6 Requirements of Scalable Cloud File Storage for the Global Enterprise

An increasing number of global enterprises are adopting a cloud-first strategy in search of a better way to store, protect, share and manage their growing volumes of unstructured file data. A recent Gartner report outlines the trend, detailing key factors driving the rapidly increasing rate of cloud adoption in 2017.

However, some global enterprises are skeptical. And for good reason. Many IT leaders I meet have already piloted or deployed a scalable cloud file storage and data protection solution that didn’t meet expectations. Others tell me the solutions they’ve looked at fail to address the scalability requirements of their global enterprise.

What exactly are these requirements and how do you make sure your public, private or hybrid cloud solution meets them? I’ve boiled my conversations down to 6 requirements of scalable cloud file storage.

1. Unlimited Capacity in Multiple Dimensions

A global enterprise file storage solution should be limitless in every way. That means no capacity constraints on the number of PBs, files, file versions, directories, or volumes. It also means no limits on individual file, directory, or volume size.

Global enterprises that rely on traditional Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions often hit these constraints. Don’t perpetuate them when you move to the cloud. The growth in large, complex files generated by key business applications as well as the innumerable small files generated by Internet of Things (IoT) devices are making unlimited capacity requirements even more important.

If the cloud file storage solution you are evaluating cannot offer unlimited capacity in multiple dimensions, find one that does.

2. Scalable File Access Across Multiple Sites

Global enterprises are typically comprised of major locations with dedicated data centers; remote and branch offices; and temporary job sites. Global enterprises also grow through M&A, requiring new offices to be quickly and efficiently on-boarded. A scalable cloud file storage solution must be able to provide reliable file access to all these sites from both a technical and commercial viability standpoint.

Technically, the solution must be able to scale independent of the number of locations. If performance or file sharing capabilities suffer once you scale beyond four or five sites, you don’t have a technically viable solution. Many cloud file storage solutions suffer NAS performance degradation as more sites are added, especially when global file locking is required for multi-site authoring. Do your homework on this requirement.

Commercially, the solution should let you add sites, set up new offices, and on-board acquired offices quickly, with little capital investment. If you must invest significant capital in local nodes for every site and in replication technology and bandwidth to get your files onto the local nodes, you don’t have a commercially viable solution.

3. Any Number of Users

Scalability is not just a matter of unstructured data volume or locations. The number of possible users per site must also be able to scale to meet your needs as user populations and application workloads grow. The performance and reliability of the solution must remain consistent regardless of how many people are accessing files.

 

4. Centralized IT Administration

As a former IT Director in a global investment bank, I understand what can go wrong from an operational standpoint when a solution fails to scale. Lean IT departments should not have to send trained professionals to remote locations to provision more capacity, mount shares, or troubleshoot backups. This is arduous, expensive work. IT should be able to remotely manage storage and data protection from any location the same as if they were on-site.

Look for cloud-scale file services solutions that offer a global file system. By uniting all locations under a single, centralized, authoritative global file system, IT will be able to centrally manage storage, access and data protection at any location – no matter how distant, small or large the remote site is. Also look for role-based access control so you can distribute management of your unstructured data across your IT team.

5. Cloud Object Store Flexibility

Obviously, any solution you consider should meet your cloud storage compliance and security requirements. But how will you be able to meet potentially competing compliance requirements in different regions where your global enterprise operates?

If you have offices in Germany, Switzerland, and China, for example, will the solution enable you to keep your data locally in those countries? What if one cloud object storage provider has superior connectivity or performance in one of those countries, or is a better fit with your compliance requirements in that country? What if your business requirements call for public cloud in some regions, but insist on the use of on-premises private cloud storage in others?

Look for scalable cloud file storage solutions that can work simultaneously with – and span – multiple back-end cloud object storage platforms.

6. Low Total Cost of Ownership

The whole point of cloud economics is to gain pay-as-you-grow flexibility and transition from a costly, up-front capital expense model to a more affordable, predictable operational expense model. But many cloud solutions don’t work this way. You’ll hit the scalability ceilings discussed above, forcing you to buy more hardware and upgrade that hardware every 3-5 years. You’ll also find they don’t offer all the capabilities needed by a global enterprise, forcing you to purchase individual solutions that leave you administering multiple silos.

Look for complete enterprise file services solutions that can deliver clear-cut cost savings by consolidating primary NAS, archive, backup, file sync and share, and disaster recovery point solutions into a single, unified offering. You should also be able to minimize the use of WAN acceleration and replication technologies by leveraging lower-cost and generally faster public Internet links, while maintaining data security.

Enterprise File Services at Cloud Scale

If you’re a global enterprise, these 6 requirements of scalable cloud file storage should help as you continue with your digital transformation. Nasuni cloud-scale enterprise file services happens to satisfy all 6. But are there other requirements I’ve missed? What is your experience? Comment and let me know!