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Is Azure File Sync an alternative to Nasuni? I’m hearing this a bit more since Microsoft announced Sync at Ignite. The answer is no, but they do sound similar. To clear up the confusion, here’s what Microsoft cloud specialists and I say when we’re out doing joint customer briefings together. Then I’ve provided a quick comparison table so you can see the use cases and features for each.

View from the Field: Nasuni and Azure Files (and File Sync)

Nasuni is the modern hybrid cloud alternative to scalable NAS infrastructure. It enables you to centralize your organization’s file shares in Azure Blob storage and leverage the massive scale of Blob without giving up the flexibility, performance, and compatibility of on-premises file servers. The Nasuni UniFS global file system lives in Azure Blob but extends out to the edge using virtual or physical caching appliances that store only frequently used data. Any number of edge appliances can be deployed in any number of locations for limitless file sharing. Microsoft is partnering with Nasuni because we enable Azure Storage to displace NetApp, EMC, and Hitachi NAS in the datacenter and consolidate Windows file servers in branch offices. The Azure-Nasuni combination is so successful Microsoft named Nasuni its Azure Global ISV of the Year at its Inspire partner conference and featured Nasuni-Azure customers in Ignite breakout sessions.

Azure Files allows you to create file shares in the cloud without having to manage the overhead of a physical server or a device on-prem. Like Nasuni, Azure Files supports the industry standard SMB protocol, meaning you can seamlessly replace your existing file shares with shares in Azure Files without worrying about application compatibility. Unlike Nasuni, it uses its own Azure Files back-end instead of Azure Blob, and it requires you to go out to the cloud every time you need to access your files. If you don’t want to give up the performance and flexibility of on-prem file access and you want to leverage your existing investment in Windows file servers, that’s where Azure File Sync comes in. Sync transforms local Windows file servers into a cache for Azure Files shares, similar to Nasuni edge appliances. But it lacks the scale and features to replace NAS in the data center, and it’s missing centralized management of many file servers at the edge.

Here’s an easy way to look at the differences. If you’re a small to medium sized business with a few Windows file servers, your on-ramp to the cloud is Azure Files and Azure File Sync.

If you’re a typical enterprise, you probably have EMC, NetApp, Hitachi, or some other scalable NAS in the data center and Windows file servers in your remote and branch offices. For you, the modern cloud alternative is to use Nasuni and Azure Blob (or some other cloud storage) in both the data center and at the edge. This enables you to consolidate all Windows file servers and scalable NAS under one global file system, providing a single “source of truth” for all your files.

Comparing Nasuni and Azure Files / Azure File Sync

Here are more details based on what I’m seeing and Microsoft’s specs at the time of this blog.

Your Requirements When to Use Azure Files and Azure File Sync When to Use Nasuni
File servers today Windows file servers EMC, Hitachi, NetApp, or other Tier 1 NAS in data center; Windows file servers and/or Tier 1 NAS in branch offices
Cloud support Azure Azure
Amazon S3
IBM Cloud Object Storage
Azure storage type Azure Files Azure Blob
Target file storage capacity <40 TBs Unlimited
Number of locations with file sharing needs Few Unlimited
Maximum size 5 TB file share and 1 TB file within share Unlimited
Maximum snapshots/versions 200 Unlimited
Backup and data protection Requires separate backup if 200 snapshots aren’t sufficient Eliminates backup with Continuous File Versioning forever
Multi-site file collaboration Last write wins with conflict files Global File Lock to prevent conflict; Global Volume Manager to align versions
Authentication SAS tokens for time-limited read-only file access; ACL replication Full AD-based authentication and ACL support
Security Azure Storage Service Encryption for Data at Rest Azure Storage Service Encryption for Data at Rest; AES encryption keys generated and held by customer

The bottom line: if your critical business applications require a proven and infinitely scalable NAS solution for heavy duty file workloads with potentially multiple protocols; high performance file access from multiple locations; true file or project-level collaboration without version conflict; built-in data protection with compression and de-duplication; consolidated management of datacenter and/or branch office file servers under a single pane of glass; and the option to use other clouds now or in the future, Nasuni and Azure Blob (or other object storage) is the only option.

To learn more, ask your Microsoft sales rep or the Azure cloud specialist in your region for a Nasuni-Azure briefing and demo. Or, request an intro to an Azure specialist or schedule a lunch and learn at a Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) near you.