Nasuni - Very cool technology

Date September 15, 2011

I'm in Silicon Valley for Tech Field Day 8, and I just got out of a very cool session.

The company is Nasuni, and the two hour presentation was delivered by their founder/CEO Andres Rodriguez.

Don't stop reading this blog post after this sentence, but Nasuni provides cloud storage. I know, that's like buzzword-ese for "stop reading because this is boring", but really, hang in there. They do it in an interesting way.

Most of the solutions I've seen that are "cloud storage" treat the cloud like a storage tier. You're familiar with storage tiering, right? Here's a diagram:

The idea is that data people use most, or most recently (aka hot data, either blocks or files, depending on the solution) is on the fastest storage, and as the data "cools", it moves to slower storage.

Some cloud storage providers use "the cloud" as another tier, something like this:

It kind of makes sense, since you can store files there, and the latency is high, plus there's a LOT of capacity.

In the case of Nasuni, though, it's a different idea altogether. What they do is provide a device (or a VM) that in essence acts as a file server. It has a certain amount of diskspace locally, but the real power behind it is illustrated by the following diagram:

To highlight the "important" part, you have clients that are speaking normal NAS protocols, like NFS or SMB/CIFS to the Nasuni box, and on the other end, it's talking natively to a cloud provider, storing your files there.

As you can see in the diagram, there is a local disk cache, which acts like any other cache. When a file is changed, it's written to the local disk cache, which then propagates to the cloud storage.

There are a lot of cool things going on with this, but essentially, it allows you to have multiple "Nasuni boxes", which gives you something like a unified file share in the cloud without needing to deal with replication of file servers or data yourself. It kind of cuts out a lot of the PITA part of the process.

That being said, it's not for everyone. It's file-level only right now, and it's not what I would call cheap, when you consider the amount of space you get in their cloud (right now, it's several thousand dollars per terabyte per year). And I'm not sure that their claims on their webpage (specifically the 100% uptime), especially when they're relying on a third-party's cloud offering (right now Amazon's S3 (and we all know how sterling Amazon's reputation is right now), but it's provider-agnostic with the right feature-sets on the server-side).

The best part is that there is a free trial via virtual machine (and they have an OVF format, which means it runs great on VirtualBox). I actually installed it on my laptop during the Tech Field Day presentation and had other delegates talking to it, sharing files, and playing on the administration interface before the end of the session.

I liked it a lot. If nothing else, check out the free trial. It's pretty awesome looking.

If you've got some time, watch the video I've embedded below. It's the CEO giving the presentation I just saw. You can tell that he really digs the solution he's made and believes in the technology.