Technology Overview:

What It Is

SoftNAS – What It Is

SoftNAS is a Linux-based virtual appliance that’s deployed on modern hypervisor-based systems, including Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and VMware vSphere. It runs as a virtual machine (VM), providing a broad range of software-defined capabilities, including:

Enterprise-grade Cloud NAS provides a POSIX-compliant, ZFS-on-Linux (OpenZFS) filesystem, standard protocol support (NFS with LDAP, CIFS/SMB with Active Directory and Windows ACLs, iSCSI and AFP), block and object cloud storage aggregation, data protection via checksums and storage snapshots, high-availability with automatic failover, block-based replication, data efficiency via compression, deduplication and auto-tiering via SmartTiers™, multi-layer RAM and SSD caching for increased performance and much more.

SoftNAS can be used as a cost effective offering for Dev-Ops, QA, or back-up purposes, or for mission-critical workloads, where customers typically deploy three SoftNAS VM’s – two to create an HA cluster across zones, plus a third in a different region to provide a DR replica. This is in addition to regular file backups to a different cloud account using a 3rd party backup tool. On VMware, SoftNAS supports VMware FT atop VSAN for clustered storage, remote S3 and Azure blob gateway cloud storage access, along with any kind of storage underlying VMware or hyper-converged storage, whereby it layers on NAS file services atop VSAN/hyper-converged storage.

Core Components

As depicted above, the Enterprise-grade NAS builds upon a CentOS virtual machine image. It includes SoftNAS’ patent-pending ObjectBacker™, ObjFast™ and SmartTiers™ technologies.

ObjectBacker maps S3-compatible and Azure blob object storage into a pseudo block device, which is mounted as a ZFS filesystem, providing full POSIX-compliant file semantics for object storage, along with all other NAS features like deduplication, compression, instant storage snapshots, writable clones, auto-tiering and many other features not available from native object storage.

ObjFast is patent-pending technology that accelerates object I/O to deliver the most IOPS and throughput across dozens of object buckets that can be arranged in a RAID configuration to massively increase IOPS and parallelism.

SoftNAS SmartTiers™ adds automatic block tiering for up to 4 levels or tiers of storage, drastically reducing storage costs while maintaining maximum performance via the highest tier, which is typically SSD.

Standard file sharing protocols NFS, CIFS, iSCSI and AFP provide other servers and clients with access to shared filesystems.

Encryption is available both for the filesystem and data in flight over the network. We call that 360-degree encryption and support standard pluggable key management options.

Cloud Data Platform Components

In the diagram above, we see the bigger Cloud Data Platform picture, whereby a global network of SoftNAS VM’s are interconnected into a “cloud data fabric” configuration.

SoftNAS® FlexFiles is a NiFi-based solution with the primary purpose of managing data flows within or between systems. In particular, a SoftNAS FlexFiles implementation controls the data flow between SoftNAS Instances/Virtual Machines it is running on. FlexFiles leverages Apache NiFi technology as the thread that ties the “cloud data fabric” together along with SoftNAS’ patented UltraFast™ network acceleration, to build integrated solutions using any kind of data, located anywhere in the world, across any kind of network conditions possible. Each of these technologies are covered in more detailed in following sections.

The Cloud Data Platform is delivered by deploying the SoftNAS Platinum virtual machines in one or more public and/or private clouds, on existing VMware systems in traditional datacenters or at remote sites, including desktop or server hypervisors that supports a VMware .OVA image. This provides the ultimate in flexibility to deploy Platinum edition nodes globally atop of existing infrastructure, with no additional hardware costs typically being required.

Once deployed, the Platinum nodes are able to access and collect data locally at each remote or IoT edge location, filter and preprocess data as needed, then securely forward data to centralized Platinum nodes located in one or more clouds or traditional VMware-based datacenters for further processing.

For example, the SoftNAS Data Platform may collect and filter data from factory robots and other industrial devices at remote sites, securely forward that data to the centralized cloud-based Platinum system, where it can easily be integrated with S3/Azure blobs, Hadoop and HDFS, AWS Redshift or SageMaker via S3 buckets, or other SaaS systems via HTTPS and web services REST APIs, or other cloud services that support REST APIs. The beauty of this approach is its all drag-drop-configure and go using NiFi Processors which are the base building blocks to build data flows with FlexFiles – no programming is typically required. If you need to manipulate data in a way that there’s not a readily available processor, just create a custom processor using Linux shell scripting bash, PHP, Python, Java or any other Linux-based command or executable. With FlexFiles and NiFi coupled with UltraFast to move the data globally, there’s virtually no limit to what kind of data integration, transformation and data movement solutions that can be created.

FlexFiles and Apache NiFi support dozens of data formats that can be used to manipulate data and protocols to get and put data. More detail is provided below and on the Apache NiFi website.

Creating Solutions Using the Right Technology Building Blocks

By applying the right set of pre-integrated cloud fabric building blocks together, virtually any kind of data solution can be built – all without programming. This is an important point because most DevOps teams today are overbooked and full out with a backlog of important digital transformation projects. Adding more development-intensive projects is not only expensive and time-consuming, but there’s only so much that can be done via DevOps, who often aren’t familiar with the existing IT infrastructure and systems that need to be integrated for hybrid cloud solutions to be built. The SoftNAS Data Platform simplifies the process.

SoftNAS Platinum, as shown above, enables IT administrators, architects and those capable of basic scripting to tackle more advanced hybrid cloud and data transformation projects, without burdening DevOps teams to handle data management and integration tasks. This translates to:

  • Faster design, prototyping, proof of concept validation and production rollouts
  • Leverage existing IT administrator resources to supplement DevOps teams
  • Transformation of projects from Design/Build into Design/Configure/Go
  • Faster time to market, reducing project timelines from months or years into weeks
  • Reduction of project costs by a factor of 10 or more vs. hard-coding data solutions

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