3 protocols at the same time, making the conversion more seamless.

Introducing TrueNAS 11.0

TrueNAS 11.0 introduces support for the object-based Amazon simple storage service (S3) API. Customers can now test, develop, and deploy applications on TrueNAS as part of a private or hybrid cloud. The volumes can be simultaneously accessed by NFS, SMB and S3 which enables data to be fed to the system via legacy devices and then analyzed by an application that requires S3 protocol support.

While S3 Support was the big headline grabber for this release, iXsystems also made specific system level improvements to block, NFS and SMB access. In testing, the company claims that certain storage operations, such as serving up files, operate up to 25% faster with an up to 45% reduction of latency than the same storage operations using prior versions of TrueNAS.

StorageSwiss Take

Sometimes the easiest solution is also the best. For data centers looking to test and learn about cloud applications or data centers with only an initial cloud application or two, adding S3 support to a well understood storage system style (NAS) instead of moving to an entirely different way of doing things (object storage) may make more sense. Which makes the most sense for your data center depends on a lot of variables, but TrueNAS 11 certainly should be added to most IT planners’ consideration list as they map-out cloud storage strategies.

Storage Switzerland is at Flash Memory Summit 2017. Click here to see all our FMS2017 posts.

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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