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Dell EMC Isilon OneFS for Google – Not Cloud-Native but a Step in the Right Direction

Dell Technologies recently announced the general availability of Cloud OneFS for Google Cloud Platform. This is the culmination of a process that started several years ago, and is further confirmation that the public cloud is the future of enterprise file storage.

The planting of Isilon file storage in Google Cloud for delivery as a managed subscription service is not new. NetApp has also done this with Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, Cloud Volumes Service for AWS, and its Microsoft-branded equivalent Azure NetApp Files. 

What is new is the branding and delivery of these services through the major cloud providers. Previously, Network Attached Storage (NAS) hardware was installed on-premises or in co-location facilities close to cloud regions, but still purchased and managed by the customer.

That the two top traditional storage vendors, NetApp and Dell EMC, are adopting a public cloud presence and packaging their hardware for delivery as fully managed cloud services is a response to CIO-led cloud-first initiatives. It’s clear that enterprises want out of the data center business, and prefer cloud services over buying more on-premises IT infrastructure. 

These vendors’ moves to the public cloud, however, are not without limitations. The approach that Dell EMC and NetApp are taking does not take full advantage of native cloud capabilities. They are simply “lifting and shifting” traditional hardware systems from on-premises data centers to public cloud data centers. While there is still value in doing this – up front CapEx purchases replaced by yearly OpEx subscriptions, no more hardware refreshes and data migrations, administration offloaded from IT – these are not true “cloud-native” file storage solutions. 

Cloud-Native Approach to File Storage

What is cloud-native and why does it matter?  Simply put, cloud-native refers to technology that is created and written specifically for the cloud to take advantage of cloud scalability, cloud elasticity, cloud durability, and, maybe most importantly, cloud economics. Let’s use Nasuni as an example.

Nasuni’s UniFS® global file system is at the core of our cloud file services platform. UniFS is a cloud-native file system. It was written to leverage cloud object storage, with all file data and metadata stored and represented as objects.

Isilon OneFS, even though it is now offered through the public cloud, is a clustered file system written for traditional disk storage. Blocks and sectors on disk are linked by metadata to represent files, with snapshots as pointers to previous blocks of data. 

Both file systems have many attributes in common. UniFS uses metadata to point to objects just as OneFS (and NetApp WAFL) use metadata to point to blocks and sectors. UniFS uses snapshot metadata to point to previous objects just as OneFS and WAFL use snapshots to point to previous blocks and sectors. Both offer de-dupe, compression, and encryption. 

The primary differences go back to the four advantages of cloud-native technologies:

  1. Scalability. Since UniFS was written for limitless object storage instead of hardware-constrained disk storage, it has no limits on the size or number of files, directories, volumes, or snapshots. Nasuni oil and gas and pharmaceutical customers appreciate this advantage given the size of the files they need to store and share. Nasuni customers who are mitigating ransomware by rolling back the file system to the minute before the attack started appreciate the infinite snapshots. A lift-and-shift hardware-based technology cannot offer the same scalability.
  2. Elasticity. As a global file system, UniFS synchronizes file changes made at any edge location to the gold master copy of the file stored in cloud object storage. The changes are then propagated to all other edge locations, presenting users anywhere in the world with a single, unified namespace. Global File Lock technology is also built-in to UniFS so that users anywhere in the world can share the same files without version conflict. The only way to process file synchronization and locking requests at enterprise scale is to use elastic cloud services. That’s exactly the role the cloud-based Nasuni Orchestration Center (NOC) plays. The NOC is the “traffic cop” and control plane for all UniFS file sync and lock requests, scaling up and down as needed with multi-region, active-active cloud services. A lift-and-shift hardware-based technology simply cannot provide this elasticity.
  3. Durability. By using cloud object storage as the backing store for all file data, UniFS offers the same durability as Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure Blob, and Google Cloud Storage. Multiple copies of file data are stored within and across zones and regions to ensure availability, even in the event of a regional disaster. File access can be restored within minutes in any location because only the metadata and frequently accessed files need to be rehydrated to the Nasuni Edge Appliances. To provide this same level of durability and DR response with a lift-and-shift hardware-based technology, you’d have to deploy multiple full-sized storage arrays in many locations.
  4. Economics. Nasuni uses low-cost object storage to store all files and snapshots in UniFS format, then uses lightweight VMs to cache copies of just the frequently accessed files This cloud-native approach leverages cloud economics to its fullest, without sacrificing file access performance. Lift-and-shift hardware-based technologies that use more expensive SSD to store all files, and still require traditional backup and DR, cost 2-3X more than Nasuni.

Picking the Right Use Cases for Cloud File Storage

The four reasons above are why Nasuni’s cloud-native file storage platform combined with public cloud object storage have become the new standard for enterprise SMB file share use cases like:

  • Home directories
  • Single office department shares
  • Multi-office department shares
  • Large file storage and synchronization
  • VDI file storage

And why Dell EMC Isilon OneFS for Google Cloud is a better fit for high performance computing and specialty file storage use cases like:

  • Genomics processing
  • SAP
  • Media rendering
  • Video editing
  • Big data analytics

If you have a cloud-first initiative, or you want to consolidate silos of data, provide better data protection, enable true multi-site file sharing, and reduce your file storage costs, contact Nasuni.  We’d love to talk about we can help you achieve your business objectives with a true cloud-native solution file storage solution.

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