Understanding NAS Consolidation and Its Benefits

When you start a project that requires storage, you might decide to buy a few network-attached storage (NAS) systems. Managing two or three NAS systems might not be too difficult; it might require some time, but it is not a super complex task. But what happens when the projects start growing, and instead of three NAS systems, you need seven, ten, twenty, or even more? And what happens when you want to provide your users with a cloud-like experience? All of a sudden, managing the NAS systems becomes a very complex and time-consuming task.

Users accessing individual NAS systems

Disadvantages of Multiple NAS Systems

Using and managing several NAS systems can quickly become a waste of resources. One reason is that you can't share the hardware resources; some users might not use all of their disk space available to them, while others might be running out of space. Another reason is the downtime for maintenance; because NAS systems' firmware needs to be kept up to date, this could translate to wasted time. When you have to update ten individual systems, although, for a good reason, it can be very time-consuming and interrupts the users' workflow.

On the user's end, if they need more performance or more capacity, they can't instantly get it. Users usually need to file a ticket requesting an upgrade to their current system. When that's the case, the user needs to wait for their request to be processed and approved and hope that whatever they requested is available. Then, IT needs to set up the system, which is a manual process. All of this takes time, and even if the process is very efficient, it can't be compared to getting a virtual machine in the cloud.

On top of all that, you also need to protect your data, and for these NAS systems, data protection needs human attention. Having a lot of data in many different places can increase the risk of losing some of it or all of it! Your data can be compromised in several ways, such as multiple drives inside a NAS system being defective or something just breaking. Therefore, you need to monitor all your systems closely.

What does NAS Consolidation mean?

NAS consolidation refers to the process of replacing several NAS systems with a unified, more efficient system. With NAS consolidation, you don't have individual systems in several places, but instead, you get something like a virtual system.

Users accessing a consolidated NAS

Software-defined storage (SDS) platforms that can consolidate your NAS should add great features to your system, such as:

  • Multi-tenancy
    Multi-tenancy would allow you to fully isolate individual users or groups of users. In this case, each tenant gets their own “virtual system” with the capacity and performance that they need. This is all managed by the administrator of the consolidated NAS.
  • Thin provisioning
    Thin provisioning means that you can create volumes that don’t take up any space when you create them. Also, volumes are able to share the free available space in a cluster; that way, users can use exactly what they need.
  • Oversubscription
    Suppose you have 1TB of available space, and you want to make 200GB available to ten users; if you had individual NAS systems, you wouldn't be able to do so. But a consolidated NAS allows you to have oversubscription, meaning you can make 200GB available to your ten users, even if you don't have the 2TB. This is possible because the space is shared, and the consolidated NAS will let users utilize the space they need. However, If your ten users actually need to use the 200GB, you can add the space later.
  • Security
    With a consolidated NAS, you should be able to make each volume private and be able to isolate users on the physical layer.
  • Encryption
    You should be able to encrypt the data to protect it from external attacks and even from other tenants.
  • Needing less resources
    By consolidating your NAS, you can aggregate the performance and capacity of your NAS system. This means that you only have to buy what you need.

Besides the features mentioned above, NAS consolidation makes it easier for you to build a real File System as a Service (FSaaS), which is a form of server consolidation. With an FSaaS, instead of having an individual system, you get server virtualization, in which you can provide individual servers to your users. If your end goal is to create an FSaaS, you must first consolidate your NAS to then be able to take the further step and build your FSaaS.

Benefits of NAS Consolidation

There are a lot of benefits to consolidating your NAS. One of the benefits is easier control. NAS consolidation gives you the experience of a centralized system. Consolidating your NAS gives you the ability to manage and monitor your system from a single point of control. With a single point of control, you also get better resource utilization and improved security.

In a consolidated NAS, an administrator can provide the resources each user needs; that way, there is no wasted free disk space, and no users are running out of space. At the same time, security is improved. Admins can grant permissions to users to access just what they need; that way, users don't have to be concerned about other users corrupting or deleting (accidentally or deliberately) their data.

Another great benefit of NAS consolidation is easier maintenance. Maintaining a single system is much easier and efficient than maintaining several independent systems. This frees IT time because they no longer need to keep repeating the same task over and over again, just updating some firmware. This, at the same time, benefits the users because they don't have to experience downtime, as maintenance can be done in the background. In other words, time is spent more efficiently with a consolidated NAS. Simply put, you don't waste time.

The last benefits we will discuss are overall performance and cost. By consolidating your NAS, you can take advantage of the aggregated performance of NAS systems. This means that you don't have to buy the most expensive NASs to achieve great performance. In the end, NAS consolidation helps eliminate many of the limitations faced by individual NAS systems.

Quobyte is a software-only distributed file system with an API-first approach and built-in self-management, making it ideal for NAS consolidation. To learn more about NAS consolidation with Quobyte, check out our blog post, NAS Consolidation with Quobyte.

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