Top 5 Enterprise Hybrid Cloud SDS NAS Solutions

| April 15, 2024

By Todd Dorsey, DCIG senior storage analyst

An outcome of Data Center Intelligence Group (DCIG) research in Software Defined Storage for file storage, this report provides guidance on its Top 5 enterprise SDS NAS solutions with analysis of Ctera Enterprise File Services Platform, IBM Storage Scale, Nasuni File Data Platform, NetApp Cloud Volumes, and OSNexus QuantaStor  for unifying on-premises and cloud storage under a single management plane.

The Problem of Storage System Proliferation
For many organizations, the rapid growth of data has resulted in a proliferation of storage systems, whether on-premises in the corporate data center, at branch office locations, or in the cloud. The result is a plethora of data silos and a lack of visibility into the organization’s file estate.

As a result of these dynamics, organizations are often faced with the reality of not knowing the what and where of their data across the organization. This visibility gap complicates data protection, governance, analysis, security, compliance, and planning, which in turn impacts costs. It increases the likelihood of a successful cyber attack exfiltrating, exposing, or encrypting the organization’s data and disabling its critical business processes, which certainly worries every CIO. Further, scattered and unknown file data undermines AI workloads, which require complete data for optimum success. Ultimately, this lack of visibility into an organization’s data undermines IT’s mission of providing the technical resources the organization requires to achieve its goals.

Hybrid Cloud SDS NAS Solutions Enable Global Data Visibility
The solutions, based on enterprise-class SDS, offer a transformative approach to handling the growing accumulation of unstructured data. By decoupling the storage hardware from the management software, a SDS system eliminates storage silos, simplifies storage management, and enhances the visibility of unstructured data.

These solutions unify the management of storage resources across on-premises and cloud platforms, allowing organizations to integrate on-premises and cloud storage under a single management plane. Consequently, organizations achieve a more effective data management strategy that meets the challenges of unstructured data growth and provides the agility to address changing business requirements.

These solutions capitalize on the benefits of SDS, such as:

  • Cost efficiencies. SDS-based hybrid cloud NAS solutions notably reduce storage management costs. As SDS solutions abstract the storage management layer from the physical storage platform, organizations can optimize storage across on-premises and cloud environments based on actual storage needs and usage patterns.
  • Flexibility. In contrast to disparate storage systems and devices dispersed across multiple locations, these solutions present cloud and on-premises storage as a single unified storage pool. This means administrators can allocate storage capacity dynamically to users, groups, and applications as needed. These solutions allow organizations to leverage multiple cloud providers as well as on-premises storage. Thus, organizations can optimize the placement of data for cost, compliance, and workload priorities.
  • Global file management capabilities. Global views, including permissions management, capacity utilization, and analytics, enable new opportunities to ensure optimal performance and cost for managing an organization’s unstructured data. For distributed enterprises, hybrid-cloud SDS NAS solutions allow an administrator to manage a broad set of file management services across cloud providers and hundreds or thousands of nodes, sites, and users from a single interface. Administrators can apply data governance policies across their file estate. While the dynamics causing file growth still occur, these solutions give enterprises the tools to better understand and manage that growth while enabling organizations to create more value from the data.
  • Reduces administrative costs. As noted above, hybrid cloud SDS NAS solutions enable administrators to centrally manage storage resources across the data landscape from a single interface. This simplifies storage administration and reduces the need for multiple tool sets to manage different NAS devices and file servers. The best SDS solutions offer automation tools and APIs that automate routine storage and life cycle management activities like provisioning, tiering, protecting, and migrating data. Automation capabilities reduce manual labor expenses and the risk of human error.
  • Enhanced data security. Hybrid cloud SDS NAS solutions routinely provide robust security features such as encryption, access controls, multi-factor authentication, multi-tenancy, and immutable storage. These features complement other cyber security strategies organizations take to protect their digital assets from bad actors.
  • Fast file performance. These SDS-based solutions commonly place active data close to users and applications through tiering or caching while placing less frequently accessed data on more cost-effective storage tiers in the cloud. Consequently, these solutions improve application performance and ensure fast file access for end users.
  • Multi-protocol file support. Hybrid-cloud NAS solutions routinely support multiple file storage protocols. This flexibility allows organizations to select the best-fit file protocol for each use case. Many hybrid cloud SDS solutions expand upon file sharing and collaboration features inherent within file storage protocols so that remote teams and users can collaborate on files around the world.
  • Advanced storage features. Today’s SDS solutions offer advanced storage services such as predictive analytics, object storage interfaces, and AI-driven data management. These features further enhance the value of investments in software-defined storage solutions for hybrid-cloud use cases.

