Forecast calls for Cloudy NAS days ahead.
I was on my way down to Miami today and was talking to the gentleman sitting next to me about storage technology and the conversation turned to how everyone is scrambling to be in the cloud business. He had heard multiple vendors come in and start talking about cloud technology and how it was going to save him money, time and effort. This gentleman worked for a retail chain that has multiple district offices through out the eastern US and headquarters in Atlanta. He has multiple technologies all helping him keep the business running but nothing planned and as the company grew, they simply cookie cut the previous installation and planted it into the new office. Each office would also replicate back to HQ and that would be the main repository for backups/restores. I would guess there are thousands of companies out there with similar setups.
So instead of going into how he could leverage cloud storage technology, I asked him what were his problems and listened. They basically came down to this:
1. Multiple independent islands of storage that are aging, causing his support contracts to go up.
2. Backups take way to long and systems are slowing down as they get closer to 'capacity'.
3. Future growth was expensive as every time they added a new capacity, they had to add entire systems.
Now they were not cutting edge technolgy leaders nor were they wanting to be, but he needed a way to solve some of these traditional storage problems. He didn't want to go out and buy a new large system that would take forever to get in and while it may solve his problems, it would bring in even more issues. What he needed is less overhead and more throughput.
We sat there for a while thinking, we didn't say much until I offered this tidbit, "So what does cloud mean to you?" After a nice laugh, he stated that he really didn't know and the more he read, the more 'cloudy' became the answer.
There are many interpretations about what cloud really is and it differs between storage vendors. If there is a true declination of what cloud storage really could be, I think it could be defined using NAS technology. NAS lends to be a kinder and gentler protocol set and the need is growing leaps and bounds. Our traditional way of adding more systems and creating more independent silos works for smaller environment but it does not scale when clients want large disk pools of storage under one umbrella. There are ways of making volumes span in to large pools but the underlying storage is still made up smaller components that are typically active/active/passive nodes, even the best load balance will not help if you are overloading that system.
There are ways to find a balance between the same old way and going out and dropping tons of cash on huge storage gear. Find a system that will grow and scale as your storage needs do. Think of ways to keep everything under one umbrella (name space for example) and also try to solve issues that you are having today with real technology and not work arounds.
With NAS technology, we will always be at the mercy of the backup target whether its disk or tape. No matter if we are taking snapshots or ndmp backups, we have to write that out to some target to have a restore point. This is your basic strategy on how to do a backup/restore, why not consider using different types of disks to create a tier and offload disks to slower pools as the data gets 'older'. A few vendors have said there is no need for tiering, mainly because their systems can't take advantage of this and therefore they shun those who do. ILM tiering can help you achieve not only higher utilization rates with the storage but it puts the data that is accessed more frequently on faster disk, and moves the rest away to makes more room. Why pay for fast disk if the data on it is not being accessed frequently?
Future expansion has always been tough for administrators, they tend to over buy on controller size and skimp on the disk. Systems like SONAS from IBM allows you to grow both in storage capacity and server throughput; independently. If a customer needs more storage but doesn't need the additional throughput, why force him to add more controllers? SONAS systems can scaled up to 30 storage servers and 14.4 PB of spinning disk all under one name space. No more having multiple nodes with their own names; this storage is called Accounting1, Accouting2 .... etc. They are called Storage and everyone gets the benefit of having all of the nodes, not just one system.
By the time we had gone through all of this, our flight was landing. It was a great talk and both of us gained a different perceptive on how cloud is perceived. If any of you want to find out more information about the IBM Cloud strategy or SONAS go to the following links:
SONAS by IBM