Mike Ivanov

Is it Time to Pool Your NAS and Filers?

If your unstructured data in your NAS environment is growing uncontrollably, it will lead to NAS sprawl. Learn how NAS consolidation can help.

Who can remember the early days of file shares? Some admin would create a file share on a Windows NT server, make it accessible, let users know it was there, and you’d store your files there. Hopefully it was backed up. Hopefully the server wouldn’t fail without notice, because of course nobody created a storage cluster for a file share. And hopefully, as more and more users wanted more and more shares, you could keep up with which files lived on what shares.

That’s why network attached storage, or NAS, was such an appealing idea. When the first couple of vendors released NAS appliances, suddenly we had file services that were really built for enterprise needs. The appliances had hardware redundancy, so durability and data protection weren’t really issues. The appliances were critical assets, so they were backed up and maintained. They had additional features to try and make file storage easier. And they offered what was, at the time, massive scale.

Now the situation has changed, again. Talk to an IT leader at a medium-sized organization and ask “How many network attached storage devices do you have?” They will glare at you, sigh, and say something like: “Too many.”

And that’s become the status quo.

Organizations are struggling to cope with an onslaught of unstructured data. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, images, web pages, PDFs, you name them, we have created them. And though many of them have temporary utility, all of them get stored on NAS devices. And as we create more resources, and as we grow our organizations, adding more people who create more resources, our network attached storage fills up. And then a second one fills up. And then a third, and a fourth, and so on. Ultimately, your IT director looks around one day, and discovers that your organization has ten network attached storage devices.

I call that NAS sprawl. And it’s not good.

And what’s really sad about that state of affairs is that it impedes operational efficiency. In a recent report, 25% of surveyed business executives regard IT as a business inhibitor. Among the executives who believe IT inhibits business success, 43% say it’s because workers have difficulty accessing the data that they need for business operations and analysis.

And that’s probably a fair diagnosis of a basic problem. If you have several network attached storage devices, I’m certain that your employees are spending unnecessary time and effort looking for essential documents and files, keeping local copies on their hard drives, dealing with versioning and sharing problems, and creating stopgap solutions like Dropbox to deal with their challenges. If you’ve ever heard a user yell “Where’s the file?!?”, you know what I’m talking about.

What’s to be done? The simple answer is that you need to solve your NAS sprawl. Imagine how much happier

  • Your users would be if they only had a single resource on the network to store all their unstructured data.
  • You and your team would be if they didn’t have to manage multiple NAS every day
  • Your executives would be if they weren’t writing checks for ongoing licensing, support, maintenance and repairs to a collection of aging NAS

And there are fantastic opportunities to solve NAS sprawl today through NAS consolidation. After all, network attached storage platforms are faster than ever before, each drive is enormously larger than it was even a few years ago, many vendors have streamlined their licensing, and you could have a single shiny new NAS device instead of a dozen old rickety ones.

So, I ask you: Is it time to consolidate your NAS? Your answer would probably be a resounding ‘yes’.

But there’s just one problem, and it’s called data migration.

I know a lot of IT admins, and every single one sweats migration. Accidentally deleting files, changing file share paths, disconnecting users from essential documents they need, and just the performance overhead of conducting data migrations – these are headaches most organizations don’t want to have.

They also struggle to know what platform to choose. After all, commodity x86 servers have come a long way since the Windows NT days. They’re essentially as reliable as a network attached storage appliance, offer similar services and capabilities, and usually cost a lot less.

But how do you bridge from old, proprietary network attached storage to a commodity platform with a lot more performance and scale while solving the migration problem?

That’s where DataCore comes in.

vFilO is DataCore’s approach to solve the challenges of NAS. A software-defined storage platform that virtualizes existing storage, it can combine all your existing NAS devices into a single logical namespace that’s searchable, indexable, and can even leverage existing object storage / cloud capacity as part of the pool.

To solve the access problem, vFilO gives you a single searchable global namespace for all the files in your environment. With that, your users can find what they need, avoid keeping local copies, and reduce versioning conflicts. vFilO does this automatically. It watches file utilization and, based on your policies, moves files to archive in object storage on-prem or the cloud. If the files are needed, vFilO can pull them back from archive and restore them upon access. They never leave the global namespace.

unstructured data storage
How vFilO consolidates NAS systems and moves unstructured storage based on business requirements

To solve the consolidation problem, vFilO also automates migration. Time-consuming manual migrations become a thing of the past so shifting platforms, consolidating platforms, reducing platforms becomes an easy task.

To solve the platform problem, once you’re done with old NAS devices, decommissioning existing hardware becomes easy. All your devices, whether proprietary NAS or commodity x86 storage servers, are part of the pool. Files on the aging gear are relocated to other filers in the background without taking any planned downtime.

Interested? Curious? Take a look at the ESG Showcase Report: DataCore vFilO: NAS Consolidation Means Freedom from Data Silos. You’ll get a deeper understanding of everything DataCore can do to accelerate, optimize, and deliver NAS consolidation more simply and effectively than ever before. Want to see vFilO in action? Register here.

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