Storage is one critical IT consideration that’s found across every size of company. While many business applications have moved entirely to the cloud, storage is caught at a crossroads. A small company with minimal storage needs may migrate their storage needs the cloud. But it’s not that simple for larger companies. As your company grows, so do your storage needs.
A few months ago, I made a couple of recommendations for small companies searching for a simple network-attached storage (NAS) device. These network-attached storage products don’t require an IT expert to setup and maintain, and they won’t break the bank. But they come with a number of limitations that make them viable for small business but poor choices for the enterprise. So this week I’d like to look at some of the best enterprise NAS options available. The market in growing which attracts new players. Consolidation is also happening in this space. Let’s take a closer look.
Features to Consider in Enterprise NAS Server Devices
Scalability: We all know that storage needs are exploding. Purchasing a device with a lot of capacity is one option. Adding additional devices is another. You’ll have to assess the needs of your company. My advice is to purchase twice as much storage as you need today. Most NAS servers support hot-swappable drives. That’s a big time-saver. Also consider products that automatically rebuild your RAID array when you add new drives or drives of varying capacity. Most of the newer products make it easy to insert and remove drives. If you store your backups offsite, having a NAS with a disk-caddy can make it easy to remove and insert new drives.
Redundancy: You’ll pay more for devices with redundant power supplies and cooling fans. But you’ll be happy you did when one of these replaceable components goes down. Some of the latest devices allow you to install and designate drives and network adapters as hot spares. Never cut corners on power supplies or cooling components. Any money saved by doing so will be sucked down the drain during your first outage.
Manageability: Any device you purchase will have its storage limits so it’s common to purchase a number of similar devices. Managing multiple devices can become a headache without the right software for the job. Some companies are better at creating software than others. The best build software that makes it easy to manage all your storage. If you’re not happy with the management software, you might not be happy with the NAS solution.
Replication: Like any other piece of hardware, NAS servers occasionally go down. Purchasing a NAS with the ability to replicate data to secondary devices helps mitigate these and other disasters. The cloud along with hybrid devices offer many replication options today. Just make sure you have the right network connections in place. Speaking of the network, most NAS products ship with Gigabit Ethernet support. Some less expensive models may only support 10 GB or 100 GB. I recommend you avoid these slower speeds.
Before I make my recommendations I want to briefly address the topic of FreeNAS. I’m aware that you can re-purpose an aging server into a NAS by installing a few drives and slapping FreeNAS on it. If you’re not familiar with FreeNAS, it’s a popular open source storage OS that supports a plethora of hardware. It’s worth a look if you’re a DIY type. I don’t want to take anything away from FreeNAS because it’s incredibly versatile and powerful. But for today’s discussion, I’m limiting my recommendations to dedicated NAS devices that offer enterprise level sales and support.
Exablox OneBlox 5210
Exablox OneBlox offers a range of enterprise scale-out storage functionality which focus on data protection and usability. OneBlox is an appealing solution for those with limited IT support who need a robust yet simple solution to their storage needs. That means the OneBlox makes an excellent choice for midsize organizations with growing storage needs.
Using a scale-out Ring architecture, OneBlox can quickly scale to nearly 700 TB of flash or hard-drive capacity. The OneBlox is a 1U devices with redundant PSU and support for up to 10 SSDs. It’s a sleek product that works well in virtualized environments with its easy to manage NFS datastores. It also works well as a target for disk-based backup.
StorageCraft recently purchased Exablox. Bringing Exablox products under the StorageCraft umbrella will only enhance their offerings. While other products struggle to make their software easy to use, StorageCraft and Exablox shine in this area. Well designed products and software should make Exablox products even more approachable and easier to deploy.
Dell EqualLogic and Dell Compellent
These enterprise NAS products are a result of Dell’s purchase of EMC. They offer some of the latest technology you’ll find in any storage product. Both products utilize Dell’s Fluid File System (FluidFS) which means you can add nodes, controllers and capacity without having to add expensive hardware. FluidFS allows organizations to choose from either a deep storage or high performance emphasis. As your needs change, so can this emphasis.
The Dell EqualLogic and Compellent are popular choices for companies specializing in areas such as media and entertainment. The high performance of these products also allows them to excel in deep learning, scientific research and video surveillance. Both come with excellent security and management support. They are also backed by Dell’s ProSupport or ProSupport Plus programs as well as training.
These are proven products for companies that require the most robust storage options on the market. Dell has been a major player in storage for many years, and their acquisition of EMC in 2015 has only strengthened their position. Dell has so many storage products to choose from, that you can’t go wrong to search here.
NetApp FAS8200 Hybrid Flash Storage
NetApp continues to grow into one of the most important players in scale-out storage. Scale-out storage allows companies to add additional capacity without getting rid of their old devices. NetApp is taking advantage of this philosophy with a number of new products. The FAS8200 is an excellent mix of performance and capacity from a company dedicated to the storage market. This comes through in their craftsmanship and polished management software.
The FAS8200 can scale to 24 nodes and accelerate SAN and NAS workloads with hybrid flash. It tops out at 57 PB of raw capacity and 48 TB of onboard NVMe flash cache. This mix of sheer performance and high capacity make a good choice to support enterprise applications, virtualization and hybrid cloud. NetApp also offers their ONTAP and OnCommand software which makes it easy to configure, manage and monitor multiple storage devices.
The support NVMe flash makes the FAS82000 ideal for workloads that benefits from speed and low latency. Database, ERP and CRM applications are examples of products that benefit from these features. Similar to Dell, NetApp offers a number of storage products that span simple to complex needs. Their pre-sales consultants are very knowledgeable and helpful.
Your storage needs will determine the best solution for your company. I’ve found storage devices are similar to networking products in that the support is as nearly as important as the product. I’ve worked with clients who found a great deal on a router or storage device on eBay. But their excitement in finding a bargain quickly turns to frustration when the support for such items is non-existent. For this reason, I recommend purchasing your NAS only from reputable companies that offer excellent support.