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Key Criteria for Evaluating Scale-Out File Storage Solutionsv3.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Scale-Out 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 systems remain one of the most popular ways to store data, both on-premises and in the cloud. Scale-out file storage is becoming the default choice for most organizations because it can be quickly expanded to increase throughput. There are other reasons for the success of scale-out file storage:

  • File systems, often accessed via network protocols like network file system (NFS) and server message block (SMB), are the data storage system of choice for a large number of workloads, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), high-performance computing (HPC), and more. Object storage, although very popular, isn’t overshadowing file systems yet.
  • Modern file systems are much more scalable than in the past, and they provide a familiar user interface and authentication methods along with excellent performance.
  • Legacy applications continue to drive the demand for file storage. Such applications were usually written to work with POSIX-compliant file systems, and the cost of refactoring them to work with object storage likely outweighs the benefit, thus making file storage a preferred option.
  • Modern scale-out solutions are mature and flexible, with most of the complexity now hidden behind the scenes. In the end, managing a single large scale-out system is less time consuming than managing several scale-up systems.
  • Solutions that support data mobility across different environments are becoming increasingly important for executing properly on hybrid IT strategies, and scale-out file storage systems are easy to implement on cloud virtual machine (VM) instances. GigaOm recently published a Key Criteria report about cloud-based file storage, highlighting the growing demand for sophisticated file services both on-premises and in the cloud.

With unstructured data accounting for up to 90% of what is stored in enterprise infrastructures, storage that is scalable and fast enough to manage interactive workloads is crucial for responding adequately to business needs.

That said, enterprises don’t want to get that scalability and performance at the expense of the data services and flexibility they usually get from traditional scale-up network attached storage (NAS) solutions. This is why scale-out storage systems are much more balanced than in the past and try to meet enterprise requirements like scalability, flexibility, efficiency, and performance.

Nevertheless, organizations are becoming much more sensitive to the efficiency argument due to the steep increase in energy costs in some regions of the world. But efficiency isn’t limited to energy consumption. Carbon footprint moderation and overall sustainability are gaining traction on a voluntary basis through environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies that can act as a virtuous differentiator for organizations and vendors alike. Furthermore, it is expected that regulations will soon make those criteria mandatory, impacting the technology selection and decision-making process.

In addition, the global supply chain situation, aggravated by the post-Covid recovery and geopolitical crises, can have a negative impact on hardware delivery times. While some of the scale-out file storage solutions are provided through a software-defined storage deployment model and thus leverage commodity x86 servers, non-standard configurations can take longer to be manufactured and delivered.

Still, the multiple benefits that scale-out file systems provide, combined with their popularity, mean their adoption will continue to grow.

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.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.