Category Archives: Data Storage

Use clustered NAS to tackle mountain of unstructured data

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, discusses the pros and cons of clustered network-attached storage (NAS) and the vendors in the NAS market in this FAQ.

Listen to the mp3 podcast (text of interview below).

What is clustered NAS and how does it differ from traditional NAS?
Clustered NAS, or network-attached storage, is different from typical network-attached storage in that it uses a distributed file system that runs simultaneously on multiple nodes or servers. The key differentiating factor between clustered NAS and traditional NAS is its ability to stripe the data and metadata across the storage nodes and subsystems. This provides access to the network file system from any of the clustered nodes unrelated to the actual location of the data.

What are the benefits of clustering NAS?
It’s a scaling situation. There’s an old saying with network-attached storage that goes something like this: “I loved my first NAS. I really liked my second. By my tenth I was pulling my hair out.”

As network-attached storage scales you get to a point where you can’t put anything more in a filer, so you have to get another filer. Then you have to manage both filers — so you think “OK, so I have two times the workload.” Well, not exactly. You are going to have more than two times the workload because you have to start moving data between them and make sure you are getting the optimum use of both. That being said, two still isn’t that bad. Three? With three, the balancing gets a lot tougher. Once you get up to 10, it’s a nightmare.

So, a clustered NAS solution is designed to provide a single image, a single mount point, and it does all of that load balancing among the nodes without any human intervention. So, you have, in effect, one very large bucket, and you can add more nodes as you go.

What are the drawbacks of clustered network-attached storage?
The biggest drawback of clustered NAS is that most clustered NAS products are designed for a lot of data streams and a lot of users. A single data stream for performance isn’t going to perform better, and in some cases, it may perform worse than a single data stream in traditional NAS.

Who needs clustered network-attached storage? Is there a typical use case?
There are a lot of use cases. Unstructured data today is growing much faster than structured data. PowerPoint presentations, MP3s, Microsoft Word documents, the things that people use on their laptops and desktops — all of this stuff is growing much faster than structured information such as databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and mail servers. In fact, this year, unstructured data will surpass structured data in most data centers.

So, just about everyone needs filer or NAS-type systems. The clustered NAS products have a nice leg up in an environment where you have lots of users accessing the same files. So, for example, in the verticals, they have been doing this for a while. The entertainment and music industry uses clustered NAS quite a bit, because it allows you to share workflows.

Think of that from a video or film production point of view, and that’s very nice. And, it scales. Easier than, let’s say, a storage area network (SAN) file system. Life sciences, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas — these have been the industries using clustered NAS. Now, having said that, it’s becoming more mainstream. One area where you are going to see it grow considerably is in the cloud-based data storage offerings.


Open-E announces Open-E Data Storage Software V6

Open-E, Inc., a leading developer of innovative storage management software, today announced the general availability of its sixth generation Data Storage Software (DSS) V6 IP-Storage operating system. The new DSS V6 storage management software, with a new architecture, user interface and with more advanced functionality than previous versions, can be easily downloaded from Open-E’s website and installed to any media including internal HDD, RAID Array, USB, SATA and IDE DOM (Disk-On-Module), or any other bootable media.

The Open-E Data Storage Software V6 (DSS V6) is a unified file and block storage management operating system (OS) that offers Network Attached Storage (NAS), iSCSI, InfiniBand and Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (SAN) functionality, while providing superior performance, security, and scalability at a fraction of the cost of alternative storage offerings. Advanced features of Open-E DSS V6 include Data and Volume Replication, Volume Snapshot, Automatic Failover for iSCSI Volumes, WORM and NDMP and built-in virus protection. Designed to be versatile and flexible to support a wide variety of hardware RAID platforms from the industry’s leading vendors, Open-E DSS V6 allow users to combine NAS systems with iSCSI SAN systems, while enabling the connection of multiple Network Interface Controllers, including Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand. The Open-E DSS V6 supports logical volumes greater than 16TB. The software is available with standard license capacity of 4, 8, and 16TB. Extension keys can be purchased to add additional storage capacities from 2TB to 64TB.

In comparison to its legacy versions which already provides a rich feature set, Open-E DSS V6 adds advanced functionality including:

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ReadyNas Vault – NAS-Linked online Disaster Recovery

ReadyNAS Vault software connects ReadyNAS systems to an enterprise-class Web-based storage infrastructure. You determine what you want protected and ReadyNAS Vault automatically and securely copies it offsite. ReadyNAS Vault software is tightly integrated into ReadyNAS storage systems, so you can confirm results, make changes, and recover files, even for multiple systems, from any Internet location.

Device-integrated Cloud Backup
Other backup solutions require a server and agents to be installed, managed, maintained, and licensed, but ReadyNAS Vault is built right into your storage. Differential backups, de-duplication and compression are all automatic, and management requires only a Web browser. Cut down costs while increasing reliability, all without adding complexity.

Web-based Management
Check transfer history, modify configurations, change scheduling and select backup sources from any browser-based location in real-time. No more waiting on email for logs after the fact, and multiple systems can be managed from a single login.

