Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Cloud Field Day 4 in Silicon Valley. While there, one of the companies that presented to the delegates was SoftNAS. For those unfamiliar with SoftNAS, their solution allows organizations to present cloud storage from platforms such as AWS and Azure using familiar protocols such as iSCSI and NFS.
This approach to cloud storage has both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, SoftNAS allows companies to overcome data inertia easily without refactoring their applications. On the flipside, an application can only be considered cloud native when it is designed to take advantage of the elasticity of services and resources made available when using public cloud platforms like AWS S3 and Azure Blob Storage. How SoftNAS helps customers accomplish this is with a number of features.
SmartTiers is meant to leverage multiple cloud storage services and aggregate them in a single target for applications that are not able to utilize cloud storage services natively. With SmartTiers, data can be automatically aged from the quickest and most expensive tier of storage made available to the application to lower cost, longer term storage. Think of it as putting hot data in flash storage, cool data in traditional block storage, and cold data in object storage such as S3.
UltraFast is the SoftNAS answer to the problem of network links that tend to have unpredictably high latency and packet loss. Using bandwidth consumption scheduling SoftNAS claims UltraFast will achieve the best possible performance gains on networks with the aforementioned problems with performance and reliability. Performance of UltraFast is monitored through a dashboard and can also be measured on demand with integrated speed tests.
Lift and Shift
Lift and Shift is a common term used to describe the process of moving data off a legacy platform and into the cloud without refactoring. It is often seen as an intermediate step to eventually adopting a cloud native architecture. SoftNAS helps customers achieve this by moving data to an on-premises appliance that will continually sync with another appliance in the cloud service of their choice. Synchronization of data can be accelerated by Ultrafast. When the customer is ready to complete the migration of their application, only a final delta sync will be needed and the most recent version will be present in the cloud platform of their choice.
FlexFiles is a SoftNAS feature that is based on Apache NiFi. It solves the problem of collecting and analyzing data in remote locations. IoT devices can generate extremely high amounts of data that cannot possibly be transferred back to a data center or public cloud over the types of WAN/Internet links available at most remote locations. By placing a SoftNAS appliance in the location where data is to be collected, FlexFiles will allow customers to filter data. Once data is captured and filtered locally, only that data deemed necessary is transferred securely to the public or private cloud where it can be acted upon (transformed in SoftNAS terms) and processed by an application.
The first reaction that some may have to SoftNAS is that the product is not cloud native and therefore not worth their time. I would caution against this line of thinking and encourage taking time to consider the use cases of SoftNAS’s solutions. Much of what SoftNAS does enables customers to move large amounts of data without refactoring their applications for the public cloud. This can be extremely valuable for organizations that do not have the time or skills in house to completely rearchitect the applications that their business relies on for critical operations.
Yes, if you are moving your data to the cloud you would be better off adopting a cloud native architecture long term. But if you have an immediate need to move your data off site, a solution like SoftNAS will remove the barrier for entry that can exist in many organizations and serve as an on-ramp to the cloud.
One More Thing
While they were presenting at Cloud Field Day 4, SoftNAS mentioned that they also have a partnership with Veeam that will allow use of the platform as a target for synthetic full backups. There was not enough time to get a deep dive on this functionality at the time. I have reached out to SoftNAS and hope to get more information soon and follow up with some specifics on the offering.