In the first parts of this series we talked about AWS EFS and Cloud Volumes ONTAP®, Amazon FSx, and Azure and Cloud Volumes ONTAP®. Now we’ll go into some of the cloud-based file share services available with the help of open-source solutions, namely GlusterFS and Avere vFXT. For more articles on cloud file sharing, click here.
The main difference that we’ll see with the file share services that can be configured with open-source platforms is that their options are much more hands-on than the fully-managed solutions offered by AWS and Azure, Amazon EFS , Amazon FSx, and Azure Files. We’ll also take another look at Cloud Volumes ONTAP and see how its storage efficiencies and high-availability options add value to the end users.
Not every solution for file storage in the cloud is fully managed. There is the option of configuring your own file service based on open-source technology that can take advantage of public cloud storage and compute.
One such solution is GlusterFS. GlusterFS can be used to distribute a file share across multiple virtual and physical machines in order to provide scalability and resilience against failure. Though GlusterFS is open source, commercial support is available from Red Hat.
Gluster storage supports a wide range of different storage configurations, including distributed, striped, replicated, dispersed, and a variety of combinations of those. The filesystem also supports cloud backups through snapshots, as well as snapshot clones, and can serve out data over NFS, SMB, and even iSCSI through the use of different drivers and add-ons.
As setting up the GlusterFS open source platform is on the end-user, this is not a solution for the faint-hearted. You’ll be expected to roll up your sleeves in order to set the system up and resolve any issues that may arise on your own. It should also be noted that this solution is not specific to any cloud, meaning it can be deployed on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.
Another open-source option for cloud file service is Avere vFXT, which can act as a caching proxy on top of Google Cloud Storage, AWS, or Azure. Clients are able to access data over NFS and CIFS, leaving the filer to manage the actual persistence to the cloud provider’s object store in the back end. Avere virtual appliances can be clustered and offer many advanced features, such as integrating with your on-premises Avere NAS devices to create a global namespace. This solution is more suitable for high-end systems, as is reflected by the pricing.
- Variety of solutions available
- Support for both NFS and CIFS
- GlusterFS support for snapshot backups and clones
- Setup, scripting, domain expertise, and administration of GlusterFS may be very technical
- Avere vFXT may be out of scope for most users’ requirements
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP
As we saw in the previous parts of this series on cloud-based file share services, Cloud Volumes ONTAP is a comprehensive solution for cloud storage management that builds on NetApp’s expertise providing solutions for on-premises SAN and NAS storage. It’s main benefits as a file share service include:
- Support for both NFS and CIFS file shares in the cloud or on-premises
- CIFS Active Directory integration, keeping domain credentials and group memberships
- Available for use with AWS storage and Azure storage
- Wide range of storage management capabilities
- Powerful storage efficiencies
When compared to using open-source solutions, Cloud Volumes ONTAP gives users an out-of-the-box usability and integration with cloud and on-prem resources. This greatly increases the length of time it will take to put a file service into use, and limit the overhead involved in maintaining the solution.
There’s even more added value with Cloud Volumes ONTAP when you consider its other cloud file sharing benefits..
Cloud Volume ONTAP’s space-efficiency technologies—such as thin provisioning, data compaction, compression, and deduplication as well as data tiering, data cloning and efficient snapshots— are core to the ONTAP system. The cost-savings can be examined using NetApp’s Azure calculator and AWS calculator.
Cloud Volumes ONTAP also helps protect your data with snapshots that can create instant backups of your data, no matter how large the dataset, which is different from the way that EFS backups work. These snapshots can also be used to create flexible data clones, which are writable snapshots of your dataset, with zero capacity penalty and almost zero time to create.
These clone copies can be used for a number of purposes, but chiefly for testing, where they will have no impact on your workloads’ normal operations.
Another added value that comes with Cloud Volumes ONTAP is its high availability option, where two Cloud Volumes ONTAP nodes are provisioned to support multi-region deployment. With this configuration in place you can ensure that, in a failure scenario, business continuity will be maintained with no data loss (RPO=0), minimal recovery time (RTO < 60 secs), and a seamless failover to the secondary node and failback to the primary when the failure is resolved.
Cloud Volumes ONTAP is optimal for orchestrating hybrid architectures, which take advantage of traditional on-premises storage and public cloud storage infrastructure, as well as multi-cloud architectures. Both hybrid and multi-cloud architectures provide users with a way to avoid cloud vendor lock-in.
While the open-source cloud-based file share services discussed earlier in this article require a degree of effort to configure, Cloud Volumes ONTAP requires much less. In a large part this is due to the use of the NetApp Cloud Manager, which is used to deploy and manage Cloud Volumes ONTAP instances.
Available on both the AWS and Azure Marketplaces, Cloud Manager uses a simple wizard-based interface to walk you through the setup process provisioning volumes and disk aggregates, setting up new storage systems, and creating new file shares.
This functionality can make cloud operation much more user-friendly, but it still retains a level of access developers would like to see: every function that Cloud Manager is capable of carrying out can also be carried out using a RESTful API, which comes in handy for DevOps and other workflows.
Comparison Table: Open-Source Solutions and Cloud Volumes ONTAP
As we have seen in this series, cloud-based file shares can range from being fully-managed solutions, such as Amazon EFS, Amazon FSx, Google Cloud Filestore, and Azure Files, to completely self-managed, such as GlusterFS.
Options such as Cloud Volumes ONTAP and Avere vFXT exist somewhere in the middle, offering an advanced feature set aimed at users that need more control over their data. Cloud Volumes ONTAP covers a wide set of use cases, with licensing options available for small to large enterprises, whereas Avere seems more suited to caching and proxying for high-end NAS users. Whichever solution you choose, it’s important to test it out with a proof of concept to make sure it’s going to meet all of your specific requirements.