What are you, Apple? Storage upstart patents filesystem wrapper tech

A wee bit more technical than rounded corners, one hopes


Cloud storage upstart Nasuni has been granted a patent for its UniFS file system, which layers a filesystem onto a public cloud storage provider’s object storage systems.

Nasuni (NAS-unified) offers primary storage in the public cloud through its filers, NF-series cloud storage gateway systems. One aspect of this is that the file system is versioned and there can be a virtually unlimited series of snapshots of it; each version being a snapshot.

Here’s how Nasuni describes a problem: “When deployed at scale, object storage systems are cost-effective, stable and highly available; therefore, they are well suited to the needs of the large Web companies that operate them. Unfortunately, they are also relatively slow and offer no consistency model for changes to data.”

And here’s its way of dealing with it: “The vast majority of enterprise data is stored in systems where performance and consistency are paramount. Object storage’s inability to handle changes quickly or in a consistent manner makes the technology unsuitable for data centre infrastructure in its raw form. Nasuni’s core technology, UniFS, bridges the gap by leveraging local snapshots to create a direct mapping between a high performance file system and a series of immutable (WORM) versions of the file system that are then committed to the object store. This technology ensures Nasuni’s file system can grow forever without the capacity limits of physical set by traditional hardware-based file systems.”

Nasuni says there are no limits on the number of files, or snapshots, that can be supported in a single logical volume. The systems performance is independent of the number of snapshots and, because it’s a cloud-based vault using snapshotted versions, there are effectively no capacity limits, and restoration is straightforward and does not need a separate backup or archiving appliance.

However it does involve a network link and the speed of that may mean data restores can be slower than from an on-premise backup appliance.

Nasuni’s pitch is based on simplicity; remove arrays and backup/archive boxes from your data centres and just have an on-ramp gateway to storage in the cloud. The on-ramp can even be in the cloud itself if you move compute there, with Amazon and Microsft’s Azure supported in this way.

CEO Andres Rodriguez has this to say about UniFS: “We wanted the best of both worlds. The performance and consistency of a file system combined with the unlimited scale and stability of cloud storage. The era of glorified hardware boxes is coming to an end. It is too expensive to keep up with the sheer growth in data and the complexity of keeping that data protected and available everywhere.”

Rodrigues claims: ”Enlightened IT organisations are thinning their data centres and leading the charge towards a new era where simple appliances offer direct access to the vast resources that are available in the cloud.”

Competitors like Riverbed, with its Whitewater product, and Avere with its Cloud NAS, also offer public cloud scalability and pricing methodology to customers finding on-premise filers limited, complex, costly or slow (or some combination thereof).

Avere, Nasuni and Riverbed all have ways of coping with the networking issues involved in cloud storage and these generally won’t ever go away until both compute and data live in the cloud.

The UNiFS patent is US Patent No 8,566,362. ®

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