Scale-out storage has become one of the most rapidly growing areas of storage as it enables organizations to easily and rapidly scale storage into the hundreds of terabytes (TBs) or even petabytes (PBs). But between expensive scale-out solutions intended for enterprises and economical, stand-alone NAS solutions that meet the needs of small businesses, small and midsize enterprises go begging for a storage solution that meets their specific needs and price points. It is this gap that the new Gridstore NASg solution fills.
The Impetus behind the Demand for Scale-out Storage Solutions
The impetus behind the rapid growth and end-user demand for scale-out storage solutions is understandable. Organizations small and large want to start out with only as much storage capacity and performance as they need to meet existing demands. However they then want the option to affordably, easily and linearly add more capacity or performance as needed.
Scale-out storage solutions already available on the market meet these demands at the enterprise level. Enterprises can, for a price, purchase a solution that starts small and then scale it by adding individual nodes so they become a logical part of the storage solution to meet changing capacity and performance demands.
The same also holds true for solutions intended for small business though on a limited scale. These businesses can purchase a storage device that supports an optional second processor or the addition of more disk drives so they can scale these solutions (up to a point) to meet new demands.
However small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) have until now been devoid of a suitable solution as they need the best of the both of these storage architectures. They need a solution that starts small, often 10TB or less, is easy to implement and manage and can scale out. However the solution also needs to be affordable with the right set of features for their environments. This is the gap that the Gridstore NASg fills.
Gridstore NASg: Entry Level Price, Enterprise-like Scale-Out
GridStore NASg appliances are clearly a step above what might be classified as “entry level” storage devices even though its starting price of $499 per node may lead some to conclude it fits in this space. However a quick review of Gridstore’s architecture reveals it is anything but an “entry level” scale-out storage solution.
A typical Gridstore NASg installation starts out with as few as three NASg appliances that are deployed in a cluster (or a “grid”) which presents a single file system to applications and end-users. In this configuration each NASg appliance contributes storage capacity to create a virtual storage pool.
This clustering or sharing of storage capacity is accomplished using Gridstore’s software. It first virtualizes the available storage capacity on Gridstore’s NASg appliances and can even do so on corporate servers if the Gridstore software is installed on them.
In this configuration Gridstore eliminates the possibility of single points of failures. It keeps redundant slices of data on other nodes even as it optimizes the utilization of the available capacity on each node in the grid by uniformly striping the data in parallel across all of the nodes in the grid that make up the virtual storage pool.
As capacity thresholds in a Gridstore NASg grid are reached, more capacity may be transparently added to the grid through the introduction of new 1 or 2 TB NASg appliances that utilize commodity hardware components. Each NASg volume can grow to be tens of terabytes in size, an unlimited number of volumes in each storage pool and theoretically support an unlimited number of nodes.
The NASg grid is accessed through a software driver, or Virtual Controller, that is installed on each Windows server, PC or laptop which explains in part how Gridstore can affordably deliver enterprise scale-out storage features. This Virtual Controller offloads the heavy controller processing from the NASg nodes to the client while enabling each client to communicate directly and in parallel with multiple storage nodes. This reduces cost and complexity by eliminating backplane networks and higher powered storage nodes that need to balance data across nodes.
An Economical Approach to Improved Performance
Requiring a virtual controller on each Windows client accessing the Gridstore NASg grid does not mean that Gridstore forsook its responsibility to deliver performance in its scale-out storage solution. Instead the Gridstore NASg again leverages its software based architecture.
In larger scale-out NAS solutions additional hardware is deployed in two ways to improve performance. More network cards are added to increase the amount of available network bandwidth and throughput; more disk drives and controllers are introduced to improve throughput; or, some combination of both is deployed.
Gridstore leverages the same principles to improve the overall network and I/O performance of the NASg grid. Each NASg node includes its own hard drives, CPU and network interface cards. The difference between enterprise scale-out storage solutions and the Gridstore NASg grid is that Gridstore’s client side virtual controller manages the load balancing as opposed to the NASg nodes.
To accomplish this, the Gridstore client software opens up multiple simultaneous connections to the NASg grid to store and retrieve blocks from the Gridstore grid to service each data request. This spreads the data requests across the grid and prevents any individual device from bearing the entire load of the request while improving the performance of the grid as a whole. Then as the storage node count grows, the workload is further distributed so each node does less work.
Scale-out Storage Availability and Resiliency without the Complexity
Every additional NASg appliance that joins a grid enhances the ability of the grid to recover from the loss of data should a drive or node fail. The appliances work together in a RAID-like fashion to break down data into slices and spread them across all of the nodes in the grid.
In RAID configurations data is stripped across multiple drives so if an individual hard drive fails the data on that drive can be recovered. Gridstore NASg leverages a similar method to protect the data stored in its grid by striping data across the nodes.
One of the more desirable features of the NASg grid is that its resiliency actually increases as more nodes are added to it. A basic NASg grid that consists of three appliances can survive the loss of a node. However as more appliances are added the resiliency of the entire NASg grid improves.
Existing and new data is automatically redistributed across all of the nodes in the grid to ensure the resiliency of the solution. In larger configurations multiple nodes may then fail, become inaccessible or taken offline for maintenance while the NASg grid continues to function albeit with less capacity.
But possibly what is most desirable to SMEs is that there is no need to manage the availability or resiliency of the NASg grid as it is handled by the Gridstore software. As new appliances are added to the NASg grid, the Gridstore software detects it and then automatically works on both redistributing existing and new data across all of the nodes in the grid.
Gridstore NASg Provides SMEs a Bridge to Scale-out Storage
All size enterprises are experiencing explosive amounts of data growth and scale-out storage solutions promise to provide a means to handle that growth. But SMEs c
annot afford the expense and
staff needed for enterprise scale-out solutions nor are entry-level storage solutions sufficient any longer.
The Gridstore NASg provides that bridge that SMEs need to meet their escalating storage demands. By using commodity hardware components, taking advantage of idle cycles on Windows servers with its client software and keeping the entire configuration affordable and easy to manage, SMEs finally have a scale-out storage solution that is built and priced to meet their needs both today and tomorrow.