How to Build a Scalable File System with Microsoft Azure Storage

November 13, 2018 | Anne Blanchard How to Build a Scalable File System with Microsoft Azure Storage

Microsoft Azure Product Management leader Vamshi Kommineni recently sat down with Nasuni’s VP of Product Strategy, John Capello to talk about how Nasuni and Azure are tackling the problems of enterprise file storage. To date, hundreds of enterprise customers have selected Nasuni backed by Azure Blob Storage to create high performance, cloud-scale file systems, which is one of the reasons Nasuni is a top Azure ISV globally. You can find that webinar available on-demand here.

Today’s File Storage Challenges

File data is growing at a much faster rate than block data across multiple industries as a function of both more unstructured data and larger files. Media, Retail, CPG, and Manufacturing industries are seeing data growth ranging from 5% to 14% monthly. This growth is spawning a new set of challenges due to the scale of this growth:

  • How do enterprises scale security, durability, and backup across all this data?
  • How do they handle the growing problem of infrequently accessed files?
  • How do they control costs without sacrificing performance? 

Cloud Security and Reliability

Inside Microsoft, Azure Blob Storage is seen as the “Swiss Army Knife” of cloud storage. It’s used for a mind-boggling array of services including bedrock storage for Office 365. Externally, consumers use Azure Blob for gaming, and Skype. With so much reliance on Azure Blob Storage, Microsoft is keenly aware that durability and reliability are essential.

In the webinar, Vamshi offers extensive details about the durability of Azure Blob storage including LRS, ZRS, and GRS variants. In addition to local and geo-redundant strategies, Microsoft uses MD5 hash to prevent corruption, and even takes exhaustive measures to prevent “bitrot” from data not being accessed over long periods of time.

A File Storage System Built on Azure

With Azure Blob Storage as one its foundational object storage providers, Nasuni has built a file system native to object storage, offering unlimited file size, numbers of files and users. By storing all files and metadata for the file system in object storage, the Nasuni-Azure solution offers almost unlimited capacity and scale (vs. hardware controller-driven solutions).

But storing files is only one aspect of a full file infrastructure solution, which is why Nasuni has leveraged Azure to build a solution that also incorporates cloud backup, disaster recovery, and centralized management. These capabilities, coupled with the ability to provide edge appliances that offer fast local file access, have been critical to enterprise customers looking for a cloud solution that lowers cost and reduces complexity.

The Problem of Infrequent Access

As John points out, as unstructured storage has grown, so has its shadow, in the form of infrequently accessed files. Storage and Infrastructure IT teams are showing an increasing willingness to analyze their use of expensive primary storage to find groups of files that are infrequently accessed. Finding ways to move these to less expensive storage is yet another way IT teams can squeeze savings and efficiency out of their operation. But moving files is expensive and risky. So Nasuni has designed a solution using Azure Cool Storage which doesn’t require users to ever move files again. Nasuni Archive is a new offering that is radically different from traditional archive solutions. Rather than requiring expensive “shift and lift” of files it simple reclassifies them into an Archive status and reduces the cost going forward.  The new archive status is invisible to users, who can retrieve these files at any time.

Keeping It All Affordable

Nasuni and Microsoft work together to keep the costs of exploding unstructured storage down. In addition to the new archive offering, the Nasuni architecture naturally reduces total cloud storage costs and egress charges. By providing a 99% local cache hit rate in most cases, Nasuni Edge Appliances protect companies from multiple egress charges, while data reduction techniques dramatically reduce the total amount of cloud storage needed.  For its part, Azure offers 3 flavors of blob storage: Hot, Cool and Archive, each with its own performance/cost trade-offs that can be combined to optimize enterprise solutions.

These are just some highlights – watch the webinar to learn even more about why Nasuni and Azure Blob Storage can provide the foundation for a truly enterprise-level file services solution. Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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