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New Elastifile CEO: Is taking on Amazon's EFS really such a stretch?

File system contender makes a play for enterprise public cloud

Analysis Hybrid cloud filer Elastifile's co-founder and CEO Amir Aharoni has stepped aside and the new incumbent of the stretchy hot seat, former Scality man Erwan Menard, has said the firm will offer cloud native product optimised for each public cloud.

Menard, who took the helm three weeks ago, as Aharoni moved sideways and up to become chairman, was most recently COO at object storage supplier Scality, having been COO at HPC storage system supplier DDN before that. He came to the storage supplier world after working at HP and said he enjoys building up smaller companies.

Elastifile was founded in 2014 to develop an elastic file system that merged the on-premises and public cloud worlds. It has pulled in more than $65m in funding and first delivered its scale-out, distributed file system software a year ago.

There are software controllers running in each location and the various instantiations are aggregated into a single global namespace and file storage resource. There is primary file storage and a transparent, back-end, secondary tier for cooler data. The product has deduplication and snapshots, and a consumption-based business model.

Elastifile has claimed it can run with millions of IOPS and less than 2ms latency.

It's available through Google's cloud launcher and is expected to be available in the Amazon Marketplace.

The on-premises instantiation runs in an all-flash box, and one is supplied by Dell.

Who's big in the sector?

There are several suppliers shipping public cloud file system software products but these are, according to him, basically legacy approaches and not cloud-native from inception. However, they do at least offer a degree of homogeneity between their on-premises and public cloud incarnations.

Amazon's Elastic File System (EFS) is, according to Menard, not great in terms of scale and performance. Its latency is too high and it costs too much.

For example, Microsoft's Avere, Dell EMC's Isilon, NetApp and Qumulo have implementations of their filer software that run in the cloud.

NetApp has Cloud Volumes, which create file volumes in AWS, Azure and the Google Cloud Platform, as well as Cloud Volumes Service.

William Blair analyst Jason Ader writes: "NetApp... allows enterprise customers to leverage NFS storage in the cloud (via AWS, Azure, GCP) for use cases including analytics, DevOps, enterprise applications, and backup/disaster recovery."

Gotta be cloud-native

Menard claimed NetApp and others were "copying and pasting in the cloud a storage stack designed for appliance-type deployment many years ago". This approach ignores public cloud storage supplier media specifics that Elastifile uses, he maintained.

"For example, GCP offers several elementary storage building blocks; local SSDs, PDs (Persistent Disks), Standard PDs, which we at Elastifile have studied and can leverage accordingly in the context of specific enterprise scale-out file storage needs."

By using GCP's persistent disks "we can reduce the resources we need in GCP to run the file system, and optimise replication and the way we scale"...

In other words, it seems to El Reg, unlike the physical world of standard, commodity media, the public cloud suppliers have virtual storage drives with different properties.

Taking advantage of these, Menard claimed, enables Elastifile to offer a lower total cost of ownership. He said Elastifile customers can "go beyond databases, machine learning and compute-heavy burst jobs [and] move ... your core workloads to cloud [also]. This is a very significant market to be served, hence our focus."

Yes, you can install Elastifile on on-premises servers, "but we're focusing on the cloud... You need a product to be cloud-native per [individual] cloud. You need to focus." By using GCP's persistent disks "we can reduce the resources we need in GCP to run the file system, and optimise replication and the way we scale."

Elastifile said it aims to offer best-of-breed file storage in the cloud – enterprise-class, high-performance and low cost, with no need for on-premises applications to be modified to use it, if and when they move to the public cloud. Menard told us: "We'll see most customers going to the cloud."

Currently it has a few dozen deployments in electronic design automation, oil and gas, and genomics, with interest coming from entertainment and media companies. Every on-premises file system user with tens of TBs of application-generated file storage that wants to move to the public cloud is a potential customer.

+Reg Comment

These existing on-premises file system users with tens of TBs of application-generated file storage are all using a file system now. Elastifile has be seen as a better public cloud file system than these customers' incumbent supplier's file system, if that's available in the public cloud of their choice, and the public cloud supplier's own file system, such as Amazon's EFS.

"Better" meaning faster performance, lower cost, frictionless adoption, improved data migration facilities, and with a secondary tier for cold data. Menard said: "We believe you have to offer a lifecycle system."

It will be interesting see Elastifle's claims put to the test and its case for higher performance and lower cost against both the incumbents and the public cloud suppliers' in-house offerings proven. ®

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