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Nasuni Cloud Mirroring – Protecting Against Service Provider Failures

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Following on from my post discussing the shutdown of Nirvanix, last week I took some time to catch up with Nasuni and had a good conversation with Andres Rodriguez, Founder and CEO.  In particular, we talked about their new Cloud Mirroring feature, a replication offering that looks to mitigate the risk of using a single back-end storage service provider.

Background

Nasuni provide a cloud gateway platform that stores both file and block-based storage.  It is delivered as either a physical appliance or virtual machine and has some great attributes like the ability to recover a failed filer from “the cloud” within minutes.  Customers hold their own encryption keys, so data is fully secure on the range of cloud storage service providers Nasuni use, including AWS and Azure.

One of the key benefits of the Nasuni platform is the way in which data is pushed into the cloud.  Data is synchronised through snapshots,  pushing changed blocks of data to the service provider on a regular basis.

Mirroring the Cloud

The Cloud Mirroring feature replicates customer data from one cloud service provider to another.  For example, replication of data from AWS to Azure is achieved using EC2 instances deployed on AWS that act as the back-end data mover.  Once established, initial replication of a customer’s data may take a few days to weeks to be achieved asynchronously and once done can be easily updated incrementally.  The replication process itself is managed by Nasuni with no customer intervention.

This is the point where things get clever.  As data is replicated and committed in snapshots, the Nasuni system can easily keep track of how current a specific service provider copy of data is by tracking the status of each snapshot.  Should it be necessary to fail over from one cloud provider to another, this can be achieved by checking the last snapshot replicated and re-pushing data to the new provider, ensuring data integrity is maintained.  This provides a number of benefits:

  • Orderly migration – customer’s data can be moved to another service provider, or location in an orderly fashion with no user impact.
  • Resiliency – should a service provider become unavailable, data can be written and read from another provider until the primary site returns.
  • Integrity – as data updates are based on snapshots, it’s just a case of ensuring the snapshot data is applied in order to retain consistency.

Nasuni runs their own network operations centre, managing the status of connectivity to customers’ filers and cloud providers.  This means they can quickly spot failures and act to protect customer data.  I challenged Andres on their ability to cope with a large-scale failure.  He indicated that should this occur, the Nasuni NOC can instruct each filer to fail over to their new location within minutes.  Being the “middle man” in between customers’ data and the cloud puts Nasuni in an interesting position as they see cloud storage issues before they happen.  In fact, Nasuni dropped Nirvanix as a service provider two years ago, well ahead of the current shutdown issues.

Nasuni claim they are not making any money out of this additional service and the extra capacity required at the secondary service provider will only be charged at cost.

The Architect’s View

As I have discussed previously, it is a mistake to depend on a single cloud storage provider.  Nasuni’s Cloud Mirroring mitigates at least one issue facing the large-scale adopting of cloud storage services, that is, the dependency on a single service provider.  Of course you’re still dependent on Nasuni themselves, but that’s another story.

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Copyright (c) 2013 – Brookend Ltd, first published on http://architecting.it, do not reproduce without permission.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • http://chriscowley.me.uk/ Chris Cowley

    I’ve had my eye on Nasuni for a while, it certainly looks very interesting. Wasn’t you who talked years ago about using a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Cloud Providers?

    • http://thestoragearchitect.com/ Chris M Evans

      Chris, yes it was. I mentioned it again a couple of posts ago. Nasuni is one solution. It’s on the list for me to compare how other offerings shape up by comparison.

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