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Talon Storage 2019 roadmap: Object and storage consolidation

Talon plans to add new capabilities to manage large-scale deployments and consolidate storage in the cloud, including an option for built-in object storage due in Q4.

Talon Storage plans to add native object storage support in 2019 as part of product upgrades designed to help customers manage large-scale deployments and consolidate storage in the cloud.

Talon sells software-designed storage to manage unstructured data on premises and in clouds. Talon FAST, or File Acceleration and Storage-Caching Technology, supports block- and file-based storage natively, with object storage available through third-party gateways. However, Charles Foley, senior vice president of corporate development at Talon, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., said built-in object storage is coming in a fourth-quarter 2019 release.

Foley said many of Talon's 400-plus enterprise customers have requested cloud object storage, because it's inexpensive and highly elastic, and it can help enable disaster recovery.

Talon's enterprise customers generally have at least 10 branch offices that need to access and collaborate on the same data without conflict. Talon FAST, typically deployed as a virtual machine (VM), can cache the active data in appliances at distributed branch offices to speed access.

Talon has seen a massive spike in the number of customers who want to reduce or eliminate their on-premises storage infrastructure and create file servers in the public cloud, Foley said. Those customers spin up VMs, provision disks and point their geographically dispersed offices to the Talon Storage fabric to connect to the cloud storage.

To provide those customers with enterprise-class tools, such as flexible volumes, snapshots, deduplication and compression, Talon added the option to use NetApp Cloud Volumes OnTap in AWS and Microsoft Azure.

In the second quarter of 2019, Talon Storage plans to streamline the integration with NetApp Cloud Volumes to facilitate larger NetApp Cloud deployments. Talon will add support for the fully managed NetApp Cloud Volumes Services available on AWS and Google Cloud Platform and in Microsoft's cloud as Azure NetApp Files.

In the fourth quarter of 2019 Talon plans another update, adding an optional module to enable a customer to directly mount an object store. Foley said the add-on software would let users in branch offices transparently access data in cloud-based object storage in the same way they now access it through a standard file system, without needing to know where the data is stored.

More fine-grained management control

Also as part of the second-quarter update, customers will gain more fine-grained control to prepopulate their Talon Storage appliances' cache in advance of a project's start date, Foley said. They can currently set a policy to prepopulate the local cache only through a central administrator, but in the future, they'll be able to do it on a local basis.

"Two years ago, our average customer was smaller. If you're a central site administrator, and you have five or 10 locations, it's not a giant workload to prepopulate those. But if you have 250 locations, it gets pretty tough to have the central site be the one that's prepopulating. Why not put that power in the hands of each individual location?" Foley said.

Talon FAST
Using Talon FAST with NetApp Cloud Volumes can consolidate distributed file servers from branch offices.

Consolidation use case example

Talon FAST can also help consolidate unstructured data into on-premises, cloud and hybrid data centers, Foley said.

"The sector that we're operating in -- cloud-based storage consolidation -- is a really hot topic right now for cost, as well as for risk mitigation reasons, especially with the teeth that have been put in GDPR. So, we're seeing a lot of growth," he said, noting Talon's 128% revenue growth rate in 2018.

"But what we're really seeing the strongest increase in is demand to consolidate right into the cloud," Foley added. "In some cases, hundreds of offices use the cloud as the file server, and they do not do an intermediate data center step."

Consolidation will be top of mind later this year for Robert Bird Group (RBG), a global consulting engineering firm headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, that was acquired by Surbana Jurong in late 2017. RBG uses Talon FAST in core-and-edge mode to enable employees at its 11 offices to collaborate on 3D models and engineering data analysis, as well as access common office files.

I can see my 12 TB in London and also see the 12 TB in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In my file share, it looks as if it's here, but it's actually all over the world.
Stephen CotthamCTO, Robert Bird Group

Stephen Cottham, CTO at RBG, said the Talon appliances deliver "close to line speed" at the edge. Other appliances the firm tested focus on replication or have difficulty handling large files that RBG uses, such as the Autodesk computer-aided design, Revit building information modeling and 3ds Max design visualization data, he said.

Cottham said RBG plans this year to eliminate the local file servers and consolidate the data to centralized cloud storage, with an off-site copy for protection purposes. RBG would use the Talon edge appliance in each local office to accelerate access to large files and minimize network traffic. The Talon cache fills with the most active data as users access files, and only bits that change go to the cloud.

RBG already uses Azure cloud storage to enable its work-share partners in India to access data without compromising security on either side. Cottham said he prefers to stick with Azure, although he's open to other options, such as AWS, NetApp Cloud Volumes and object storage.

RBG stores about 12 TB of data in each of the NetApp FAS2554-R6 servers at its four offices in Australia. It also stores 12 TB of data in a Dell EMC VNXe in London, as well as in Windows file servers in London; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and New Zealand. A Talon appliance sits in front of each file server to expose it to end users at other offices through a single drive letter.

"The beauty of Talon is it takes away the latency. It's giving you metadata instantly," Cottham said. "I can see my 12 TB in London and also see the 12 TB in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In my file share, it looks as if it's here, but it's actually all over the world."

Capabilities that are high on Cottham's priority list include snapshots, deduplication to reduce the data footprint, file locking to prevent conflict scenarios when two or more users work on the same file and application awareness to honor any underlying lock-in mechanisms of the firm's critical Autodesk applications.

Cottham said the potential benefits of moving to centralized cloud storage would include reductions in equipment, maintenance and support costs, as well as rapid recovery in the event of a disaster.

RBG's consolidation plan is hardly unique among the Talon Storage customer base. But, Foley said, customers take different routes. Some consolidate into large private data centers with storage such as Dell EMC or NetApp, he said, and others consolidate tens or dozens of branch offices locally and then back up data to the cloud.

Talon will face plenty of competition selling object storage. Large storage vendors Dell EMC, Hitachi Vantara, IBM, NetApp and Western Digital and private companies Caringo, Cloudian, Scale and SwiftStack are among the object storage vendor competition. On-premises and cloud file storage products are also adding object capabilities, although few combine native NAS and object.

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