A week or so ago, I spent an hour talking to Avere about their NAS products; this was not really long enough to do any kind of deep dive but what I heard, I liked. It could just be marketing fluff but what they are trying to do is clever and potentially very useful for a variety of reasons.
People love their NetApp filer, they just don’t like their next dozen. Filer proliferation and if I am being fair, it’s not just NetApp but all traditional NAS devices, is a major problem. Data mobility and name-space consolidation; making use of capacity that you’ve bought; these are all problems.
Avere hope to allow you to use all that capacity you’ve got in your filers and to allow you to easily move data in your filers around between them, from EMC to NetApp to white-box NFS to a Blue-Arc and perhaps into a Cloud service.
Firstly, they accelerate by putting a ‘Edge-filer’ in front of your traditional NAS; this could be filled with SSD or spinning rust. This provides a cache-tier which allows hot data to be stored on more performant ‘disk’; for their benchmarking, they use whitebox servers full of disk and front them with their devices. This demonstrates that they can take commodity disk and accelerate it into something gives the big-boys something to think about. This allows you get over some of the problems that the large SATA drive are causing with the rapid decline in I/O per terabyte.
Secondly, almost a side-effect of their Edge-filer; you get a more consolidated name-space; I hesitate to say Global Name Space…your core filers export their file-systems to Avere’s edge-filers which then export the file-systems to the wider-server infrastructure.
This allows NAS sprawl to be hidden from the users but it does obviously come with some limitations caused by the core-filer limitations; for example, if your core-filer only supports a 16Tb file-system, your export is going to be limited to that and you will need to monitor this carefully.
But where I really see a use for the Avere technology is in front of Scale-Out NAS devices allowing the efficient use of cheaper SATA technologies to provide capacity whilst preserving performance. So it is no surprise to me to that Avere are making some real in-roads into the worlds of media and rendering.
Avere are an interesting proposition and what I find especially interesting is that in many ways they don’t compete with NetApp, EMC et al but provide a complementary product which allows end-users to make better use of their investment.
Still, I suspect that the big-boys might not like this; they don’t really want you to be too efficient…