Key Criteria for Evaluating Cloud File Storage Solutionsv4.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Cloud File Storage Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  7. Analysts’ Take

1. Summary

File storage is a very important part of every enterprise data storage infrastructure, so it’s no surprise that now, more than ever, users ask for file services in the cloud.

Initially, cloud providers neglected to add file services to their product portfolios, concentrating instead on block and object storage. Block and object storage cover many use cases, and new applications can be developed to deploy them in a way that makes file storage unnecessary. However, the reality is that in many circumstances, file storage is preferable:

  • Simplicity: File storage is the most user-friendly storage, and many developers still prefer this familiar interface because it lets them build even more portable applications while simplifying the sharing of machine- and human-generated data.
  • Lift and shift: With more and more enterprises opting for the public cloud as their primary IT infrastructure, “lift-and-shift” migrations are now commonplace. In this scenario, users want to replicate the same services they had in their on-premises data center, including POSIX-compliant file systems, data services, and all the other enterprise features they are accustomed to.
  • Performance: Though object storage performance is improving by leaps and bounds, file systems still provide the best combination of performance, usability, and scalability for many workloads. It’s still the primary interface for the majority of big data, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and high-performance computing (HPC) applications, while it usually offers data services such as snapshots to improve data management operations.
  • Collaboration: Now more than ever, with hybrid cloud infrastructures and distributed organizations spanning the world, the ability to seamlessly access data from everywhere facilitates teamwork while keeping data under control.

In the last few years, file systems have also become more cloud-friendly, offering better integration with object storage. This feature brought several advantages to end users:

  • Better scalability: Policy-driven tiering mechanisms allow cold data to be moved to S3-compatible storage, saving precious resources in the high-performance tier.
  • Best combination of speed and $/GB: File storage gateways specifically designed to work with an object storage back end provide a good balance between performance and cost.
  • Simplified data migrations and synchronization: Many file storage systems can replicate data to remote file or object stores, in the cloud or on-premises. This makes it possible to synchronize and serve datasets across different infrastructures to optimize compute-data proximity, which lowers latency.
  • Disaster recovery: Syncing data to a remote object store enables users to leverage a cheaper storage repository in the cloud and populate a file system only if necessary.

These capabilities are particularly important now that vendors are optimizing their file storage for flash memory and access speed, enabling users to build a multitier infrastructure to optimize $/GB ratios as well. Furthermore, users are looking at hybrid and multicloud for their infrastructure strategy, and this storage infrastructure design fits very well in this context.

That trend makes it easy to understand the reasons for the success of file storage in the cloud, especially if it can also be integrated with on-premises and other cloud storage.

Cloud file storage solutions fall into two categories:

  • High-performance cloud file storage refers to cloud-based scale-out file systems with a focus on high performance—high input/output operations per second (IOPS), high throughput, low latency—file access for cloud-based AI, high-performance computing (HPC), and big data workloads.
  • Distributed cloud file storage solutions are oriented more toward enterprise and distributed workloads and collaborative use cases, of which network-attached storage (NAS) replacement is one of the most important.

This is the fourth year that GigaOm has reported on the cloud file storage space in the context of our Key Criteria and Radar reports. This report builds on our previous analysis and considers how the market has evolved over the last year.

The GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar reports provide an overview of the cloud file storage market, identify capabilities (table stakes, key criteria, and emerging technologies) and non-functional requirements (evaluation metrics) for selecting a cloud file storage solution, and detail vendors and products that excel. These reports give prospective buyers an overview of the top vendors in this sector and help decision-makers evaluate solutions and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

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