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Nasuni Filer adds SLA, hardware option for NAS cloud gateway

Nasuni tries to spur primary storage cloud adoption with service-level agreements, hardware option for Nasuni Filer NAS cloud gateway.

Startup Nasuni Corp. today launched a hardware appliance along with a service-level agreement (SLA) that guarantees close to 100% uptime for its Nasuni Filer NAS cloud gateway. The startup is banking on these enhancements to prod organizations to give its cloud-enabling devices a try for primary storage.

Nasuni came out of stealth last year with a virtual appliance -- software that installs on a virtual machine and provides customers with a primary NAS filer. Customers can store data locally and send it off to a public cloud service provider for redundancy and archiving.

Nasuni CEO Andres Rodriguez said the startup has approximately 100 customers, but the market hasn't been strong yet for cloud gateways. Nasuni service provider partner Iron Mountain discontinued its service and SAN cloud gateway startup Cirtas Systems Inc. pulled its product off the market earlier this year.

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Nasuni’s new appliances and SLAs will be available next month.

“We're a storage services company now,” Rodriguez said. “We want to change the business of storage while not changing the way customers access the technology. This looks like a familiar NAS box, but has service levels built into it.”

Rodriguez said Nasuni will continue to make its filer available as a virtual appliance, but is adding two hardware configurations: one for company headquarters and another for remote/branch offices. The new SLA will also be available for the virtual appliance.

Startup TwinStrata Inc. makes its iSCSI SAN gateway available as a hardware and virtual appliance, while other vendors such as Ctera Networks, Panzura Inc. and StorSimple Inc. ship cloud gateways only as appliances.

Rodriguez said Nasuni started with the software product only because it was easier to deliver. Customers could download and try it without buying and installing hardware. But he said many customers who downloaded the product wanted the better performance that a dedicated appliance can bring.

Nasuni will keep its virtual appliance, and Rodriguez predicted that approximately half of his customers will stick with the software option.

“If you have a hardware unit and it fails, you can failover to a virtual machine,” he said. “It gives our customers more flexibility for DR [disaster recovery].”

Rodriguez said the appliance will cost around $5,000 for 5 TB of usable capacity and Nasuni won't make any profit on the hardware. Nasuni is offering data protection services packs -- $12,000 for 1 TB, $20,000 for 2 TB, $40,000 for 5 TB and $70,000 for 10 TB. That includes usable storage -- primary data, versioning and off-site replicas. Like its old model, Nasuni pricing includes the cost of the subscription to the service provider so the customer only pays one bill.

Rodriguez said Nasuni will start with one service provider partner for the new SLA. He said he hasn't decided on a partner yet, but sources familiar with the company said Amazon S3 is the most likely candidate. Rodriguez did say most of his customers use S3 for back-end storage.

Will uptime guarantee eliminate need for backup?

Nasuni’s first SLA is for data protection. The vendor will give customers’ a 10-day credit for any outage of five-minutes or longer. It also pledges a 10-day credit if a customer can't recover data for more than 15 minutes after downloading a new appliance. These SLAs go beyond those offered by Amazon and other cloud service providers.

“I can tell you none of our field units have experienced an outage like that [more than five minutes],” Rodriguez said. “You don’t need secondary backup or replication. The promise we make is that whatever you put in that box will not be lost.”

Analysts say Nasuni’s use of technologies such as snapshots and auto versioning are behind the SLAs. The Nasuni Filer caches frequently used data so it remains local and takes frequent snapshots of file data and replicates changes in the cache to the cloud.

Will this ease concerns about cloud storage?

“I think this will go a long way as an enabler for customers to use the cloud for production data,” said Andrew Reichman, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “It’s a local experience for most of the data. Nasuni caches data and the data used frequently stays local. The SLAs and penalties will help get over a lot of hurdles.”

Reichman said having a physical device will appeal to customers who want more control over their data because a virtual machine might have to contend with other resources in the hardware where it's installed. He said Nasuni’s one-stop shopping that takes the provider out of the billing is also likely to resonate with customers. “This takes away a lot of the variability of pricing,” he said.

Brian Babineau, vice president, research and analyst services at Enterprise Strategy Group, agrees that SLAs can help convince organizations to put primary data in the cloud.

“Customers first have to be comfortable going to the cloud before they make a decision about how they’re going to do it. Nasuni is providing that basic component,” Babineau said.”This technology is designed to take some of the risk out of the equation. It creates redundancy, so even if the back end fails they can point you where to go and get your data.”

Nasuni's Rodriguez said he sees Nasuni competing with mainstream NAS vendors such as EMC Corp. and NetApp Inc. more than other cloud gateway vendors. The difference is, Nasuni uses the cloud as the back-end storage. He said the company plans to add more SLAs, as well as global namespace, which is a key feature for any NAS product.

“That’s coming,” he said. “We know data has to be encrypted from edge to edge and we have to provide a safe stream of versions.”

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