Why nas is expensive?
Driving down the cost of these systems is complex, and most vendors have no viable answer. To keep up with the new performance requirements, most vendors suggest that an all-flash NAS is the only answer, which significantly increases NAS costs. The other option is generic NAS solutions that leverage open-source file systems but which can’t scale to meet the new requirements.
Despite what all-flash NAS vendors claim, they have not reached price parity with hard disk drives (HDD). A solid-state disk drive (SSD) is typically ten times the cost of an HDD. For example, a 20TB hard disk drive costs about $400, whereas a 16TB flash drive costs almost $4,000. The mistake that all-flash NAS vendors make is the faulty assumption on which they base their calculations. They assume that HDD price per TB will stay static while SSD pricing will continue to decline. The reality is that HDD vendors are showing roadmaps where HDDs increase in density and decrease in price per TB continually over the next ten years, maintaining their price advantage over SSDs.
NAS is not an ideal use case for an all-flash configuration. NAS systems tend to be the most loyal to the 80/20 rule, which states that users and applications are not actively using over 80% of the data stored on the NAS system. We also find that as the capacity of the NAS increases, the percentage of active data continues to decline. Customers with 500TB of NAS storage often have less than 10TBs of active data. Why store 80% of your cold data, which users may never access again, on premium-priced storage?
All-Flash NAS vendors also claim that deduplication helps them drive down NAS costs and use it to support their parity with HDD claims. While there is some duplication in unstructured data sets, it is relatively rare. We frequently hear from all-flash customers that they are netting less than 3:1 effective capacity (far less than the vendors’ 5:1 claims), which means HDDs without deduplication are significantly less expensive. Deduplication, while not delivering price parity with HDD, does hurt performance, forcing all-flash NAS vendors to use more powerful, expensive CPUs in their controllers and more drives in their enclosures, which raises the overall costs.
An alternative to all-flash NAS is a category of NAS systems typically referred to as “cheap NAS.” These vendors build their systems using open-source file systems like ZFS and BFS. Since these vendors have a limited investment in software development, they can sell the combined solution at a lower cost than more traditional vendors. These low-cost NAS vendors also support hard disk drives but their technique of using this decades-old legacy code base, which they can’t optimize, leads to inconsistent performance and a long recovery process from a drive failure.
Cheap NAS systems have limited scaling capabilities, often capping at 500TBs or less. Customers frequently need to buy several NAS systems to meet their performance and capacity requirements. Some customers end up with a half-dozen of these systems, increasing hardware acquisition costs and people costs to manage them.
The first area of optimization is below the file system. All NAS systems start life as block storage. It is the engine that drives the file system. If the core I/O engine storage software is not optimized to use hardware efficiently, then there is little the file system can do to optimize it further. A reimagined storage I/O code base leads to a new storage engine that can extract the full performance potential of the underlying storage hardware. This new engine can now extract the maximum performance from the SSDs to deliver better performance using fewer drives.
Furthermore, if the storage vendor now owns the core storage I/O path, it makes sense for the vendor to integrate data services at this level to operate in sync with I/O as it comes in. IT can now apply features like snapshots and replication to extreme levels without impacting performance. This reimagining also means that the vendor can reimagine drive failure protection technologies like RAID and deliver a more rapid return to a fully protected state after a drive failure. Since time to recover from a drive failure is a top hesitation point of IT professionals contemplating using HDDs, reducing that time from days to hours alleviates that concern.
Finally, with control over the entire I/O path, the vendor can also optimize how data moves between the SSD tier and the HDD tier eliminating performance inconsistencies. Legacy hybrid systems that attempt to utilize both SSDs and HDDs have a fatal flaw. They wait until the flash tier is full before moving data to the HDD tier. The next IO burst that comes in has to wait until data is moved to the HDD tier, making space for it on the SSD tier. A new storage engine needs a new auto-tiering algorithm that can monitor the resource utilization of the storage infrastructure and, during “less busy times,” automatically move data from the SSD tier to the HDD tier.
One of the most expensive aspects of NAS systems is the painful migration process when the current NAS runs out of capacity or can’t keep up with performance demands. Moving from an old NAS to a new one is so complex that most organizations buy another one, which certainly will not help IT professionals interested in driving down the cost of NAS.
