Evaluating global file systems and NAS cloud filers

The Evaluator Group has compared on-premises NAS filers with a cloud component to global file systems utilizing edge caching devices.

Both, it says, are capable of providing a similar result – on-premises file access, performance, and familiarity with an attached cloud component – but they utilize a fundamentally different design and have different trade-offs.

Global file system products support remote worker data access and collaboration, which is helpful when working from a home office is becoming more prevalent. The cloud, which can host global file systems services, offers low-cost storage tiers for infrequently accessed data, off-site storage for data protection and disaster recovery plans, and on-demand scalability. 

An on-premises filer with an added cloud tier/data movement facilities is a fairly standard setup whereas the cloud-based global file system is different. In one embodiment, cloud software resource, typically object storage, with a file access services and metadata wrapper, is the core and it talks to edge caching devices, either physical or based in server VMs.

The edge cachers provide on-premises NAS read access speed, if the desired file is present in them, and on-premises write speed.

A second global file system design is one used by the public cloud services themselves; think AWS EFS and FSx, Microsoft Azure Files, and Google Cloud Filestore. They have no on-premises component at all. The Evaluator Group sets them aside and has analyzed on-premises NAS+cloud component systems and cloud-based global file systems with edge caching systems only.

On-premises filers can provide faster data access, and an added cloud component provides the scalable, on-demand capacity. Existing filer operational practices can still be used. A downside is that you have to source, deploy, and manage the hardware, meaning upfront capex costs. Set against that are the ongoing cloud costs, such as egress fees. Also, it is becoming possible, with subscription services such as Dell’s APEX, to subscribe to on-premises filer hardware and software, transferring the cost to ongoing opex.

The Evaluator Group points out that on-premises NAS often provides unified capabilities to provide block or object storage alongside file support. Think NetApp ONTAP or Dell PowerStore. This functionality – especially for block storage – is unavailable in most Global File Systems. The cloud component can be selected with no public cloud lock-in. 

The group says: “Services such as AWS Glacier, Azure Archive Blob, or Google Coldline storage can be used for data archiving use cases. Additionally, a third-party vendor service such as NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be utilized alongside on-premises systems for disaster recovery or to create a hybrid cloud environment. This flexibility allows organizations to utilize the cloud in whichever way is best suited for their cloud goals.“

Global file systems are consumed as a single, pre-built solution provided within one simple subscription in which the cloud and on-premises components operate in a pre-defined manner. Such simplicity can be valued highly.

The Evaluator Group has individual product briefs covering six global file system suppliers and their products; CTERA Enterprise File Services Platform, Hammerspace Global Data Environment, LucidLink Filespaces, Nasuni File Data Platform, NetApp Cloud Volumes Edge Cache, and Panzura CloudFS.

You can freely read a Technical Insight: File Storage Selection – NAS vs Global File Systems document and a Technical Insight: Global File Systems Help Overcome Cloud Challenges document to find out more. Both require registration. The individual product briefs are available for purchase or through an Evaluator Group subscription.