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A ROBO Storage Trifecta: VMware Virtual SAN + vCloud Air + SoftNAS Cloud NAS

A guest post by Michael Richtberg, VP of Business Development at SoftNAS

Remote office/branch office (ROBO) is no longer the stepchild of enterprise IT. Now, it’s a central data storage initiative for many organizations. While these ROBO locations may have storage and data protection needs that resemble that of a larger company, there’s no mistaking their unique storage environment. VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) and SoftNAS overcome these challenges to provide a simplified, highly-available and cost-effective ROBO IT environment.

Remote offices typically have minimal IT infrastructure and limited IT expertise while still requiring anywhere data availability, remote access, simple management, economical capacity and flexibility. ROBOs need enterprise-class data protection and offsite DR functionality, not a simple cloud backup service. They need file sharing in these remote offices and the ability to collaborate between offices, not just a simple cloud “box” that everyone can drop files into. Standard service for all offices with centralized control is also needed.

Research shows:
• Cloud storage market is expected to grow by 54% in the next four years (Research and Markets) [1]
• Amount of data collected and stored is expected to double every 18 months (Research and Markets) [2]
• 70% of respondent’s view ROBO as central to business operations (TechTarget/Storage Magazine and Taneja Group survey) [3]

Let’s discuss some of the key features required in a ROBO deployment scenario that businesses rely on:

Cloud File Services
Users expect cloud storage access at local speeds. Global enterprises have employees spread all over the world, typically with people working across multiple branch offices. In the past, file storage was built and optimized for local access. In today’s world of cloud computing and cloud storage, file storage must be flexible and connected. Between traveling users and remote employees, someone is always unhappy with the performance of the network drive. How can you deliver global access with local performance?

The solution is to have a non-stop, data-protected, highly available CIFS shared storage in the cloud. With this solution in place, each office and mobile employee can access global file shares that makes teamwork and collaboration possible, regardless of location. The data center file share is now available anywhere in the world at local speeds.

Data Encryption
For many businesses security is one of the major issues when it comes to sending confidential business data into the cloud. Businesses worry about their files being seen or even compromised. So how can you effectively prevent this from happening in your organization? What if your account gets hacked or something happens to your cloud storage provider? The answer is encryption-at-rest and in-flight.

Encryption is the process of making your files unreadable with an encryption key or pass-phrase so that even if somebody gains access to your files – it doesn’t matter because the only thing an intruder sees is gobbledygook. Only with the key can you properly see what’s in a file.

SoftNAS + VMware Virtual SAN: Better Together
SoftNAS leverages Virtual SAN as primary storage, adding NAS features such as unified storage via NFS, CIFS and iSCSI.

SoftNAS Cloud acts like a storage gateway with NAS functionality to overcome the singular gateway problem facing many companies by combining three things:
1. Virtual SAN for the hyper-converged local storage pool to host file systems
2. Unified shared system with NAS features via NFS and CIFS/SMB
3. A means to tie branch offices into vCloud Air for centralized protection and hybrid computing

These features satisfy customers that want a traditional file system as well as the ability to use vCloud Air for centralized storage.

vCloud Air
vCloud Air is a public cloud platform offering infrastructure, disaster recovery and many applications-as-a-service offerings that are built on vSphere. So where does SoftNAS fit in the architecture? SoftNAS is a software-defined NAS filer, delivered as a virtual storage appliance that runs across the vSphere and vCloud Air environments. SoftNAS and vCloud Air enable customers to quickly and easily implement hybrid and pure cloud business solutions that ensure corporate data is always safe and available and applications do not experience downtime.

Virtual SAN 2-node Cluster
Today, customers require all the benefits around performance, manageability and availability in a traditional SAN cluster implementation without the minimum requirement of three nodes. VMware recently released a version of Virtual SAN for ROBO, a supported solution specifically designed and packaged to satisfy the demands of smaller ROBO environments and suitable use cases.

With the introduction of Virtual SAN 6.1 the bare minimum number of dedicated physical hosts required for Virtual SAN is 2. Combine that with the introduction of ROBO licensing, customers can now deploy a large number of two node Virtual SAN clusters and centrally manage them from a single vCenter Server instance from a centralized data center.

Together with Virtual SAN, SoftNAS offers the mission-critical data protection and high-availability required for the non-stop operation of your business in a simple hyper-converged delivery system.

SoftNAS is the perfect complement to Virtual SAN 2-node cluster:
• Requisite NAS features, unified storage and CIFS/SMB with Active Directory integration.
• Extends Virtual SAN to include highly durable vCloud Air Object storage at petabyte scale for secure off-site storage.
• Extends the Virtual SAN storage, offering a full NAS filer feature set
SoftNAS key use case – Branch offices & remote offices
Ideal in the enterprise in branch and remote offices, SoftNAS Cloud, as a storage gateway together with Virtual SAN, can replace legacy file servers and provide enterprise-class NAS features to existing storage systems and provide access to unlimited cloud storage via vCloud Air.

Branch offices and remote offices can avoid costly on-premise upgrades and maintenance costs by leveraging low-cost commodity storage provided by Virtual SAN, including SSD, that attach directly to existing servers, combined with low-cost, durable S3-compatible cloud storage that protects data offsite, while provide high-performance locally.

Learn more about how SoftNAS Cloud NAS for VMware vSphere acts like a cloud storage gateway to work with Virtual SAN.

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[1] http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/pc3lks/cloud_storage
[2] http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/pc3lks/cloud_storage
[3] http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/magazineContent/Consolidating-remote-offices


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