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Cloud backup provider McCloud chooses object storage over clustered NAS

Antony Adshead

Dutch cloud provider McCloud has chosen Amplidata object storage to support its remote backup services, over clustered NAS products from HP and NetApp.

McCloud – which spoke to Computer Weekly at SNW Europe in Frankfurt this week – provides Iaso-based backup services to hundreds of customers in verticals including healthcare, audio/video, accounting and oil and gas and operates from three datacentres in Holland.

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When it developed its infrastructure, its chief requirements were scalability and the ability to add capacity and performance as it grew. To meet that need, it looked at clustered NAS products from HP and NetApp plus object storage from Amplidata.

It has deployed Amplidata Amplistor AS20 object storage head nodes on top of Western Digital 2TB Green drives at three datacentres to provide storage capacity approaching 1PB overall.

Object storage is an emerging alternative to existing file system-based forms of storage such as NAS. Instead of the tree-like file system, data is held in a flat format. Each piece of data forms an object with a unique identifier with location information for the data held in an index that facilitates reads and writes.

An advantage of object storage is that it can scale to accommodate very large amounts of files. Traditional file systems can become unwieldy when they get to the level of billions of files.

A disadvantages is that many applications cannot work with object data stores without some kind of file system-like intermediary. McCloud has faced this issue and uses QStar archive management to provide a file system overlay. For similar reasons, object storage data can only be archived to tape by using such a product.

Storage system data protection in object storage is often via erasure coding. When data is written, the system creates reference information from which the original data can be recreated should it be lost.

Amplidata’s Amplistor Geo-Spread erasure coding data protection sees three instances of customer data held across McCloud’s three datacentres and provides 15 nines levels of security. Should one datacentre suffer an outage, no customer data will be lost and the third instance of it can be rebuilt from erasure codes developed by the system on ingest.

McCloud chose Amplidata object storage for its scalability, which is up to 6PB, said solutions director Jeroen Wijker. “We can grow from where we are now to wherever we want, and expect to reach 2PB within two years. In the past, companies had to make a new decision about storage every three years. We aim to not have to do that.”

McCloud’s IT team chose Amplidata after evaluating clustered NAS products from HP and NetApp.

HP9000 Ibrix products were rejected on grounds of cost, said Wijker. “The HP clustered NAS product was very expensive and would have needed an army of people to install it. It also had features like automated storage tiering that we didn’t need.”

NetApp filers were also rejected on grounds of cost, but also because McCloud didn’t want to be locked into buying one array product and potentially having to forklift upgrade to another when capacity needs increased. At the time NetApp did not have true clustered NAS capability in its Data ONTAP operating system. This was introduced in version 8.1.1 this year.

What could Amplidata improve in future versions? Wijker would like Amplidata to provide a file system-like layer that allows applications to talk to Amplistor. 

“Our online backup system needs to talk to a file system, not a Rest API, and right now we use QStar for that,” he said.

Wijker also wants to see Amplidata introduce a recycle bin feature so that data is not gone forever if deleted.


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