It’s an all-too-common question for IT professionals: How can they get both speed and simplicity from their storage?

Until recently, for the most demanding workloads like uncompressed 4K video playback, they’ve had to make a choice: An extremely fast Storage Area Network (SAN), which is expensive, inflexible and hard to manage, or a dead-simple Network-Attached Storage (NAS) product that was too slow to keep up with intense workloads and massive files.

SAN is anything but simple

By choosing a SAN, end-users get the fast-file storage they need, but IT departments and the individuals who work in them have to deal with much more complexity than they would deploying and managing a NAS product.

To get the performance promised from SANs, organizations must install an entirely separate network infrastructure just for the storage, and they must make sure each client connected to that storage has an up-to-date network card and driver. That means purchasing separate switches, routers, cables, and lots of time spent meticulously configuring client machines.

From a client perspective, each machine is connected to at least three separate networks. One ethernet network which is the main network inside an organization, a SAN-only ethernet network for both the primary and failover metadata controllers, and a Fibre Channel network for the block storage.

diagram that shows how SAN networks are more complicated than NAS
Fig1: Typical SAN Environment

diagram showing the simple architecture of NAS environment, illustrating why many admins want to replace SAN with NAS
Fig2: Much simpler NAS environment enabled by Qumulo

Upgrades to SAN come with a high cost

Now, imagine you bought a SAN a few years ago and want to upgrade from 25G to 100G networking. You want your storage to be able to take advantage of the extra bandwidth, right?

Unfortunately you need to upgrade your entire SAN network infrastructure, in addition to the network serving the rest of the organization. So while the initial investment is high, there are many additional costs of maintaining a SAN solution which most organizations don’t take into account.

With SAN, scale comes with a catch

Many SAN vendors claim they provide customers a scale-out storage solution, but the truth is more complicated. SAN storage is powered by block storage devices, and while additional devices can be added to the networks to increase capacity, performance doesn’t scale as customers expect.

When adding a new block device, SAN customers find that files are stored in specific stripe groups living on their existing block devices. Unfortunately, newly added storage will be treated as it’s own stripe group creating additional management complexity for administrators. If administrators want to simplify things, they can concatenate the new storage device to the old ones, but that requires administrators to create a new stripe group for all of their storage devices which can lead to performance issues since multiple stripe groups then live on the same devices.

The only way for SAN storage to scale in both capacity and performance is for administrators to completely restripe both their old and new block storage devices, creating a single stripe group across devices.

With all this hassle, can this really be called a scale-out solution?

Can NAS be a cost-effective alternative?

Until recently, NAS solutions didn’t offer IT professionals much choice for demanding storage needs. NAS solutions were much easier and less expensive, but they couldn’t meet the demands they required.

But Qumulo’s Performance Series is different. It liberates customers by providing SAN speed with NAS simplicity. With a minimum four-node cluster delivering 18GB/sec throughput, and hundreds of thousands of IOPS, the P-Series is the world’s fastest all-flash file system.

The smallest P-Series cluster can power 12 uncompressed 4K video streams, or three streams per node. This is key for organizations with massive storage needs, like film studio administrators managing editing suites, where high-performance and speed are non-negotiable.

For SAN administrators, this means they can get the best performance the industry has to offer, simplify their lives by switching to a 100 percent ethernet environment, and reduce their total cost of ownership.

At Qumulo, there are no more trade-offs. We think storage should be simple as well as capable of delivering customers the performance they need.

Grant leads the performance teams at Qumulo towards building the fastest file system in the world.

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