Symantec's FileStore

Picture of old filing shelves to hold spare parts
Data Storage Device by BinaryApe (cc) (from flickr)
Earlier this week Symantec GA’ed their Veritas FileStore software. This software was an outgrowth of earlier Symantec Veritas Cluster File System and Storage Foundation software which were combined with new frontend software to create scaleable NAS storage.

FileStore is another scale-out, cluster file system (SO/CFS) implemented as NAS head via software. The software runs on a hardened Linux OS and can run on any commodity x86 hardware. It can be configured with up to 16 nodes. Also, it currently supports any storage supported by Veritas Storage Foundation which includes FC, iSCSI, and JBODs. Symantec claims FileStoreo has the broadest storage hardware compatibility list in the industry for a NAS head.

As a NAS head FileStore supports NFS, CIFS, HTTP, and FTP file services and can be configured to support anywhere from under a TB to over 2PB of file storage. Currently FileStore can support up to 200M files per file system, up to 100K file systems, and over 2PB of file storage.

FileStore nodes work in an Active-Active configuration. This means any node can fail and the other, active nodes will take over providing the failed node’s file services. Theoretically this means that in a 16 node system, 15 nodes could fail and the lone remaining node could continue to service file requests (of course performance would suffer considerably).

As part of cluser file system, FileStore support quick failover of active nodes. This can be accomplished in under 20 seconds. In addition, FileStore supports asynchronous replication to other FileStore clusters to support DR and BC in the event of a data center outage.

One of the things that FileStore brings to the table is that as it’s running standard Linux O/S services. This means other Symantec functionality can also be hosted on FileStore nodes. The first Symantec service to be co-hosted with FileStore functionality is NetBackup Advanced Client services. Such a service can have the FileStore node act as a media server for it’s own backup cutting network traffic required to do a backup considerably.

FileStore also supports storage tiering whereby files can be demoted and promoted between storage tiers in the multi-volume file system. Also, Symantec EndPoint Protection can be hosted on a FileStore node provided anti-virus protection completely onboard. Other Symantec capabilities will soon follow to add to the capabilities already available.

FileStore’s NFS performance

Regarding performance, Symantec has submitted a 12 node FileStore system for SPECsfs2008 NFS performance benchmark. I looked today to see if it was published yet and it’s not available but they claim to currently be the top performer for SPECsfs2008 NFS operations. I asked about CIFS and they said they had yet to submit one. Also they didn’t mention what the backend storage looked like for the benchmark, but one can assume it had lots of drives (look to the SPECsfs2008 report whenever it’s published to find out).

In their presentation they showed a chart depicting FileStore performance scaleability. According to this chart, at 16 nodes, the actual NFS Ops performance was 93% of theoretical NFS Ops performance. In my view, scaleability is great but often as you approach some marginal utility as the number of nodes increases, the net performance improvement decreases. The fact that they were able to hit 93% with 16 nodes of what a linear extrapolation of NFS ops performance was from 2 to 8 nodes is pretty impressive. (I asked to show the chart but hadn’t heard back by post time

Pricing and market space

At the lowend, FileStore is meant to compete with Windows Storage Server and would seem to provide better performance and availability versus Windows. At the high end, I am not sure but the competition would be with HP/PolyServe and standalone NAS heads from EMC and NetApp/IBM and others. List pricing is about US$7K/node and that top performing SPECsfs2008 12-node system would set you back about $84K for the software alone (please note that list pricing <> street pricing). You would need to add node hardware and the storage hardware to provide a true apples-to-apples pricing comparison with other NAS storage.

As far as current customers they range from large from the high end (>1PB) E-retailers to SAAS providers (Symantec SAAS offering), and at the low end (<10TB) universities and hospitals. FileStore with it’s inherent scaleability and ability to host storage applications from Symantec on the storage nodes can offer a viable solution to many hard file system problems.

We have discussed scale-out and cluster file systems (SO/CFS) in a prior post (Why SO/CFS, Why Now) so I won’t elaborate on why they are so popular today. But, suffice it to say Cloud and SAAS will need SO/CFS to be viable solutions and everybody is responding to supply that market as it emerges.

Full disclosure: I currently have no active or pending contracts with Symantec.

Norton Online Backup ships with HP computers

Symantec announced today that Norton Online Backup software will be shipping with HP PCs and Laptops. Norton Online Backup is a cloud storage solution which can be used to backup your data on your PC.

Norton Online currently has about 32PB of consumer data and is growing by about 5PB/Qtr and is currently number one in online backup market. Also Norton online has about 8M users today growing 100% each year. With the HP announcement today all of these metrics will just increase even faster.

Consumers create over 70% of the worlds digital data with a 60% CAGR. Roughly about 2% of consumers use online backup services and ~25% of never backup at all. Norton Online Backup, EMC’s Mozy, Carbonite and others are attempting to entice these backup shy users to start backing up their data online and forgo onsite headaches of doing it yourself.

Apparently with Norton Online one can back up up to 5 machines and they can be located anywhere. So if you wanted to backup your kid’s pc at college and your parent’s pc at their retirement village you could do this with one Norton online license (as long as the total machine count < =5). Once backed up the data can be restored to any machine and takes just a few clicks. Backing up your pc is easy to setup and once done can be forgotten. Then whenever you are on the internet and the machine is not busy, the data just trickles out to the Norton Online backup service. The Norton Online Backup service is renewed yearly and cost is based on storage quantity backed up. How Symantec stores and records 32PB of user backup data is non-trivial but I am told it is all done using commodity hardware and commodity disk drives with nary a SAN in sight. They have multiple data centers, professionally managed, supporting Symantec developed/acquired cloud storage services. Apparently, Norton Online Backup is an outgrowth of Symantec's SwapDrive acquisition from last year. Symantec appears to be the leader in cloud storage applications and this would seem to be just the start of the services that Symantec will deploy via the cloud. Now if they only had something for the Mac... Technorati Profile