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AWS expands managed file service with FSx for OpenZFS

AWS grows its managed file service portfolio with support for OpenZFS and improvements to FSx Lustre. Experts say AWS could be getting ready to compete with on-premises vendors.

AWS doubled its managed file services in its FSx portfolio this year with new support for OpenZFS, an open source file storage system.

The hyperscaler's Amazon FSx for OpenZFS comes just a handful of months after the addition of Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap. Additional managed file services sold by AWS include Amazon FSx for Windows File Server and Amazon FSx for Lustre, an open source parallel distributed file system that received two new features in a recent product refresh.

Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, AWS vice president of block and object storage, said the growth of these services comes from customer demand to bring on-premises file workloads into a cloud environment for scalability, eliminating hardware overhead costs and availability for replication or retention requirements. 

"Our goal is to get them up in minutes at AWS," she said. "It's what customers ask for. I think you should expect to see more of this."

Storage analysts and consultants described OpenZFS as a popular, proven file system but cautioned that any data moved onto AWS becomes another vector for the ubiquitous hyperscaler's charges and fees.

Dave Raffo, a senior analyst at Evaluator Group, said AWS hasn't shied away from adding new file systems or seeking future vendor partnerships, primarily in an effort to bring everyone into the AWS fold.

"They want as much of your data as they can get," Raffo said. "Once it's sitting up there, they're collecting a check every month."

Customers of Amazon FSx for OpenZFS will be charged monthly with the total bill based on provisioned storage, IOPS, throughput capacity and backup storage along with AWS region transfer fees, where pricing can vary.

They [AWS] want as much of your data as they can get. Once it's sitting up there, they're collecting a check every month.
Dave RaffoSenior analyst, Evaluator Group

AWS also recently expanded services to Amazon FSx for Lustre with two new capabilities, including bidirectional synchronization of file systems with Amazon S3 and options to synchronize file systems across multiple S3 buckets and prefixes, enabling a single file system to reach multiple S3 data sources.

Open source, walled garden

The Amazon FSx for OpenZFS enables a fully-managed ZFS file system on AWS. The service supports other OpenZFS features such as snapshots, data cloning and simultaneous user access into the thousands.

OpenZFS is an the open-source Linux project based on the ZFS file system code, built off of Sun Mircosystem's Solaris operating system.

OpenZFS has remained a popular, if complex, choice for enterprise-level file systems, according to Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting.

"It's out there, it's been in use for some time and those customers that have been using it will find it easier to use," he said. "[AWS] will make it fit their ecosystem."

Both Lucchesi and Raffo noted storage companies traditionally associated with on-premises hardware and software have started to play ball with AWS and other hyperscalers, which include Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

"All the vendors out there are trying to make their solutions run with AWS," Lucchesi said.

Raffo noted OpenZFS isn't as immediately recognizable as a brand or partner as prior FSx services that AWS supports, but it's still a popular file system among the enterprise markets AWS is targeting.

"[OpenZFS] doesn't have the market reach of the Windows Server or generate the revenue of NetApp, but I think that's part of the overall strategy of AWS," Raffo said. "They're going to keep expanding FSx and adding file systems."

Specifically, Raffo said AWS' command of the cloud storage market means the company is turning their attention from Azure and Google Cloud to traditional on-premises enterprise vendors that are developing services for the cloud.

Amazon FSx for OnTap, for instance, uses NetApp's technology, but sales are handled by AWS, making the hyperscaler a quasi-channel partner, Raffo said. AWS' strategy might also expand to other managed services such as Dell Technologies' Apex, HPE's GreenLake, or Pure Storage's Pure as-a-Service.

"NetApp has gone all-in on the cloud," Raffo said. "I don't know if the other on-prem [vendors] will do that. … I see [AWS] competing less with Google and Microsoft and competing [more] with the traditional on-prem vendors."

Vendors of storage data management services have already begun to integrate Amazon FSx services into their own products.

Komprise, a data management and migration vendor, announced its support for AWS FSx for NetApp OnTap on Dec. 7. Komprise users can now set FSx OnTap as a target for their data migrations from on-premises hardware into the cloud.

"These new file capabilities allow [our customers] to move across the hybrid cloud and into the pure cloud," said Krishna Subramanian, co-founder, president and chief operating officer at Komprise. "It's allowed customers to adopt cloud without rearchitecting their applications."

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living in the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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