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Elastifile adds cloud file storage service on Google

Elastifile's new managed Cloud File Service on the Google Cloud Platform is designed to give customers NAS storage with a self-service, software-as-a-service-type experience.

Startup Elastifile took another step to make its scale-out file system more readily accessible on Google Cloud with the introduction of a managed storage service offering full NAS capabilities.

Customers of the new Elastifile Cloud File Service indicate the regions and zones where they want to store their data, a capacity amount and which performance level they want, Elastifile CEO Erwan Menard said.

"We take care of everything else for you. We set it up. We run it for you. It's a managed service with a fully integrated experience very close to what you already have" with Google Compute Engine or Google Cloud Storage, Menard said.

Elastifile made available its new cloud file storage service this week through an early access program designed to enable the company to collect customer feedback. The company expects to make the service generally available in the first quarter of next year, Menard said.

Menard expects use cases to include data-intensive vertical applications, such as rendering and transcoding in media and entertainment and design in manufacturing. Elastifile also sees demand for traditional enterprise IT applications, such as SAP, and envisions adoption with Kubernetes deployments, he said.

Elastifile Cloud File Service competes with cloud NAS services, such as Amazon's Elastic File System (EFS), Dell EMC's Isilon on GCP, Microsoft's Avere and Azure NetApp Files, and NetApp on Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Elastifile made its Cloud File System available on the Google Cloud Platform Marketplace earlier in 2018, with similar push-button setup and consumption-based, pay-as-you-go pricing. Menard said the main difference now is that enterprises will have a software-as-a-service-type experience, rather than having to install and operate the system themselves.

"You don't need to decide on which instance you're going to run it. We're taking all the knowledge we've accumulated helping our customers, and we simplify the choices," Menard said.

Three storage options at different prices

Customers can choose capacity-optimized, general-purpose or performance-optimized services based on the type of storage they use on Google Cloud. Monthly pricing is 10 cents per GB for capacity-optimized, 17 cents per GB for general-purpose and 30 cents per GB for the performance option.

Menard claimed the effective price could be closer to 8 cents, 13 cents and 22 cents per GB per month because customers won't need to carve out capacity for infrequently used snapshots on a hot storage tier. Customers often reserve about 30% for snapshots, he said. Elastifile charges 3 cents per GB per month for snapshots on Google's warmest tier of object storage.

Elastifile's file storage software runs on Google compute nodes and uses attached persistent disk. In the case of the capacity-optimized service, Elastifile's ClearTier technology moves data between Google's standard persistent disks and lower-cost object storage. Data is accessible through a unified namespace via standard file system protocols.

The least expensive capacity-optimized Elastifile service targets workloads that don't require high IOPS or bandwidth. The service would still offer "respectable" performance, Menard said, typically at about 2 GB per second at 120 TB of capacity.

Elastifile's general-purpose service works similarly to the capacity-optimized option, but tiers data between Google's solid-state drive (SSD) persistent disks and object storage. The general-purpose offering is designed for customers who primarily have cool or cold data and only a small amount of hot data. Elastifile estimates typical throughput at about 10 GBps at 120 TB of capacity for the general-purpose option.

The performance service is designed for bandwidth- or IOPS-intensive applications and pools only Google SSD persistent disks. Elastifile claims the performance-optimized option can deliver throughput of 15.6 GBps at 120 TB of capacity.

Elastifile Cloud File Service customers receive one bill from Google, which then makes the payment to Elastifile. Customers manage and monitor the scale-out NAS system through a single user interface integrated into Google's infrastructure.

Complement to Google Cloud Filestore

Menard said the Elastifile Cloud File Service will complement Google's single-tier Cloud Filestore for smaller-scale deployments. He said the difference is that the Cloud Filestore service works on either HDDs or SSDs, doesn't tier to object storage and lacks Elastifile's performance, scale-out capacity and enterprise-grade storage features.

Raj Bala, an analyst at Gartner, characterized Google Cloud Filestore as "NetApp without the enterprise data management capabilities."

Bala said Azure NetApp Files is the most enterprise-focused of the competitive scale-out, managed file storage services, with data management capabilities stemming from NetApp's long history in the file market. Amazon EFS is fully managed and scalable but supports only NFSv4, which is a smaller slice of the market compared to those that offer NFSv3 and SMB, Bala said.

Elastifile pros and cons

Elastifile will face challenges cracking the cloud file storage market. Bala noted that Elastifile is a small company with no brand recognition and a small customer base. "They have no track record building, supporting and maintaining hyperscale architectures," he wrote in an email, adding that "Google has nascent enterprise adoption and little cache of their own outside of sophisticated customers."

On the plus side, the Elastifile file system can scale to multiple petabytes, unlike many file systems that hit the ceiling at about 64 TB, said Steven Hill, an analyst at 451 Research. The multi-tiering model could support scale-out performance of tens of gigabytes per second and deliver more than a million IOPS for cloud-based workloads, Hill said.

Hill also pointed out that the Elastifile Cloud File Service is "designed to be GCP-native from scratch." That lets it gain priority access to optimized, internal GCP APIs targeting availability, security and data security.

"What interests me the most is the approach they take to seamlessly blending file and object," Hill wrote in an email. "While most legacy applications still depend on file-based NFS or SMB data access, most of the storage in the cloud is based on object because of its scalability and metadata capabilities. We believe that it's no longer a question of file or object. The future's going to be about how to best merge file and object, and intelligent tiering between file and object is a key focus for Elastifile."

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