The Cloud Is NAS' Best Friend - Or Is It?

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

The Must-Have Features of NAS

Our Paul Mah looks at the necessary elements of any NAS deployment.

Cloud computing is leading to a mini-boom for scale-out storage technology, which naturally is good news for NAS providers as they have the corner on large cluster file storage.

But does that mean the good times will go on forever? Or could the cloud already be laying the groundwork for NAS' - at least partial - demise?

You wouldn't think so based on the activity of late. Scale-out NAS is drawing in newcomers like Nexenta System, which recently released its Namespace Cluster software that allows enterprises and cloud providers to pool more than 4,000 nodes into a single file system. The package runs on top of the company's OpenStorage Software, which recently gained the ability to separate nodes by up to 20 kilometers while retaining active/active cluster status.

At the same time, designers are starting to add solid-state technology to scale-out infrastructures as a means to counter latency and performance issues that can plague high-traffic environments. Startup SolidFire, for instance, uses SSDs - along with dedupe, thin provisioning and advanced storage management - to boost the performance of cloud-based storage struggling to keep up with multiple simultaneous customer requests. The system features 3 TB SSD nodes connected via 10 GbE links, all of which can scale up to 1 PB of capacity capable of more than 5 million IOPS.

Of course, established vendors aren't about to let scale-out opportunities slip away. EMC recently kicked performance into high gear with the new Isilon S200 NAS system. The package recently hit top marks on several key benchmarks, demonstrating 1 million+ IOPS with more than 85 Gbps aggregate throughput from a single file system. The system is powered by the OneFS operating system that specializes in multiprotocol, high-traffic environments.

All of this is very impressive, according to Network Computing's Tom Trainer, but is it really necessary? He suspects that much of this is nothing more than "cloudwashing," in which plain, old monolithic NAS is marketed as brand-new cloud solutions. Much better, he says, for enterprises to interface directly with a cloud provider's APIs, thus avoiding a huge NAS build-out altogether. After all, how else will you get a reasonably priced managed storage infrastructure that is highly scalable, fully redundant, RAID-protected and bursting with countless other features?

The cloud itself, then, could become the future scale-out solution for the enterprise, although providers would be wise to offer multiple, independent architectures rather than a single shared NAS environment. This will probably add to the cost somewhat, but it also will provide the high availability and scalability needed to overcome lingering doubts over the efficacy of cloud-based solutions.

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