How to Create a Cloud File Server – LucidLink Briefing Note

Most enterprises have invested in several, if not dozens of file servers or network-attached storage (NAS) systems to distribute and share data. The cost to purchase, upgrade, and eventually replace these systems is expensive. Also, the typical user, while often connected to the Internet, is not typically anywhere near the location with the file server or NAS.

Cloud storage seems like an ideal solution to the problem. It is centrally located, accessible from virtually anywhere, and eliminates much of the concern of upgrades and refreshes. The challenge is the default storage protocol in the cloud, object storage / S3, isn’t the default storage protocol on user devices and servers. LucidLink is a software as a service (SaaS) solution that promises to address that challenge and enables organizations to create a cloud file server that users can access from anywhere.

The concept of using the cloud as a file server is not necessarily new. The problem is most solutions use a “hub and hub” method of sharing data even though they describe it as a “hub and spoke” architecture. The typical approach is using a public cloud provider as the central repository and then placing a sizable caching appliance on-premises for high-speed local access. The problem is the majority of users accessing this data are also not near the on-premises cache, so they have to VPN into the data center to get to the cache before accessing cloud storage.

The other challenge with the “hub-and-hub” approach is that if the organization has multiple sites, each site needs a caching appliance, and it needs to be updated with the latest copy of data when there is a change. Depending on the number of sites and the size of the updates, the time required for the last site to receive the latest file changes can take thirty minutes or more. There is also the risk of failure to update in the event of a network outage or timeout.

The LucidLink approach is to install a client software directly on the device accessing the data. The direct connection between endpoint or server and the public cloud enables the organization to stream data to devices instead of having to synchronize data to devices.

The LucidLink service creates a global namespace with centralized metadata so that all the connected devices see a universal file system layout and identical access and modification times.

LucidLink supports Windows, Mac, and Linux systems and is installable on laptops, desktops, and servers. If a user or application changes a file, there are only the local and cloud copies to update. The other devices will realize the difference the next time they access the file-system because of its centralized metadata. The centralized access also means that the solution provides complete global file locking, so organizations collaborating on the same files don’t need to worry about file overwrites. For rare instances, when there is a file conflict, LucidLink will maintain both copies so users can sort out the differences.

StorageSwiss Take

Object storage, be it in the cloud or as an on-premises object storage system, seems like a logical replacement for traditional file servers and NAS systems. The problem is that while many of these solutions provide some form of NFS or SMB gateway, they recreate the primary challenges with legacy file server solutions. Primarily, they force the user to connect to a system or gateway located at a data center even though they may be at home, at a coffee shop, or in another office. LucidLink breaks that stranglehold and brings shared file services directly to the users no matter where they happen to be working at that moment. It is an ideal solution for organizations looking to set their workforce free while at the same time, trying to maintain a centralized file repository.

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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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