Nasuni's UniFS uses stream of snapshots to create a versioned file system in the enterprise and in the cloud.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

November 19, 2013

3 Min Read

Nasuni, a provider of enterprise storage-as-a-service, has received US patent 8,566,362 on the core file system used in its Nasuni Filer products. The file system is UniFS, and unlike most object store file systems, it generates a stream of snapshots that can take the place of backup systems, according to CEO Andres Rodriguez. "It's a file system born for the cloud," he said in an interview at Amazon's Re:Invent event in Las Vegas last week.

When storage moved into the cloud, it established a fundamentally different way of generating large-scale storage. Systems like Microsoft's Azure Cloud Storage, Amazon Web Services S3, and Google's Cloud Datastore are object storage systems that capture and hold data in the form of files. The files may vary widely in size and contain different types of data, or they simply be a "blob" of audio, video, or other multimedia data. And in the cloud, such object store systems may scale out indefinitely, unlike enterprise storage systems, which are typically limited to the size of the hardware and hard drives on which they are located. The scale-out architecture of the cloud allows it to add servers and disks as needed.

Nasuni has come up with a way to create a versioned file storage system in which a snapshot captures a version of the entire system at a given point in time. The snapshot can be referenced to rebuild lost files if at some point data is destroyed or lost.

[ Want to learn more about the competitiveness of cloud storage systems? See Google Cuts Prices On New Datastore Service.]

It's possible to simplify backup systems in the cloud because when data is stored in the cloud, the service provider routinely makes two additional copies. If the cloud server or disk fails, there will still be two remaining copies, from which a third is made immediately following a data loss. Nasuni's UniFS takes advantage of that property. Instead of creating its own constant replications, it relies on the cloud systems to replicate the date while keeping a stream of snapshots.

"We've decoupled the storage controller from all the data tied to a storage array," noted Rodriguez. The Nasuni storage controller is free to tap into storage resources in a distributed fashion, matching up storage resources in the enterprise with related storage services in either the Microsoft or Amazon cloud.

Rodriguez is one of the inventors listed on the patent. The other is Robert S. Mason, president and co-founder of Nasuni and a former software engineer at Hitachi Data Systems, Archivas, and EMC.

A brief summary of the patent refers to the interface between an enterprise file system and a Nasuni managed service in the cloud: An interface between an existing local file system and a data store (e.g., a "write-once" store) provides a "versioned" file system. The state of the local file system at a given point in time can be determined using the versioned file system.

Rodriguez said Nasuni is trying to bridge the gap between a traditional file system, often found on enterprise premises, and the stability and scale of cloud systems. In the cloud, storage can scale up past even very large enterprise systems such as the former Sun Microsystems' ZFS.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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