Panzura cloud NAS adds multisite capability

Dave Raffo

Cloud network-attached storage (NAS) vendor Panzura upgraded its storage controller and operating system to enhance its file sharing capabilities to help customers collaborate from multiple sites.

Panzura's launch today includes the Panzura Operating System 3.0 and new Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controller appliances. The startup added dynamic file locking and global deduplication capabilities, and updated its appliances’ processors and capacity footprint.

The cloud NAS vendor claims the improvements let customers move data 10 times as fast as they could using its previous cloud gateways. The new hardware uses 3 TB SATA drives, increasing its local cache capacity to 330 TB.

Panzura sells its controller as a virtual appliance or physical appliance. The PZS-VM is a virtual machine that loads as software on any server, supporting up to 3.5 TB of local capacity. The PZS-x100 is a 1U appliance that supports from one to four solid-state drives (SSDs) for performance, up to 12 TB of local capacity and RAID 5 data protection. The PZS-x200 is a 2U box with up to 108 SSDs, 36 TB of local capacity on the box, and up to 324 TB with expansion shelves and RAID 5 and RAID 6-plus protection schemes.

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With the new release, Panzura also added support for Symantec NetBackup and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) backup applications.

The global deduplication lets Panzura dedupe data across controllers, allowing for file-locking and access control. The vendor also improved its recovery capability from the cloud. If an appliance or site is lost, the customer can spin-up a virtual version of the appliance or install a new one at another site and recover all information from the lost appliance from the cloud, including metadata and dedupe tables.

Its new pinning feature lets customers decide what files to keep permanently based on policies rather than only on access patterns.

“We separate data and metadata, so you can recover up to a petabyte file system by recovering only the metadata first,” said Randy Chou, Panzura's co-founder and CEO. “Then, based on access patterns and pinning rules, we proactively start filling up the cache from the cloud.”

The company is looking to make its controllers behave more like traditional storage arrays than merely caching data and moving aging files to the Panzura cloud “We make the cloud feel like it’s local NAS,” Chou said.

“We have built NetApp in the sky," added Ranajit Nevatia, Panzura's vice president of marketing. "We present files the same way as any storage device in the data center, and write persistent data into the cloud with deduplication, encryption and snapshots built in.”

Panzura isn’t the first cloud storage gateway to go down this path. Nasuni added multisite capabilities for its cloud NAS last October. StorSimple and TwinStrata have also bulked up their controllers and added management features in recent months.

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said the gateway vendors’ emphasis on its storage controller features doesn’t make them less of a cloud play. “I don’t see that as being at the cost of de-emphasizing the cloud aspect,” he said. “I think it's about Panzura and other vendors emphasizing integration, and thereby removing earlier fears that cloud storage meant losing control by throwing data over the fence.”

Pharma company needs file sharing across borders

Biopharmaceutical company Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc signed up for a Panzura virtual appliance because of the multisite features. George Gindoyan, executive director of IT for the company, said he wants his sales team to be able to share files across multiple sites whether they’re home, in the office or out in the field. He hopes to have the cloud controller fully set up within two months.

Gindoyan said all of Jazz’s files are Web-based, but security and simultaneous file access can be problematic.

“When you’re surrounded 360 degrees by files running out of browsers or HTML apps, dealing with files becomes a challenge,” he said. “We’re a Windows shop. All of our applications run nicely through a browser, but you need to be on a domain with security when you’re accessing files because you need the CIFS protocol to work.”

A merger between Jazz and Azur Pharma in January left the company with offices in Palo Alto, Calif., Philadelphia and Dublin, Ireland. “All the offices need to access files,” Gindoyan said. “We want to make sure everybody accesses the same copy of the file, and there aren’t three copies around. And if somebody clicks on something, other people have to know somebody clicked on it.”

He said a storage cloud for files is less expensive than adding a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) virtual private network (VPN) or wide-area network (WAN) optimization devices. Jazz looked at Panzura and Nasuni’s cloud NAS offerings before settling on a Panzura cloud because he considered it more flexible. Gindoyan said Panzura leaves it up to the customer to engage with a cloud provider, while Nasuni selects a provider. Panzura also supports traditional backup better, while Nasuni relies solely on replication. He said it also helped that Panzura is based nearby in San Jose, Calif. (Jazz’s data center is in Palo Alto), while Nasuni is in Massachusetts.

Jazz will continue to use its NetApp FAS3270 storage-area network (SAN) array for applications, leaving Panzura for shared files. Gindoyan said he is leaning toward Amazon S3 as his cloud provider.

He expects to put approximately 5 TB in the cloud to start, and may eventually use the cloud to archive data that now resides on an EMC Data Domain deduplication appliance.

Gindoyan said he’s already asked Panzura for three more features: the ability to move data between cloud providers if Jazz wants to switch, additional interfaces besides NFS and CIFS, and Dropbox-like support for more devices such as the iPad.

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