Improve NAS management with private storage clouds and grid storage

We look at some of the pain points resulting from NAS system proliferation and how private storage clouds or grid storage systems can improve NAS management.

What you'll learn:  Managing increasing file storage growth in network-attached storage (NAS) systems can place a serious burden on IT staffs. Learn why private storage clouds and grid storage systems can provide a cost-effective way to address NAS management.

Managing multiple disparate NAS systems and the resulting file storage growth can be a real headache for data storage pros. Fortunately, technology options such as private storage clouds and grid storage systems are making NAS management easier.

Private storage clouds or grid storage systems are somewhat similar to clustered NAS systems, but grid storage provides peer-to-peer clustering that enables it to provide single-image files over geographically dispersed, long-distance and cross-domain operations.

Geographic location "awareness" adds another dimension to NAS management by centralizing control, management and access for distributed environments. Based on access performance and/or data protection policies, files are replicated and moved to the geographic location that best meets the policy. Whether you have only a few remote or branch offices or hundreds, grid storage systems or private storage clouds can make a lot of sense.

Let's take a look at some of the common pain points resulting from NAS system proliferation and how private storage clouds or grid storage systems can address them:

NAS management challenge Effectiveness of grid storage or private storage clouds technology
Multi-NAS management Excellent for local and geographically dispersed sites; exceptionally scalable
Client and application file access management Excellent: Policy based to meet user and app requirements regardless of location
Storage tiering Good to excellent depending on product, much simplified
NAS load balancing Excellent: Goes beyond simple load balancing taking into account performance and locality
Data protection, replication, backup
and recovery
Excellent: Local and geographically dispersed; exceptionally scalable
Total cost of ownership Very good with excellent payback timeframes

There are currently two commercially available private storage cloud systems: Bycast Inc.'s StorageGRID and EMC Corp.'s Atmos. The Bycast StorageGRID runs on x86 nodes that sit in front of standard direct-attached storage (DAS) or storage-area network (SAN) storage, so it can use already installed block storage. EMC Atmos also runs on x86 nodes but can only use its own JBOD storage. Bycast's product is a bit more mature with hundreds of installations and OEM deals with Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and IBM.

Let's examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of using private storage clouds or grid storage systems for NAS management.

Advantages of private storage clouds or grid storage systems for NAS management

  • Same pros as clustered NAS (simplified management, data protection and file access)
  • Same or lower cost than clustered NAS
  • Management of geographically dispersed locations
  • Distributed geographically aware access with centralized management, protection and replication of all files
  • Geographically aware, policy-based file replication and movement
  • DAS and SAN investment protection or use of very low-cost storage

Disadvantages of private storage clouds or grid storage systems for NAS management

  • Limited number of vendors with mature technology
  • No automated storage tiering at this time
  • Startup costs can be more than other technologies (but long-term costs will likely be less)

BIO: Marc Staimer is president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

This was first published in April 2010

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