Nasuni – Cloud-Scale NAS Without Cloud Worries

The premise of Nasuni is disconcerting in its simplicity: why not use the seemingly infinite capacity of the cloud to power a global enterprise file system, without the hassle of managing backend cloud storage? Here are our takeaways from their Storage Field Day 21 presentations.

Be sure to also check out our TECHunplugged Take on Nasuni:

Challenges of Traditional NAS

Managing file services at scale can be quite a headache. NAS systems are usually siloed within organizations and often based on physical on-premises infrastructure. Islands of NAS infrastructure exist in many locations across the globe, fragmented and scattered.

Each of those infrastructure islands have to be managed independently through their life cycle, increasing the complexity of the overall NAS architecture and putting incredible strain on operations teams, whether it comes to regular maintenance operations, capacity management or troubleshooting.

If this wasn’t enough, data protection and disaster recovery for each of those islands needs to be managed independently. Traditional NAS has served us well, but simply isn’t up to the enormous challenges of operating at scale.

A Global Architecture with Local Benefits

This is where Nasuni comes in. Nasuni (meaning “NAS Unified”) is a modern take on NAS architectures, which promises to deliver all of the expected outcomes of NAS, while operating at scale, and without its limitations.

To simplify Nasuni’s architecture to the extreme, there are two components to it: one is UniFS, the other are Virtual Edge Appliances.

UniFS is at the core of the solution, this filesystem is built on top of public cloud object storage solutions and presents to the Nasuni customers as a globally accessible shared volumes. Organizations connect to UniFS shares through edge appliances, which act as a gateway to UniFS. 

Those appliances can of course be geo-distributed to optimize access speeds to the UniFS data, as well as distribute the load and reduce contention.

Because Nasuni relies on object storage, organizations can decide how they want to deploy it. It could run as an entirely on-premises solution based on private cloud storage solutons such as Dell EMC ECS, Cloudian Hyperstore, Scality RING and others, but it can also run in a hybrid model where some of the shared volumes are on-premises while others are in the cloud. And of course, the full cloud model is the default way of consuming Nasuni.

No Limits

One of the features in which Nasuni prides itself is the absence of limits in their architecture. Common file systems usually have limitations: maximal file size, amount of files per volume, volume size and amount of snapshots per volume are common limitations encountered.

By acting as a file overlay built on top of object storage, Nasuni has no limitations of its own, especially when customers are running Nasuni over public cloud storage.

This is a point where we would have loved an architectural deep dive to understand how UniFS exactly works, but you can’t have it all.

Infinite Data Protection

Nasuni uses a patented technology called Nasuni Continuous File Versioning. As depicted in the picture below, Nasuni’s next-gen snapshot technology continuously uploads changes to cloud object storage, creating versioned & immutable copies of the data. Those read-only versions can be then use to restore data at any point, travelling back in time for months or years if needed, and mitigating exposure to ransomware.

From a Disaster Recovery perspective, the data is resiliently stored in the cloud, so all that is required to resume operations is to re-deploy an edge appliance, connect it back to the Nasuni UniFS and wait until it re-hydrates.

Nasuni claims that it takes usually around 15 minutes for files to be cached and ready for access. This eliminates the complexities usually associated with DR such as identifying a secondary DR site and the necessity to configure DR at each site.

Data Analytics… or not?

Nasuni also demonstrated their Nasuni Analytics Connector, a tool which enables organizations to gain more insights out of their data, effectively turning UniFS volumes into data lakes.

Nasuni converts the file data that is contained in UniFS volumes in a native object format which can then be used by major analytics software platform or AI / ML tools. Currently, AWS and Azure are supported.

While there are no built-in analytics, this gives at least a way to work with the treasure trove of data that can potentially reside on an organization’s file shares. It’s a double-edged blade. On one hand, organizations have to find their own way to perform analytics, on the other hand, they can use industry standard methods instead of having to rely on yet another built-in tool.

For Nasuni, this means delivering the capability to customers and providing an open ecosystem, without having to invest precious time and limited R&D resources to a product that would inevitably have limited outcomes.

Pricing

Nasuni is a SaaS based offering with three tiers: Essentials, Advanced and Premium. Pricing is per TB / year based on each tier. The Essentials tier only covers a single site, Advanced and Premium tiers have unlimited sites as can be seen below.

As stated at the beginning of this article, where Nasuni delivers value is when operating at scale and as a replacement for traditional, on-premises NAS solutions. The screenshot below, coming from Nasuni’s website, demonstrates a TCO savings view of Nasuni compared against traditional storage.

Consumers are of course encouraged to perform their own calculations to ensure savings depicted match with their current infrastructure. Nevertheless, we can see below that as sites and complexity increase, traditional NAS becomes more and more expensive.

TECHunplugged’s Opinion

By building on top of public clouds, Nasuni provides global data coverage with local acceleration, infinite scale and true cloud economics. Not only Nasuni delivers on this premise, but it also provides powerful data protection and versioning mechanisms.

Traditional on-premises NAS challenges are gone: infrastructure procurement, delivery wait, rack & stack and initial set-up, as well as DR setup become a thing of the past.

Nasuni’s solution impressed us for at least two reasons: its simplicity and practicality. Far away from the hype, Nasuni does one job and does it well: overcoming the hurdles of traditional NAS by delivering a SaaS-based modern NAS architecture built for the cloud era.

An approach that definitely makes a lot of sense today, and that will inevitably become the standard way of deploying and consuming file storage in the near future.