Enterprise Software

Cloud storage for primary storage as an alternative to file servers

For a network administrator, few tasks share the frustration levels of administering a file server. IT guru Rick Vanover explains how some cloud solutions can solve file server issues.

There is nothing that drives me crazier than unstructured data on a file server. If there is an application that we can blame, that helps. If the data is a smattering of personal and workgroup data, self-censorship starts to kick in. Of course we can do all of the standard remediation attempts to consolidate file servers and put concise group membership with appropriate permissions.

One option that exists to administrators now is to leverage cloud storage for the primary instance of file servers. One solution is the Nasuni Filer to replace NAS servers that function as file servers in your organization. While I'm quite familiar with a number of cloud storage solutions, I have long thought what will make a "cloud" solution very relevant to the mainstream organization is a turnkey solution.

The Nasuni Filer is very simple in that it is distributed as an open virtual format (OVF) virtual machine. The virtual machine is then assigned a local cache on storage resources on-premise. The local cache is a nominal storage allocation, 500 GB for example, that is the most commonly accessed data in the file server's namespace. The rest of the data is in a storage cloud with the ingress and egress traffic managed by the Nasuni Filer. The Nasuni Filer is also smart in that you can have the data reside in the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud, Nirvanix Storage Delivery Network (SDN), Iron Mountain Archive Services Platform (ASP), or Rackspace Cloud Files.

The Nasuni Filer does a few things that make its architecture attractive. First of all, the OVF deployment is attractive as any administrator with a virtualized infrastructure can do so quickly. The second thing I really like is that the filer shows up on your local network to be managed in Microsoft Active Directory for full permission and share management through familiar interfaces. Figure A below shows the Filer's architecture: Figure A

Figure A

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The Nasuni Filer also starts to get smart with the data before it uploads it to the cloud. Realizing that the transfer bandwidth is the most sensitive link in a cloud-based storage solution, Nasuni performs four critical processes on data before it is uploaded to the cloud. These are: chunking into blocks, de-duplication, compression, and then encryption. The data is protected with OpenPGP AES-256 bit encryption. Figure B shows this pre-transfer process: Figure B

Figure B

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Nasuni was introduced to me by one of my colleagues, Greg Knieriemen, who produces the popular Infosmack podcast. Episode 52 features Andres Rodriguez, CEO and founder of Nasuni. I highly recommend that you check out this episode not just for this solution, but how cloud storage has evolved out of necessity as well as what it can and cannot do.

I am always trying to find inroads to a cloud solution when the conditions can be right. With cloud storage as easy as being a CIFS endpoint within your Active Directory domain on your network, does it appeal to you? Share your comments below.


Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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