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Enabling Secure and Scalable File Storage Access with AWS and SoftNAS

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By Tom Tasker, EMEA Storage Partner Solutions Architect at AWS

The most commonly used file shares have traditionally taken the form of dedicated and special purpose hardware in the datacenter, managed by storage specialists. The files are hosted, secured, and delivered either via Network File System (NFS) exports for Unix or Server Message Block (SMB) shares for Windows.

In this post, we’ll take a look at a solution from SoftNAS, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner with the AWS Storage Competency. Their solution can consolidate file shares onto Amazon Web Services (AWS).

SoftNAS Cloud

SoftNAS combines and enhances native Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to create a full-featured cloud NAS filer.

The SoftNAS solution enables users to move data across networks, on-premises storage architectures, and AWS. It also allows you to migrate workloads and live business applications without performance or outage worries, and cloud-enable applications without custom coding or re-engineering.

Customers can run SoftNAS on multiple Availability Zones (AZs) for high availability (HA), with automatic failover in accordance with AWS best practices.

SoftNAS Cloud is available in three different versions, each building on the next: Essentials, Enterprise, and Platinum. All tiers support NFS, CIFS/SMB, AFP and iSCSI, data encryption at rest and in transit, Active Directory/LDAP integration, compression, deduplication, and thin-provisioning.

  • Essentials Edition is the entry-level version that enables NAS for backup and archival to Amazon S3. Typical use cases are low-performance file services and as a destination for backup software, all centered around the Amazon S3 object store
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  • Enterprise Edition combines the Essentials Edition along with access to the Amazon EBS storage tier to improve NAS protocol performance (high-performance disk), high availability across AZs, and Amazon EBS snapshots for SoftNAS Storage Pool backups and restores. It also includes patent pending ObjFast technology, which can accelerate read/write speeds.
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  • Platinum Edition adds auto-tiering and cost savings for aging data with SoftNAS SmartTiers, and accelerates migration storage traffic over TCP/IP networks with SoftNAS UltraFast. The Platinum edition also includes FlexFiles, which makes integrating and transforming a range of data possible.

Cost Savings Calculator

SoftNAS SmartTiers Storage Cost Savings Calculator can be used to estimate the cost savings of tiering between AWS storage services.

Typical workloads on a file server work to the 80/20 rule, meaning 20 percent of the data is accessed 80 percent of the time. This results in the vast majority of data sitting idle with very infrequent access. Having that data located on expensive, high-performance disks is a clear cost that can be reduced by moving the data seamlessly to less expensive, slower performance tiers.

High Availability Modes

SoftNAS has two options for HA—Snap HA and DCHA. Both are detailed on the SoftNAS website documents pages: Choosing your HA Solution.

Snap HA

Snap HA replicates the storage on the primary node to a secondary node. When a failure is detected on the primary node, the secondary node automatically takes over ensuring no downtime or loss access to the data. Due to this replication functionality, both nodes need to have an equivalent amount of storage.

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Figure 1 – Example Snap HA architecture with replicated storage.

Dual Controller HA (DCHA)

Dual Controller HA provides high availability for object storage (Amazon S3) only. Building on Snap HA, DCHA allows for a single object store/S3 bucket to be shared by two SoftNAS instances, providing high availability access in the event of an instance failure.

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Figure 2 – Example Dual Controller HA with shared storage.

Failover

Automatic failover is initiated when the SoftNAS Cloud health monitor detects there’s a failure with the primary node. No intervention or further configuration is needed once the Snap HA feature is configured.

For further details on SoftNAS high availability configuration and setup on AWS, please see the following resources:

Deployment

SoftNAS is available through AWS Marketplace and offers a range of prepackaged editions. Each gives an overview of the product, a calculated pricing plan, and any technical information that’s prudent to the deployment.

AWS Marketplace allows for a prescriptive, consistent deployment of APN Partner solutions.

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Figure 3 – SoftNAS Cloud Enterprise subscription page through AWS Marketplace.

Configuration

To access the admin portal for the SoftNAS instance, the public IP address is required and can be located on the AWS console under the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service. At this point, any changes made to the SoftNAS EC2 instance and the ability to access it remotely need to follow AWS security best practices.

Adding Amazon S3 Storage to SoftNAS

After successfully logging in to the SoftNAS console, the “Getting Started” checklist runs through the basic steps to get Storage Devices added and Partitioned, creating a Storage Pool, and then setting up a Volume to share.

At this point, the correct AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles and policies need to have been created and assigned as per the SoftNAS documentation.

The role needs to be assigned to the SoftNAS EC2 instance.

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Figure 4 – The IAM role needs to be assigned to the SoftNAS EC2 instance.

Once the checklist items have been configured, a Windows File Share can be configured and shared to Windows clients.

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Figure 5 – The SoftNAS console and “Getting Started” checklist.

From a standard Windows Server, the advertised share can be mapped as any normal Network Drive.

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Figure 6 – Samba Windows File Sharing configuration page.

SoftNAS Use Case with iN DEMAND

iN DEMAND is a joint venture between Comcast, Cox Communications, and Charter that distributes media content to major cable providers. Starting with the acquisition of original source files, iN DEMAND converts files to play on a variety of devices, including smartphones and cable boxes. From there, they distribute the transcoded media to cable studios. It all adds up to a huge amount of data moving from studios to iN DEMAND’s on-premises operations to cable providers.

When their legacy, on-premises storage was bursting at the seams with 800 TB of data, iN DEMAND knew they needed a storage environment with greater flexibility. They determined that a software-defined NAS on a hyper-scale public cloud was the ideal product and selected the SoftNAS solution.

SoftNAS has provided a high level of reliability and unlimited throughput from AWS. Now, iN DEMAND stores more than 200 TB of data on its SoftNAS instance running on Amazon EC2 and Amazon EBS.

Read more about how iN DEMAND leveragfes SoftNAS solutions.

Summary

File services play a key part not only in sharing everyday documents, but for enabling enterprise applications and workloads. SoftNAS offers enterprise-class Cloud NAS solutions providing high availability with automatic failover, tiering of storage classes, high performance, and cost savings over traditional deployments.

Visit the SoftNAS website for more information, to schedule a demo, or start a trial.

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SoftNAS – APN Partner Spotlight

SoftNAS is an AWS Storage Competency Partner. They provide a full-featured cloud NAS filer on AWS that extends native AWS storage. Easy to configure and manage, any IT professional can set up SoftNAS with HA in minutes without specialized training.

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