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Caringo Swarm gets new software-based NFS protocol converter

Caringo released a new SwarmNFS protocol converter that directly integrates with its scale-out object storage and aims to eliminate the need for separate file gateway hardware.

Caringo Inc. hopes to make file gateways a thing of the past with its new software-based SwarmNFS protocol converter that integrates directly with its scale-out object storage.

The Austin, Texas-based software maker said SwarmNFS streams data in parallel between NFSv4-based applications and Caringo Swarm object storage software. SwarmNFS does the necessary protocol conversions to eliminate the need for resource-intensive caching and spooling to move files to object storage.

SwarmNFS runs as a stateless Linux process and deploys on a physical server or a virtual machine, enabling users to access mount points wherever they want, on or off premises, according to Caringo.

Other object storage systems generally use a dedicated Linux server, equipped with open source Fuse and Samba software, as the mount point, said Tony Barbagallo, vice president of product at Caringo. Caringo Swarm took the same approach prior to the introduction of the SwarmNFS option.

"You write files to that mount point, to that Linux server. Then, they start capturing all those files on that box, and in the background, they're trying to take those files and send them off to an object storage system," Barbagallo said. "You see where the bottleneck is forming.

"They have to recreate the mapping of the file system because they're acting as the share. When a client requests a file, they have to look at the namespace they've created and say, 'Oh, the client's requesting this file. It is object number such and such. Let me go request it from the object store and send that file back to the client.'"

Elasticsearch in Caringo Swarm is key

Barbagallo said Caringo was able to eliminate the dedicated gateway or connector server, Fuse and Samba software by integrating Elasticsearch indexing software into Swarm.

"If you want to export out a share with a bunch of files, you specify the domain, and what happens behind the scenes is SwarmNFS is simply asking Elasticsearch, via a programmatic interface, for all the files associated with that particular domain. That's what is presenting as the mount point," Barbagallo said.

Caringo claimed the benefits to its SwarmNFS approach include reduced resource consumption, the ability to add metadata to files at the client level, and data portability between NFSv4, Amazon Simple Storage Service, HTTP and the Hadoop Distributed File System.

Barbagallo said the performance effect of SwarmNFS is within about 5% tolerance of the performance a customer would get from the Caringo Swarm object store, although it can vary depending on the number and type of servers and storage media.

Pricing for Caringo's SwarmNFS is $14,995 for a single instance and $19,995 for unlimited use, according to Barbagallo.

The concept behind SwarmNFS isn't brand new. For instance, Exablox's OneBlox system consists of an object-based file system that appears as a global file system to users and applications. Pure Storage's FlashBlade, in limited availability, also allows object storage to be accessed the same way as files.

SwarmNFS provides the file locking and traditional interface of NFS, but based on the flexibility of the Swarm object storage core platform.
Steven Hillsenior storage analyst, 451 Research

Steven Hill, a senior storage analyst at 451 Research, said the vast majority of traditional applications still use a file-based interface, and object storage offers enterprises a far more scalable option than file-based storage. Plus, object storage's support for rich metadata enables search and management functions that are not possible on traditional file storage, he said.

"SwarmNFS provides the file locking and traditional interface of NFS, but based on the flexibility of the Swarm object storage core platform," Hill wrote in an email.

Hill noted that file-based services are also available from object storage vendors using gateway technology, but the gateways typically require a separate hardware and software layer at an additional cost.

Ben Woo, managing director at Neuralytix Inc., said letting customers attach user-definable metadata to NFS files provides "a stepping stone toward a full object-based implementation" for end users who may be wary of object storage.

"Object storage remains very nebulous for many customers. The easiest way to gain access into object storage is through a known protocol, such as NFS," Woo wrote in an email. "By bringing NFS to object, it allows customers to evolve to object storage at their own pace, so it does not become an all-or-nothing exercise."

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