Modern data storage isn’t merely about finding a place to store your data – it’s more about locating the perfect fit for your business and applications needs. Let’s face it:the optimal storage location can change faster than a trend on social media. This dynamic landscape has led us into the realm of hybrid multicloud data storage and services. Today, companies are mixing and matching their data usage across various environments, like they are picking toppings at a frozen yogurt bar. 

Without a doubt, the demand for data storage continues to surge, with the cloud emerging as a significant player in data storage and utilization. There’s ample evidence of this trend, as numerous articles dive into the statistics showing exponential data storage growth. This unprecedented growth is driving businesses to explore storage products that offer flexibility, scalability, high performance, and cost-effectiveness.  Meeting these demands, the Nutanix Unified Storage (NUS) solution rises to the occasion. Specifically, the Nutanix Files Storage service of NUS is a simple and scalable file management solution, adept at  dealing with the exponential unstructured data growth. 

A huge benefit of Nutanix Files Storage is our software-defined architecture, which allows for flexibility on when and where it is deployed. Today, we support running Files Storage on top of an existing Nutanix-backed deployment. This can come in the form of a  Nutanix Cloud Infrastructure (NCI) cluster on-premises, an NUS-dedicated cluster on-premises, or installed as part of an Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) cluster running in our supported public cloud providers. Nutanix Files Storage is a software-defined storage solution that is capable of running independent of any underlying Nutanix infrastructure. I am excited to announce our latest creation as part of our 5.0 launch: Nutanix Files Storage running natively in AWS.

Figure 1

Now I know some are thinking, didn’t you just say you can run Nutanix Files Storage on top of NC2 and isn’t that a Nutanix cloud offering? You would be correct. That offering is the Nutanix Cloud Platform software stack running on bare-metal instances in public cloud providers, upon which Nutanix Files Storage can be deployed. This new offering will be our Nutanix Files Storage software leveraging the use of AWS EC2 instances, and EBS and S3 storage to establish a file server in the public cloud.

Figure 2

This new offering will be available as a tech preview capability as part of the 5.0 release. The architecture will be the same as what you would find in our existing product today. The file server still consists of a series of file server VMs with attached storage resources that are clustered together to form the file server. The difference is the backing resources that will compose the file server. To help with simplification and operational consistency, the deployment in Tech Preview will be similar to how any file server is deployed today i.e.,via Nutanix Prism Central. The difference will be the parameters you provide as you work through the deployment workflow. A few notable variations are the need to select a region and availability zone, the VPC where the file server will be deployed, and a subnet for networking. As part of Tech Preview we will support a couple of Americas based AZs with more available as we work towards general availability in a future release.

Figure 3

In order to get the necessary resources deployed into AWS, an IAM user with the proper permissions will be needed. These permissions will need to allow the creation and modification of the EC2, EBS and ENIs that are deployed, along with attaching and detaching EBS and floating IPs during an HA event to another FSVM.  

One of the major cost components of migrating to the cloud is storage. AWS starts billing for the entirety of storage provisioned on EBS even if you have consumed only a small portion of the capacity.  Only way to contain the costs is if you deploy the smallest amount of the capacity you need and use, then grow into future capacity as needed. Nutanix Files Storage deployed into AWS will start with a small amount of storage and allow the backing EBS storage to grow as needed. We will deploy just enough EBS storage initially to get the file server up and running along with some capacity for data storage. This isn’t so much different to how we operate with our existing solution today, where we gradually expand the back-end virtual resources as capacity needs increase when deployed on-premises. As file shares are created and users begin storing data then we will expand, create and/or plumb up additional EBS storage as needed. This helps to keep the deployed (and billable cost) amount as low as possible.

To further help provide a cost-effective solution we will use tiering to S3 to optimize the cost of the capacity needed for data storage. The cost of storage in S3 compared to EBS is significantly cheaper. We will keep the recently accessed files in a “hot tier”, the attached EBS storage. This will allow the file server to leverage the EBS as a cache-like tier, with the most recently used files remaining in the hot tier. While I use the term cache here, the data is persistent regardless of where it lands. A key difference from on-premises to how we leverage S3 and tiering, will be support for on the fly read-write tiering with this new offering. As data becomes hot and needs updating, we will retrieve it from S3 and bring it back into the “hot tier”. Later, after any file changes it will migrate back down to S3. In the end this means the capacity that can be addressed by the file server isn’t bound by any limits to EBS and EC2. Leveraging S3 allows us to build a highly scalable file server in the cloud and minimize the use of EBS when at all possible. 

Nutanix Files Storage on AWS goes beyond just storing enterprise data, it also extends the awesome features that help protect your data. We also will support our Smart DR data service feature, allowing for the ability to establish a relationship between an on-premises file server and one running in AWS for disaster recovery.

Figure 4

So just like on-premises to on-premises, when the source file server is unavailable, failover can be activated and make the target shares (share1 and share2 above) read-write. Once the service impacting event has been resolved, replication can occur from the cloud file server back to on-premises. Then when the time is right, initiate a failback. Again, keeping operational consistency to how Smart DR works today. 

This is just the beginning of what we hope to offer with this solution. Whether the need is a large petabyte scale cluster on-premises, a small single node cluster at the edge or storage in the cloud, Nutanix Files Storage can meet the need. With the ability to provide a single data and application control plane, we can easily manage data from edge to core to cloud. We are continually exploring how we can enhance our offering and help our customers move their businesses forward. 

Here’s to a brighter, yet at the same time cloudier future. It’s often said the only constant in the world is change, this particularly true of technology. Having the right tools to navigate the ever changing technology landscape is key. This expansion in our ability with Nutanix Files Storage continues to help customers embrace the current and future of data storage and services with confidence. If you are interested in this new offering during Tech Preview, reach out to your Nutanix Partner or local Nutanix Account team to get more information. And with that, may the clouds be with you!


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