Cloud Storage Benefits
In addition to the advantages these SDS-based solutions bring to modern file data management, cloud storage integration contributes additional benefits to those presented above, such as:

  • Scalability. Because these solutions can leverage the data stores of public cloud providers, organizations can scale on demand without requiring capital hardware purchases. If new capacity is needed, an administrator can quickly provide it. Organizations only pay for what they use, scaling up or down their storage as their needs require.
  • Cyber-resiliency. Cloud storage systems enhance data resiliency against cyber attacks. Organizations can leverage features like immutable storage, replication, snapshots, and automated failover to both mitigate and recover quickly from a cyber attack or other unforeseen events.
  • Multicloud storage architectures. As an alternative to relying on one cloud provider for all storage requirements, hybrid cloud SDS NAS solutions can often utilize multiple cloud providers for vendor diversity and flexibility. Infrastructure managers can place file data with the cloud provider best suited for business priorities or avail data to specialized services within a cloud ecosystem. Further, organizations may choose cloud providers or their regions to comply with regulatory or data sovereignty requirements.
  • Offloads storage infrastructure management. By moving some or most unstructured data to centralized cloud storage, organizations can eliminate some of the space and costs required for hosting NAS devices and file servers across their locations. For the data center especially, less hardware translates into less physical space, meaning a smaller footprint and reduced energy and cooling costs compared to legacy solutions. Infrastructure management (space, power, labor), complexity (performance management, networking, administration), and capacity planning (monitoring, acquiring, implementing) shifts out of the enterprise. By offloading some or even most of these activities to the cloud provider, enterprises reduce IT costs for managing on-premises storage hardware.
  • Global file access. Cloud file storage enables access to file data from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This especially benefits organizations with distributed office locations and teams across the globe. Administrators can configure permissions for users and groups to ensure data security.

These benefits and more provide organizations with a global file platform that addresses the needs of scalability, governance, compliance, security, analysis, and decision-making in the context of an avalanche of accumulating data. Further, organizations can experience notable time and cost savings with hybrid cloud SDS NAS solutions, allowing IT staff to shift their attention to other activities that bring value to their organization. Finally, because hybrid-cloud NAS solutions incorporate new cloud technologies as they become available, enterprises future-proof their storage infrastructure with these solutions, ensuring the enterprise IT organization is adaptable and capable of meeting changing business needs in the years ahead.

As noted above, the 2024-25 DCIG Top 5 Enterprise Hybrid Cloud SDS NAS Solutions report is an outcome of DCIG’s research into the marketplace for SDS for file storage. DCIG identified 29 companies offering products meeting DCIG’s definition of a hybrid cloud SDS-based NAS solution.

Solutions evaluated

  • Acronis Cyber Infrastructure
  • Buurst SoftNAS
  • Cloudian HyperFile
  • Cohesity SmartFiles
  • Commvault Distributed Storage
  • Ctera Enterprise File Services Platform
  • Dell EMC UnityVSA
  • Hammerspace
  • Hitachi Vantara HCP
  • IBM Storage Scale
  • iXsystems TrueNAS
  • Nasuni File Data Platform
  • NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP
  • Nexenta NexentaStor
  • Ctera Enterprise File Services Platform
  • IBM Storage Scale
  • Nasuni File Data Platform
  • NetApp Cloud Volumes
  • OSNexus QuantaStor
  • Nexustorage Nexfs
  • Nutanix Unified Storage
  • OSNexus QuantaStor
  • OpenDrives Atlas Core
  • Panzura CloudFS
  • Quantum StorNext
  • Qumulo Core
  • Quobyte
  • Scality Ring
  • StoneFly SCVM
  • StorOne S1 Data Platform
  • Tiger Technology Tiger Bridge
  • VMware vSAN
  • Weka File System
  • Zadara zStorage