Continuos Data Protection Options
ReadyNAS Vault can watch for changes in real-time and provide immediate protection for new or modified files. Alternatively, backup jobs can be scheduled to run at specific intervals so that your data is moved offsite when it is most convenient for you. Advanced configuration options for bandwidth consumption and system usage provide you with complete control.

Recover Data Quickly
Browse to the files you need and replace them with a click. No need to restore from tapes, no concerns about software versions and no media management hassles – just browse and replace.

128-bit SSL transfer connections ensure that your data is kept private and secure during transmission and 256-bit AES encryption delivers additional protection while it sits on cloud storage systems.
ReadyNAS Vault makes backup to an offsite data center simple and affordable enough for both home users and small businesses.

ReadyNAS Vault page (with pricing details)

Startup Pranah Brings Enterprise Storage To SMBs

Startup Pranah Storage Technologies has entered the SMB storage market with a channel-only appliance, with a software stack that includes most of the top enterprise storage features.

Pranah’s new 2000 series storage appliance includes a purpose-built hardware box combined with a software stack that includes thin provisioning, snapshot, and both NAS and iSCSI SAN capabilities, said Dave Walstad, vice president of sales and marketing for the St. Paul-based vendor.

The appliance also includes a 10-Gbit Ethernet connectivity; support for SAS, SATA, and Fibre channel hard drives; dual controllers and power supplies; three fans; and an enclosure to make it easy for solution providers to configure the storage capacity.

Options include distributed file systems, tiered storage, and synchronous and asynchronous replication, Walstad said.

However, price is what makes Pranah shine.

“We are both a hardware and a software company,” he said. “The technologies are not disruptive. But the product is disruptive because of the price points.”

Pricing for the Pranah 2000 series appliances starts at $2.15 per Gbyte for a 1U enclosure configured with a dual controller and 8 Tbytes of iSCSI storage, Walstad said. When configured with 80 Tbytes in a 4U form factor, the price drops to about 61 cents per Gbyte, he said.

That puts Pranah’s entry-level systems squarely within the $12,000 to $25,000 price band, said Steve Carter, president of the vendor.

That pricing makes Pranah an easy company to work with, said Jim Wolford, owner and CEO of collocation infrastructure firm Atomic Data Center and its sister company and Apple (NSDQ:AAPL) reseller, The Foundation, both based in Minneapolis.

Wolford called that price band a space that other vendors have missed.

“And Pranah plans to come out with stable pricing,” Wolford said. “Depending on the time of the month, other companies may cut prices by 50 percent. Pranah is very easy to work with.”

Since most of the customers which use collocation infrastructures or who deal with Apple for developing creative materials are smaller businesses, they are big storage and SAN users, Wolford said.

“I use a lot of SAN,” he said. “But when a customer goes to a collocation facility, and is looking at a $100,000 SAN, it’s hard to swallow. With Pranah, customers can put two devices in collocation and snapshot them to each other for low-cost disaster recovery.”

Full article:

Western Digital vs Seagate: two storage giants

PC World has a comparison between Western Digital and Seagate, comparing their internal, external and home theatre products:

When it comes to storage, Western Digital and Seagate are perhaps the two most recognisable brands in the market. They rival each other in nearly every segment of the storage market and try to outdo each other with innovations in ease of use and power efficiency. We’ve pitched these two storage giants against each other and taken a look at some of the key differences between their products.

External Storage

External storage is great for backing up personal and corporate data, as well as for transporting large amounts of information from one computer to another. The better choice in this case is a matter of who provides the best security, largest capacities and best choice of connectivity.


Western Digital and Seagate both offer a variety of pocket external hard drives with differences in capacity and connectivity. We prefer the book-like design on Western Digital’s My Passport range to the FreeAgent Go case. However, unless you need a FireWire 800 connection we would pick the Maxtor BlackArmor (Maxtor is a subsidiary of Seagate). This Maxtor portable hard drive provides government-grade encryption to ensure your data doesn’t get into the wrong hands. We are yet to see anything from Western Digital to match this level of security.


Western Digital wins out when it comes to larger capacities, offering its My Book Studio Edition II with 4TB of storage in either a RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration, along with plenty of connectivity. By contrast, the best Seagate can muster is 2TB of storage from the single-drive FreeAgent Desk. Though Seagate’s offering excelled in our USB 2.0 file transfer tests, the eSATA port on the My Book Studio Edition II provides nearly double the throughput of the FreeAgent Desk.

Network-attached storage

Like solid-state drives, NAS devices appear somewhat of an afterthought for Seagate and Western Digital. Still, both companies compete in this market, with Western Digital’s Sharespace and Seagate’s BlackArmor NAS 440 going head to head. Though undeniably uglier, the BlackArmor 440 NAS device is ultimately the better choice of the two, providing better connectivity and configuration options compared to Western Digital’s SMB-focussed NAS device.

Winner: Seagate

Western Digital rules the coop when it comes to the larger external hard drives, but Seagate’s pocket hard drive and NAS devices provide better security and configuration options over the competition.