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A close look at NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud

Compared to other versions of the NetApp Cloud Volumes Service, the software-defined edition on Google Cloud has some key distinctions that IT admins should note.

Software-defined technologies continue to emerge across many facets of IT -- and storage is no exception.

In September, NetApp and Google launched a software-defined edition of NetApp Cloud Volumes Service (CVS) for Google Cloud. The managed, cloud-native file storage service is available in multiple Google Cloud regions.

But before committing to the software-defined version of CVS for Google Cloud, be sure to understand its underlying technology, key features and how it compares to other cloud file storage offerings.

CVS overview

CVS on Google Cloud is based on NetApp's core CVS platform, a hyperscale, shared file service for managing a range of file-based workloads. The platform supports the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol for Windows clients and the Network File System (NFS) protocol for Linux and Unix clients. A single CVS volume can scale up to 100 TB of capacity and support up to 50 million files and directories, while delivering up to 128 mebibytes per second (MiBps) throughput per tebibyte.

The CVS platform lets organizations import data to and export from their on-premises storage repositories or other data stores. The platform configures, manages and orchestrates file services in public cloud environments. Admins do not have to rewrite workloads to run them in the public cloud.

The platform also provides mechanisms to prevent data loss and offers failover and recovery. In addition, CVS can synchronize data to and from multiple data sources and create space-efficient backup copies in the object store.

NetApp offers four products based on the CVS platform. The first is Cloud Volumes OnTap, a cloud-based service built on NetApp's OnTap data management software. The Cloud Volumes OnTap software runs on cloud compute instances, but admins deploy and manage it through NetApp Cloud Manager.

The second product is Cloud Volumes Service for AWS, a managed service for cloud applications. Organizations can subscribe to the service through the AWS Marketplace.

The third option is the Azure NetApp Files service, which is available through the Microsoft Azure portal. Azure NetApp Files is an Azure-native file storage service supported by NetApp software.

The fourth CVS option is NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, which is the only option to include a software-defined edition or, more specifically, a containerized edition.

NetApp CVS for Google Cloud details

CVS for Google Cloud offers a cloud-native file storage service that admins can provision, automate and scale through API calls or through the Google Cloud Marketplace. The CVS service is designed to look and feel like a native Google Cloud service, with integrated billing and support.

Organizations should focus on their unique requirements to choose the cloud file storage service that's best for them.

The product facilitates the migration of file-based applications to Google Cloud. It supports enterprise workloads such as SAP HANA, virtual desktop infrastructure or Windows applications.

The CVS for Google Cloud managed service integrates with Google Cloud Console. Admins can migrate data between their on-premises environments and Google Cloud and provision volumes from 1 to 100 TB, with support for multiprotocol volumes that can handle both NFS and SMB. In addition, the service scales up to 500 volumes per project and accommodates up to 100 volumes per zone, per project.

NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud offers automated snapshots for data protection and provides rapid cloning to accelerate application development. In addition, CVS can consume cloud services, such as those related to artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics. The service encrypts data at rest, integrates with Active Directory and provides read-only and read-write access controls.

The software-defined edition

Until recently, NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud offered three basic service levels: Standard, Premium and Extreme. However, now there are two service types: CVS-Performance and CVS. The CVS-Performance type comprises the three original service levels. The CVS type includes only one service level, Standard-SW, which is the software-defined version of CVS for Google Cloud. The Standard-SW service level also uses Google Kubernetes Engine to containerize the OnTap data management software.

Although the two service types provide many of the same features, such as snapshots, flexible scaling and AES 256-bit encryption, there are several important differences between them. For example, each service level in CVS-Performance supports a specific per-tebibyte throughput. Standard provides 16 MiBps, Premium offers 64 MiBps and Extreme delivers 128 MiBps. The CVS-Performance service levels can also handle workloads ranging from general-purpose to high-performance applications.

The Standard-SW service level is more limited in scope, supporting a single per-tebibyte throughput of 32 MiBps. It primarily targets general-purpose workloads, such as email, web, file shares and databases. While it's not intended for high-performance apps, the Standard-SW tier provides 99.95% availability -- a slight improvement compared to the 99.9% availability offered by the CVS-Performance levels.

Another important difference is that the Standard-SW level can handle only NFS volumes, not SMB. The CVS-Performance tiers can support any combination of the two protocols. The Standard-SW level does not provide cross-region replication, nor does it let admins create a copy of a volume from a snapshot. That said, customers can back up a volume using a snapshot, something they cannot do with the CVS-Performance levels.

CVS vs. other cloud file services

It can be difficult to compare NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud to other cloud file services because offerings vary widely; each provides a unique set of features and takes a different data management approach. For example, Nasuni, Panzura and Qumulo all offer shared file services that can span multiple environments -- much like NetApp -- and each has a presence on Google Cloud in one form or another. (For more details, see "The fine print on three similar offerings" below.)

One of the biggest differences between CVS for Google Cloud and these other services is that CVS focuses on migrating data from on-premises systems to Google Cloud and managing the data once it's there. The other services present themselves as part of larger ecosystems in which data moves continuously across multiple environments, including Google Cloud.

Organizations should focus on their unique requirements to choose the cloud file storage service that's best for them. Evaluate what it will take to implement and support each service, as well as long-term costs. Extensively test each product to verify it meets all needs.

The fine print on three similar offerings

Nasuni is a file services platform designed for the cloud. It's based on Nasuni's UniFS global file system and uses local appliances to cache active files and metadata, which improves performance across distributed storage systems. The file system bridges file storage and object storage, with capabilities that extend Google Cloud into on-premises storage.

Panzura is similar to Nasuni. The platform stores most data in Google Cloud or another cloud platform, but it caches files locally to boost performance. Panzura includes the CloudFS distributed file system, as well as a global namespace and global file locking. It enables admins to integrate their on-premises native file services with Google Cloud storage.

Qumulo offers a cloud-native file data platform for storing, managing and building workflows across on-premises and cloud environments, including Google Cloud. Qumulo can handle data in its native file format and provides unlimited scaling and API programmability. The service offers real-time visibility into data, as well as directory-based capacity quotas and continuous replication, making it easier to move data between the data center and Google storage.

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