The general feature categories evaluated include:

  • Deployment capabilities
  • Data protection and security capabilities features
  • Technical support
  • Licensing and pricing

Based on its evaluation of these features, the following storage software providers earned Top 5 award (in alphabetical order):

  • Ctera Enterprise File Services Platform
  • IBM Storage Scale
  • Nasuni File Data Platform
  • NetApp Cloud Volumes
  • OSNexus QuantaStor

Solution Profiles

Ctera File Services Platform
With the platform, organizations can implement a hybrid cloud that unifies local users, branch offices, remote users, and cloud file services into a single operating environment. Ctera works with all major cloud providers to provide flexibility in object storage. Alternatively, enterprises can deploy Ctera within a customer-owned or Ctera-managed private cloud. Administrators can oversee devices, users, deployments, and data stores worldwide through the Ctera Portal, which serves as the central management console for effectively managing enterprise file data.

Notable features that helped Ctera earn a Top 5 award include:

  • Concurrent multi-cloud file system. With Ctera Cloud Storage Routing, organizations can concurrently place file data across multiple cloud providers, cloud regions, data centers, and buckets using policy-based decision-making. Ctera Zones allow enterprises to logically segment their global file system into logical units by tags such as geographic area, business unit, or department to control who can see and access data within their global namespace. These features prevent data leakage between groups and ensure compliance with data sovereignty regulations.
  • Data security. From the endpoint to the cloud, the company encrypts all data with AES-256, FIPS 140-2 validated encryption with keys generated and managed by the customer. Additionally, the platform works from a zero-trust security model. The company fully supports features such as WORM, RBAC, AD/LDAP integration, KMIP, and multi-tenancy. Further, infrastructure managers can leverage Ctera’s cloud-to-cloud, cross-region, and cross-account replication to protect data from bad actors and unforeseen events. Ransom Protect provides real-time detection and blocking of ransomware attacks on edge filers. It can detect and block an attack within 30s. With unlimited file versioning and Ctera’s immutable snapshots, organizations can rapidly recover from an attack to a known good state. In addition, Ctera limits the spread of malware through signature-based anti-virus scanning that checks for known malware threats before transferring file data into the global file system.
  • Ctera Edge Filers. Multi-location organizations can simplify IT at the edge by replacing legacy file servers and NAS appliances with virtual or physical Ctera Edge Filers becoming an all-in-one solution for branch office storage, file collaboration, and backup. Firm’s intelligent caching of active files provides fast file access and infinite storage capacity with minimal hardware at the edge. De-dupe further reduces the physical cache and improves performance. Streaming technologies allow users to access large files in cloud storage without copying the entire file locally. Ctera Drive enables staff to work productively and collaboratively on any file from any device or location.

With Ctera Cloud Storage Routing, organizations can concurrently place file data across multiple cloud providers, cloud regions, data centers, and buckets using policy-based

IBM Storage Scale
It sits at the center of IBM storage for data and AI information architecture. It is a proven, enterprise-class SDS solution for high-performance, large-scale workloads on-premises or in the cloud and can incorporate flash, disk, tape, local, and even remote storage under a single global namespace.

Features that helped Storage Scale earn recognition as a Top 5 solution include:

  • Extreme scalability. It provides a scale-out high-performance parallel file system (GPFS) that unifies data silos globally using Active File Management (AFM) to place data in the right place at the right time. It supports files and objects though standardized interfaces including POSIX, OpenStack Swift, NFS, SMB/CIFS, and S3 API Thus, it can support a range of high-performance workloads whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, and is widely adopted for technical computing, analytics, and content management workloads.
  • IBM Cloud Paks. The company has significant AI market share and supports some of the world’s largest and leading-edge AI/ML applications. Enterprises can accelerate AI adoption through Cloud Pak portfolio of pre-built applications, tools, and runtimes with IBM Watson. Storage Scale offers one-click integration to the Cloud Pack for Data and IBM Watson, which supports AI data use cases through a cloud-native data and AI platform. It supports the data lifecycle through data governance, integration, and preparation services for on-premises and cloud data.
  • IBM Cloud. In addition to support for multiple public clouds,  Storage Scale brings the benefit of deploying on IBM’s owned and managed public cloud platform. IBM Cloud contains over 170 products covering data, containers, AI, IoT, and blockchain applications. Within IBM Cloud, Storage Scale runs on bare metal servers bringing hybrid cloud benefits such as data mirroring, tiering, recovery, and consistent storage function between on-premises and the cloud.
  • Mature innovation platform. Storage Scale is based on technology from the IBM General Parallel File System. With over 20 years of production deployments, it is a proven parallel file system for legacy workloads that also provides a scalable foundation for modern workloads. For example, Storage Scale now offers Container Native Storage access, native object storage, and NVMe access to object storage data. The Storage Scale Hadoop connector reduces the need to move data for Hadoop workloads or requiring changes to applications. Organizations can also deploy a containerized version of the solution for OpenShift cluster environments.

With over 20 years of production deployments, Storage Scale is a proven parallel file system for legacy workloads that also provides a scalable foundation for modern workloads.

Nasuni File Data Platform
It stands out with its unique approach, placing the object store at the heart of its software-defined cloud-native architecture. This innovative hybrid cloud solution empowers enterprises to replace their complex legacy file infrastructure with a single global file system. Unifying the unstructured data enables global visibility into usage, including chargeback reporting and data-informed business planning. Nasuni’s intelligent caching boosts productivity by ensuring fast file and object access for all users and locations. Its robust security features provide proactive defense and swift recovery from ransomware attacks and other disasters.

Notable features that helped Nasuni earn a Top 5 Hybrid Cloud Solution award include:

  • Native hybrid cloud architecture. The company integrates with all popular public cloud providers and leading private cloud solutions. This gives organizations the flexibility to use the cloud solution(s) best for their organization. Nasuni’s patented UniFS Global File System organizes file data, enables classification and compliance through support for extended metadata, and provides rapid recovery from disasters or human error. The Nasuni Orchestration Center (NOC) serves as the control plane, providing visibility into the entire unstructured data estate through a single global namespace. With the Nasuni Management Console (NMC), administrators can centrally manage all unstructured data services.
  • Fast file and object access. By deploying the firm’s caching appliance as a VM, businesses can replace traditional file servers and NAS, gaining a lightweight access point to all their file and object data. Vendor’s intelligent data orchestration and caching technology not only accelerates access for users and applications but also reduces egress fees and the local storage footprint, leading to significant cost savings.
  • Data protection and security. The vendor encrypts all data, metadata, and snapshots in transit and at rest with AES-256 encryption. It implements a zero-trust security framework that requires users and applications to be authorized, authenticated, and validated to access data. It supports 2FA, RBAC, and AD/LDAP integration. A full set of governance, compliance, and security options can be configured by the administrator. Nasuni protects data from ransomware attacks by taking frequent snapshots of file changes on Nasuni Edge VMs. These snapshots are compressed, encrypted, and chunked before being saved as immutable objects in cloud storage. This continuous versioning process eliminates the need for a separate backup infrastructure. Administrators can quickly recover a previous file, folder, volume, or system just before an attack occurred, down to a granularity of one minute.

With Nasuni, administrators can quickly recover a previous file, folder, volume, or system just before an attack occurred, down to a granularity of one minute.

NetApp Cloud Volumes Ontap
The company is well-known for its storage appliances and proprietary Ontap data management software. NetApp Cloud Volumes Ontap (CVO) extends Ontap’s data management capabilities to hybrid cloud environments by running Ontap in the cloud as an SDS appliance.

IT organizations deploy CVO through company’s BlueXP, which serves as the control plane for managing all CVO instances. For distributed enterprises, Cloud Volumes Edge Cache provides fast access to active files at each location. The firm’s solution delivers a rich set of enterprise data services across a data fabric encompassing on-premises and cloud data stores.

