Traditionally, scale-out NAS has been confined to large businesses with the need for petabytes of storage that have been able to afford highly specialised appliances deployed for narrow purpose missions. The exciting news is that scale-out NAS technology is now available to mid-sized enterprises struggling with complex infrastructures (that have traditionally been expandable only at great expense). This has opened an entirely new market filled with opportunity for channel partners. Scalable file serving with enterprise wide data protection and archiving is vital to midsized corporations encountering serious capacity and performance limitations. With partners being able to offer scale-out NAS, to these organisations, their opportunity for increased margins is increased.
The benefits of scale-out NAS
In a hyper-growth storage environment, corporations have found it cost-prohibitive and cumbersome to keep up with the explosion of data capacity requirements, providing a challenge for channel resellers. Limitations of past storage technology has resulted in disconnected data silos. Organisations are also forced to cope with continually growing storage management costs and complexity while doing so with depleted staff resources. Scale-out NAS has been well positioned for channel partners to be a cost-effective, flexible solution eagerly sought by small to midsized corporations that want more storage capacity and performance, but without adding management complexity and post sales support. With market researcher Gartner estimating the market for scale-out NAS having the potential to reach $15bn by 2015, there has never been a better time for partners to get a ahead of the game.
Unlimited scalability within one namespace is the great virtue of scale-out NAS
For many years, storage was a secondary consideration for IT management. New projects would spin up with storage requirements that stretch beyond what the current storage infrastructure could support. This forced IT administrators to create another independent, un-integrated silo of storage due to time and budgetary constraints. However, times have changed and storage has become a critical component to consider when engineering infrastructures. With the capacity requirements becoming too large to ignore for new IT deployments, and the prospect of unpredictable and exponential growth in the future, a change in the way storage is deployed is paramount.
Added to the difficulties of housing a constantly rising amount of data is the issue of how businesses and organisations can effectively manage all the data. This is especially challenging when infrastructures feature disconnected storage silos, which are already expensive and time consuming to manage. Adding more capacity merely increases the management burden and makes it even more difficult for IT to maintain a consistent user experience. It also results in additional staff overhead, as highly trained IT professionals need to be hired to tend ever-more complex storage environments.
Scaling is the Difference
A clustered NAS solution scales capacity and performance without increasing management complexity by eliminating islands of storage. This provides easy and affordable scaling that doesn’t force businesses to try and predict capacity in advance. Organisations can increase capacity and improve performance by spreading the workload across the storage cluster by drawing from available drive-bays within existing nodes or adding additional nodes. Extra capacity from new nodes or drives can be integrated automatically while ensuring proper configuration and load balancing for best overall system performance. There are no boundaries to growth in such a cluster because there are no limits to the number of nodes or drives that can be added.
Managing the storage capacity you need, but only when you need it
By consolidating file storage, scale-out NAS reduces the amount of infrastructure required and prevents forming more islands of storage. Management of a single global namespace is simple and consistent, irrespective of whether a business is managing small amounts or multiple petabytes of storage. Businesses can increase the global namespace size as required. This allows purchasing more storage capacity only when needed, saving time and reducing capital costs.
A global namespace simplifies management by eliminating manual provisioning and creating virtually unlimited storage volumes. Businesses also have the ability to manually control volume usage by adjustable quotas for different network applications or departments.
Overcoming the network bandwidth problem
Businesses with growing user bases often experience congestion and throughput bottlenecks as they encounter performance limitations due to the fixed amount of network bandwidth available in the single head unit architecture of a traditional storage design. Scale-out NAS addresses the network bottleneck issue and boosts aggregate performance across the network by balancing user connections and spreading data out across the cluster.
By increasing usable storage in the global namespace as new nodes are added, all clients benefit from performance improvements as incremental bandwidth, file I/O, processing power and capacity is provisioned. Adding more nodes to an existing cluster accelerates application performance and lets businesses keep pace with ever expanding user bases, while avoiding downtime or tedious data migration.
Failure is not an option
Even when storage is protected by proven RAID technologies, data loss or business interruption can occur if any crucial hardware components fail. Scale-out NAS solutions protect data and prevent business disruption by tolerating the failure of multiple drives and even entire nodes with no downtime or offline rebuilding.
Scale-out NAS architectures maintain resiliency by writing data across multiple nodes and disk drives simultaneously in order to achieve instant redundancy. This architecture makes it possible for corporations to achieve complete redundancy and protection by removing all single points of failure.
With scale-out NAS, channel partners are able to offer midsized firms technology that previously only the largest of enterprises have had the inclination and budget to be able to use. They are able to keep up with the recent evolutions in storage allowing them to offer the best to their customers not to mention stay ahead of the storage game. With scale-out NAS technology, resellers can offer mid-sized corporations the increased productivity and a lower cost of doing business that they crave.
Joe Disher is director of product marketing at Overland Storage
This was first published in September 2013