So you want to run Windows Server using AWS. That wasn’t always so easy.
It used to be that the only way to create your own custom file service solution would involve huge investments of time and resources, all of which were prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, there is a new solution to using Windows Server on Amazon Web Services: NetApp® Cloud Volumes Service for AWS.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this fully managed file service from NetApp and see how it provides SMB storage in AWS for use cases such as Windows workloads, heavy media files, analytics, and development, all while avoiding the problems of in-house SMB solutions. We’ll also see how Cloud Volumes Service’s support features, such as NetApp Snapshot™ copies, cloning, and reliable, cost-effective synchronization, providing you with more capabilities than you can get natively on AWS.
The Challenges of SMB Storage on AWS
Using the Microsoft ecosystem is a fact of life for most deployments, and if those deployments require shared storage, they rely on the SMB protocol. Until recently, AWS users who wanted to use Windows Server had to figure out some kind of workaround.
Let’s consider what those workarounds would look like. You could attempt to use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) natively with other storage resources to cobble together their own in-house SMB share. The complexity involved in setting up this type of in-house solution would increase as concurrent access to the file shares need to be scaled up. It would also increase if business-critical services start to depend on the availability of the files, which is what happens in a disaster recovery scenario. But most of all, such solutions consume a considerable amount of cost and time, which could impact an organization’s other business efforts.
Consider the fact that shared file services have three big use cases: as data archive repositories; as storage for immensely large datasets, such as collections of visual, audio, and multimedia files; and as storage for high-performance, data-driven applications such as databases. You can see just how a relational database can put stress on a file service in this blog. These workloads demand a high level of performance, which can be difficult to provide in-house.
And the level of work involved with overcoming the issues of in-house SMB file service solutions could be a nightmare. First off, there is the manual administration, which would require full-time dedication to make sure that all the moving parts are in order and that files are served out correctly. This would also require a high level of technical skill, because components such as failover clusters would need to be cared for and maintained. The ability to manage scaling is another problem: Any kind of storage capacity increase would require switching operations to higher-performing disk space. That’s a move that could disrupt normal operation of the application and send everything crashing down. This is exactly why file services are offered as fully managed: It’s just too much of a hassle to deal with on your own.
But aside from the labor involved with an in-house SMB shared storage and file service solution, meeting the demands of the workloads that use the system would be next to impossible, because creating an environment that can scale on demand isn’t easy or affordable without the cloud’s readily accessible resources. Even if you could build your own file service, it would strain most IT budgets. Plus, you’d still need to make sure that you have solutions for important things such as data protection, data replication and transfer, and cloning in place.
Luckily, you don’t have to bother with these in-house solutions for serving SMB anymore.
A New SMB Solution for AWS: Cloud Volumes Service
Cloud Volumes Service for AWS provides a solution to the problem of shared storage for Windows Server for AWS without all the overhead and administration involved with an in-house solution. Cloud Volumes Service is a SaaS solution with Active Directory integration that doesn’t require any manual administration, freeing up engineers to get busy without worrying about storage management. It also has features that provide data protection to your deployment and speed up the development cycle.
All it takes to create an SMB file share on Cloud Volumes Service is for you to provide some information about what you need: the performance of the file share, the region you’ll use, and your preferred frequency for Snapshot copies. Then NetApp will create a 100TB cloud volume that is scalable and highly available. Cloud Volumes Service also has dual-protocol capabilities, so you can work with NFS in Linux environments without having to toggle between file services.
Cloud Volumes Service allows you to change between three different performance levels dynamically, so the storage always adjusts to fit your needs and the demands on your files. At every performance level, Cloud Volumes Service offers some of the best performance you can get with AWS.
Designed in a highly available configuration, Cloud Volumes Service further protects your data with the built-in Snapshot capability. If you need to restore your system to an earlier point, that data is also safe. These Snapshot copies are both cost-effective and fast, solving a challenge when you use native backup methods.
Plus, with its cloning capabilities, DevOps engineers can create writable clones of the primary environment in just moments. This has huge benefits for continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines and time to market (TTM). Cloud Volumes Service also offers solutions for getting your data to the cloud quickly without painfully high data transfer fees. This transfer also comes with transport encryption, so files are always safe.
AWS is the cloud leader because it provides easy-to-use and easy-to-scale compute and storage with the click of a button. For a long time that was true only if you didn’t want to use SMB, which is basically part of any environment that uses Microsoft. Now, that obstacle is out of the way thanks to Cloud Volumes Service for AWS.
You have depended on NetApp technology to provide full support for SMB file shares for years. Now, you can get that dependability with the scalability and on-demand availability of the cloud, all fully managed.