Notable features that helped Cloud Volumes Ontap earn a Top 5 award include:

  • Simple multicloud file management. CVO supports multiple cloud platforms, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. With point-and-click functionality, administrators can manage cloud storage across multiple cloud accounts. Administrators can easily create a new CVO instance by simply clicking on a new location from the available list of public cloud providers and then choosing a custom or preconfigured CVO system. Again, using point-and-click, administrators can protect new CVO instances by scheduling a snapshot schedule that automatically creates lightweight, immutable snapshots for each volume. Using drag-and-drop, an infrastructure manager can replicate data to a different environment or create automatic backups to object storage.
  • Multi-cloud cost efficiencies. CVO offers multiple features that help organizations lower cloud costs by storing data efficiently. Features that minimize the overall cloud storage required include data compression, data compaction, and volume de-duple. Storage tiering brings cost efficiencies by automatically moving inactive data to lower-cost storage tiers. CVO also helps organizations reduce expenses by providing visibility into cloud resource costs. For example, organizations can integrate cloud monitoring applications like AWS Cost Explorer with CVO to track cloud resource consumption. Administrators can also identify and track expenditures by different applications or departments. Monitoring cloud costs as they occur helps enterprises avoid surprise invoices.
  • Bundled branch office solution. Cloud Volumes Edge Cache (CVEC) extends Ontap’s data management to distributed and branch office locations. CVEC combines CVO, Cloud Backup, and Global File Cache (GFC) to address the unstructured data management needs of multi-site organizations. The GFC component of the bundle provides a LAN-like experience to workers and applications in remote offices by intelligently caching each location’s active files on site. At the same time, while preserving bandwidth, CVEC compresses and transmits changed file blocks to the golden copy within CVO. CVEC includes file backup to the cloud, where the inherent durability of cloud object storage protects against data loss.

The NetApp solution delivers a rich set of enterprise data services across a data fabric encompassing on-premises and cloud data stores.

OSNexus QuantaStor
It is a unified SDS platform designed to scale up and out to simplify storage management while reducing overall enterprise storage costs. With support for all major file, block, and object protocols, including iSCSI/FC, NFS/SMB, and S3, QuantaStor storage grids may be configured to address the needs of complex workflows that span sites and data centers. Integration with 3rd party systems, including Seagate CORVAULT, can deliver solutions with two layers of data protection and double-layer erasure coding, providing extreme uptime and availability.

Notable features that helped QuantaStor earn a Top 5 Hybrid Cloud Solution award include:

  • Broad protocol support. OSNexus QuantaStor supports more data access protocols than any other Top 5 Hybrid Cloud solution. In addition to the standard file protocols, QuantaStor provides S3 object storage and supports the latest NVMe-oF and NVMe/TCP block storage protocols. These protocols parallelized storage operations with reduced protocol overhead to deliver more data with less waiting.
  • Comprehensive data protection. QuantaStor goes beyond most other solutions in its breadth of data protection features. In addition to asynchronous replication, synchronous replication, clones, and immutable snapshots, it offers automated data integrity background scans, application-consistent snapshots, and erasure coding options.
  • Patented multi-tenancy. QuantaStor has an advanced role-based access control (RBAC) system that has unique patented multi-tenancy capabilities. These capabilities in QuantaStor are centered around Resource Groups. Each Resource Group represents a tenant for resource allocation, providing a logical and efficient way to organize and manage storage resources, apply policies and configurations at a group level, simplify administration tasks, optimize performance, and ensure consistent data protection and access control.
  • Storage optimization. QuantaStor automatically balances workloads across the storage infrastructure by automatically distributing data and workload evenly across available resources. Further, QuantaStor offers comprehensive monitoring and analytics capabilities to track and analyze storage performance, capacity utilization, and resource usage. These tools help identify bottlenecks, optimize resource allocation, and make informed decisions for further optimization and capacity planning.
  • Automation features. QuantaStor offers a Python API and pre-built Ansible modules for integration with infrastructure automation frameworks. If a fault occurs, it supports automated troubleshooting and remediation steps based on fault data, and integrates with all major IT service management providers via a webhook URL mechanism.

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