Network-attached storage (NAS) evolved in the late nineties primarily under the auspices of NetApp, then known as Network Appliance.
The company hoped this would end the utter dominance of EMC and SAN storage. NetApp’s collection of NAS filers and file storage made a big dent in EMC’s market share. But the industry has moved on from those heady days of the EMC-NetApp battle. A great many other players, configurations, protocols, and types of storage have emerged.
Here are some of the top trends in the NAS market:
1. NAS divergence
The challenge for IT is trying to find a single solution that can support divergent use cases. The underlying problem is that most file systems are decades old and have inefficient IO stacks.
“The primary trend in NAS is the divergence of the category,” said George Crump, CMO of StorONE.
“There is a need for a high-capacity, scalable, affordable NAS used for user home directories, archives, and as a backup target. Then there is another use case, high-performance file access used for hosting virtualized environments, databases, and AI workloads.”
Crump recommends that organizations look for a vendor that owns the storage IO path to extract maximum performance from flash and maximum capacity from hard disk drives (HDDs). The result is a single NAS solution that can support the ever-diverging NAS use cases.
2. The rise of AI and deep learning
Analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning (DL) are driving enterprises to increase their adoption of scale-out file storage and high-performance parallel file systems as a means to manage larger data pools and supply the performance necessary to drive accelerated processing.
However, many existing scale-up and scale-out storage systems can no longer keep up with the demand for capacity and performance that analytics, AI, and DL applications are putting on the storage infrastructure. Parallel file systems have evolved to solve these challenges.
“Parallel file systems were designed for these types of unstructured data management challenges, and vendors are delivering simplified system implementation and management to integrate into traditional enterprise IT environments,” said James Coomer, SVP of products at DDN.
3. NAS automation
Older NAS filers included some automation features. But the quantity of data as well as the pace of modern IT has required far more automation to be incorporated.
“There is a great need for flexibility and automation that works hand in hand to drive down cost,” said Coomer with DDN.
“Because of the sheer capacity challenges, these solutions need to have the ability to manage data over multiple pools of storage – NVMe for performance, disk drives for capacity, and also cloud. To ensure that the data is where it needs to be when it needs to be there, vendors are increasingly automating data movement, so that it does not require administrative intervention when instant access is expected and required.”
NAS filers and general file storage in the cloud is being widely offered in the cloud by many vendors. NAS-as-a-service is emerging.
For instance, Storage Made Easy released a new SMBStream product that can be launched directly from the AWS Marketplace.
It provides high-performance, secure access to file servers in the cloud, in data centers, and between geographically distributed offices across the world. Unlike using a virtual private network (VPN), users and applications have speedy access to the file data they need in real-time, and the solution scales as more users are added.
By making it available via AWS, it is far easier to consolidate file servers into the cloud, to include remote storage in cloud workloads, and integrate distributed file storage.
Further benefits include real-time access to file storage over the web, with no need for an office cache or snapshot synching and no global locking problems. Security is baked into NAS, such as key authentication, repudiation, and AES-256 encryption.
5. NAS still beats object
To listen to some, you would think that SAN and NAS storage were going away and that object will rule everything. However, the reality is quite different, according to Jay Subramanian, VP of product management for FlashBlade at Pure Storage.
The rise of modern applications has set the growth rate of unstructured data on fire. Eighty percent of worldwide data will be unstructured by 2025, according to projections from IDC. Yes, this has resulted in object storage becoming more mainstream — and it is being used more for primary storage and modern applications, beyond the typical archive and backup use case. However, file storage still beats it in a considerable way.
“File is still the dominant access methodology in a variety of applications and verticals, including high performance computing (HPC), media and entertainment, health care and software development,” Subramanian said.
Some of this unstructured data will find a home in object storage. But more of it will reside on file-based storage.
See more: The Storage Area Network (SAN) Market