Fixing the storage engine and refactoring the drive failure protection helps eliminate the need for NAS migration. With these two capabilities, customers can add new high-performance flash or high-capacity HDDs without replacing their NAS, adding another node, or even creating a new volume. These new technologies are simply added to the existing media pools, and data automatically expands onto them, while customers enjoy their full capacity and performance. Suppose a new class of drive is needed to, for example, address a new performance requirement. In that case, customers create a new pool, and the solution automatically re-tiers data as appropriate.
One theoretical workaround for NAS migrations is buying more NAS systems. This approach is prevalent with commodity NAS systems since they typically don’t scale beyond a few hundred terabytes before experiencing performance problems. The customer buys a NAS for each use case or at a set capacity point to avoid migration. Acquisition costs increase because the customer has to buy more than just additional drives every few hundred terabytes. They have to buy an additional NAS controller pair and additional network connections. Operational costs increase because they have to rebalance workloads and reposition data manually. They also need to update user profiles and reconfigure backup jobs and schedules to handle the new data sources.
A better NAS approach is to have a NAS system that can scale capacity and performance independently without having to scale to half a dozen or more nodes in a scale-out cluster. A new efficient storage engine should drive a NAS to scale to double-digit petabytes of capacity and millions of IOPS in performance.
The most effective way to drive down the cost of NAS is for a modern NAS solution to efficiently utilize all types of media, storage class memory, SSDs, and HDDs. All data on a NAS is not created equal, and vendors should not force IT to place all data on premium-priced flash storage. A modern NAS solution, using an efficient auto-tiering algorithm, can deliver consistent performance across all types of workloads at the same time. With this advanced auto-tiering, a modern NAS solution can leverage HDDs for 80% of static data and SSDs for 20% of the operational data, reducing upfront costs by a factor of five or six.
A NAS is essentially a simple file server. You could theoretically just get an inexpensive computer, install some extra disks, and then use an operating system with good network and file sharing support. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't make a cheap product in this category, so your better bet is a Linux derivative.
When it comes to storage and backup solutions, a NAS device is a common choice amongst small and medium size businesses (SMB). And at first glance, their popularity makes total sense; they’re conveniently located right on your local network, they provide fast access to your critical business data, and they enable relatively good protection against data loss when placed in a RAID 5 configuration.
But the total cost of ownership (TCO) of using NAS to provide comprehensive file services that include unlimited storage, multiple office sync, and disaster recovery can price many businesses right out of the market. For example, consider the following:
All told, considering the numbers above, the capital expenditure (CAPEX) for just an 8TB solution – a very small system for most businesses – can balloon to as much as $8,000. But the initial CAPEX for the hardware and software is only the beginning! Operational expenditures (OPEX) such as day-to-day administration of the systems, heating, and cooling, and colocation facility expenses must also be considered in calculating the true TCO of a NAS solution.
But at the risk of sounding like a bad infomercial, “but wait, there’s more!” That’s because all of the numbers used above assume just one office location. But what if you have multiple offices? Whether a small sales office in a different part of the country or a full-fledged regional location in a different part of the world, every office generates business-critical data that needs to be stored, replicated, and centrally protected. And as you may have already guessed, yes, this all comes with a significant price tag.
So what’s the bottom line? NAS really doesn’t make economic sense for the vast majority of small and midsize businesses; the TCO factoring in both CAPEX and OPEX is simply too great – and, in fact, it can become a money pit of sorts. So if you’re considering NAS, make sure you think through all the economics completely to make sure it’s the best solution for your business.
Morro Data CloudNAS is a hybrid cloud file server done right. It provides all the benefits of the cloud and the advantages of on-premises storage at an affordable price point. The only hardware required with Morro CloudNAS is a palm-sized CacheDrive. There’s no need to manage, maintain, or even touch the device – all data is saved directly to the cloud and, using Cache & Sync technology, files are automatically cached in the CacheDrive, and backups are automatically performed in the background. The files can be immediately and continuously accessed by multiple users at LAN speeds, using your regular broadband connection. The file size is only limited by CacheDrive capacity, making it easy to store and share even large multimedia files across groups, between multiple office locations, and even with partners and vendors.