File services have been in existence since the early days of computing, with the first file service introduced in the 1960s, when computers were still in their infancy. Initially, file services were mainly used for storing and managing files on computers, but they were not suitable for real-time processing or online transactions that required high-performance and low-latency data access. Today, file services are commonly used to provide centralized storage and sharing capabilities for users and applications. Typical use cases include file sharing, backup and disaster recovery, content management, and application data storage.
However, over the past decade, advancements in network and storage technologies, such as faster Ethernet speeds and the development of specialized NAS solutions for high-performance workloads, have enabled NAS to catch up to block storage in terms of performance and low latency.
The use of all-flash storage arrays for NAS, which provide high-performance storage with low latency and high throughput is one such specialized NAS solutions. In addition, there has been a trend towards the use of more advanced file protocols, such as SMB3 and NFSv4.1, which offer performance enhancements and can rival the performance of block storage for certain workloads.
As a result, more organization are adopting NAS for high-performance applications, such as big data analytics, media and entertainment, and scientific research, where low-latency and high throughput are critical.
PowerFlex offers unified storage
Following on from my pervious blog which you can find here This series aim to dig a little deeper and hopefully leave you more informed.
Adding support for file services into PowerFlex is a logical and natural progression in response to the growing customer demand for NAS as part of their IT operations. As of August 2022, PowerFlex is officially a unified storage product that can offer file services as part of its deliverables.
In today’s market, unified storage products are more or less a commodity. Therefore, releasing a new unified storage product to compete against the incumbent is a tall order. It not only needs to have the same features that are already present in similar products available in the market, but also needs to be better and more.
Is PowerFlex File that good?
Can PowerFlex pose a threat or complement other products in the market, or is it just another unified storage solution flooding the market? The answer is not mine to make. Rather than boasting about how good PowerFlex is, my goal is to share what it can offer and deliver to customers who are considering implementing transactional databases via the file feature.
Performance and scale
The philosophy behind PowerFlex file’s design is simple: to deliver what customers are asking for, which is a NAS system that can offer high performance, high throughput, and low latency.
PowerFlex’s distributed file architecture is an extension of its storage architecture, which enables it to scale performance proportionally with the number of compute and storage nodes added. This capability empowers organizations to handle growing transactional database workloads without sacrificing performance or increasing complexity. Additionally, PowerFlex’s distributed storage architecture automatically balances data across all nodes, resulting in improved performance and scalability.
PowerFlex’s highly scalable file storage infrastructure also benefits a wide range of traditional NAS workloads. It supports multiple protocols such as NFS, SMB, SFTP and FTP , offering a flexible and versatile storage environment. In addition, PowerFlex’s single management interface for both block and file reduce complexity and administrative overhead.
High Availability (HA)
PowerFlex File benefits from all the high availability and resiliency features that the storage backend natively provides.
In addition to that, filesystem access though NAS Servers is done in a highly available manner that guarantees no down time even during a node failure.
Fault tolerance and resiliency
From a networking perspective, PowerFlex file follows the best practice of providing fault tolerance and resiliency through the implementation of the Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP).
As we know, the use of LACP can help to reduce the risk of data loss and improve performance by providing a more stable and predictable network connection. This is especially important for transactional databases that heavily rely on real-time data updates and transactions.
Similarly, traditional NAS workloads can also benefit from the use of LACP, as it provides a more reliable and high-performance connection, which is essential for data-intensive applications requiring high throughput and low latency.
File maintenance mode
In this release, with the addition of file features, PowerFlex introduced another maintenance mode called Protected Maintenance Mode (PMM). This mode enables administrators to perform maintenance or upgrades on the system while ensuring that data access is not disrupted. In PMM, PowerFlex ensures that all client I/O operations are directed to healthy nodes while the maintenance work is being carried out on the impacted node. This means that data access is still available to clients during maintenance, reducing the risk of downtime or data loss. Once the maintenance work is completed, the node is automatically reintegrated into the cluster, and the system resumes normal operation. This feature helps to ensure high availability of data access while enabling necessary maintenance work to be carried out on the system.
Management and monitoring
PowerFlex provides multiple options for management and monitoring, including a web-based user interface (UI), REST API, CloudIQ integration, and SNMP v2/v3 support. Rather than creating bespoke applications to manage and monitor the file feature, it is tightly integrated with the Block management and monitoring interface.
The web-based UI provides a graphical interface for managing and monitoring PowerFlex file. It offers various features, including cluster management, storage management, and user management. The UI also provides real-time performance monitoring, allowing administrators to quickly identify and troubleshoot performance issues.
The REST API provides programmatic access to PowerFlex file management and monitoring, enabling administrators to automate common tasks such as creating new shares, modifying storage volumes, or retrieving performance metrics. The REST API is well-documented and can be integrated into scripts or third-party tools.
CloudIQ integration enables administrators to monitor and manage their PowerFlex file infrastructure from the cloud. CloudIQ is a SaaS-based monitoring and analytics platform that provides insights into the health and performance of PowerFlex file. It provides proactive alerts and recommendations to help administrators optimize their infrastructure.
PowerFlex file also supports SNMP v2/v3, enabling integration with third-party monitoring tools. SNMP support allows administrators to monitor critical performance metrics such as throughput, latency, and IOPS, and provides alerts and notifications for critical events