Last week, we traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to the VMware User Group (VMUG) meeting, where we showcased the Nasuni Filer. Because the Filer is virtual filer server that runs on VMware, we wanted to connect with people who were already converts to VMware and show them how the Filer can improve their virtual environment further. We opened a public Share on a demo Filer and made it available to anyone at the show, and, at the booth, we demoed the Filer’s administrative features. Users were particularly curious about setting up multiple cloud providers and were surprised to see how easy it is to create a new volume attached to a specific provider. Restoring a file was another popular demo request, and we got a kick out of watching the wow factor at work when users saw how instantaneous it is.
In our presentation, we made the case for why the cloud is ready for primary storage. Email and Web hosting and backup have successfully transitioned to the cloud, so why has primary storage lagged behind? Conventional thinking says that the cloud is too slow, requires special APIs, and is built for archiving (WORM) not storage. Conventional thinking says the cloud and primary storage are as incompatible as cars in pools.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Filer’s cache improves performance so the cloud becomes indistinguishable from local storage. We do away with the cloud APIs by wrapping them with CIFS. And we use the cloud’s intrinsic archival mode to our advantage: It’s an ideal target for snapshots, so we store all files as snapshots, which gives the Filer advanced restore capabilities. Perhaps car and pools are not so incompatible after all.
In the Q and A, users wanted to understand how the Filer works in disaster recovery. We explained that if the disaster is major–if the entire virtual environment fails–a new Filer can be downloaded from our site from any location and can become operational within minutes of reconnecting to its cloud providers, thanks to our fast metadata restore capabilities. If the disaster is less catastrophic–if a physical host fails–all of the protections in place in your VMware environment carry over to the Filer. VMotion can quickly move the virtual machine to a healthy host. In this case, the big added advantage with the Filer is that rather than having to replicate to a second site all the file data associated with the Filer, you only need to replicate the host virtual machine itself. That virtual machine may be less than 100 GB, even if that Filer is managing terabytes of data in the cloud.
This led to a lot of discussion about using Nasuni as a backup target, rather than as primary storage. This proved a very popular idea and is an excellent use case for Nasuni.
The number-one question from everyone, both at the booth and in the presentation, was about security. It boiled down to: If Nasuni encrypts my data, doesn’t it have access to the data before it encrypts it? The answer is no. We have designed the system so that the data is encrypted by the Filer itself on your premises and is sent directly from there to the cloud provider. We—our office, our people—are completely out of the loop. A Filer does communicate with Nasuni for many things—to send us functionality reports, to tell us how much data is being pushing to each cloud provider—but we cannot see the content of the data at all, and neither can the cloud providers.
It was exciting to see the potential of the VMware platform all around us at the show. Being able to download a complete file server packaged in a virtual machine is still a new idea, and it was great to meet lots of people who are ready to test the potential of this new world.
We want to thank Matt Mancinni, VMUG’s ringleader, who did a great job organizing the meeting and moderating our Q and A. As we say goodbye to Phoenix, we look forward to continuing the many conversations we began at the show. Stay in touch. We hope to meet many more VMware pros at future VMUGs.