Data storage volumes continue to grow exponentially, creating challenges for organizations of all sizes. Smaller organizations in particular struggle to scale their storage environments and effectively protect and manage data to minimize business risk. Open source storage platforms can help resolve these problems cost-efficiently.

Many small enterprises use consumer-grade network-attached storage (NAS) devices for data storage. These products are inexpensive, readily available and straightforward to install. If you run out of space, simply add another NAS device to the environment. The downside is that you wind up with a plethora of NAS devices that lack the features you need to manage growing data volumes.

At some point, an organization will determine that it has outgrown its storage environment and needs an enterprise-class platform. They’re often shocked to learn that these systems cost tens of thousands of euros, compared to a couple thousand euros for a decent consumer-grade NAS device. It’s typically hard for smaller organizations to justify the expense.

Open source storage provides that much-needed middle ground between consumer-grade and enterprise-class storage. These solutions are often based on Z File System (ZFS), which was developed in 2001 for Sun Microsystems. In 2008 it was ported to open source FreeBSD operating system, and is now licensed under the Common Development and Distribution License.

ZFS offers powerful capabilities, including data integrity verification, automatic repair and snapshots. Its copy-on-write feature stores data on an unused area of the disk rather than overwriting existing information, with the file system updated to point to the new data only after the write is successful. ZFS can support up to 245 quadrillion zettabytes of storage, and create storage pools that span multiple drives.

Generally speaking, open source storage platforms are hardware-agnostic. However, manufacturers such as iXsystems offer purpose-built appliances that are optimized for maximum performance and have certification programs for third-party systems. Using one of these platforms takes the guesswork out of the implementation.

iXsystems offers two storage products, both of which are based on ZFS. Its FreeNAS system is available in all-flash and hybrid disk / flash versions with redundant power and cooling and hot-swappable drives. The latest version of the FreeNAS file system is preinstalled on a mirrored, dedicated, internal flash device to minimize the risk of downtime. In addition to all of the ZFS capabilities, the FreeNAS platform supports multiple file and block protocols and includes deduplication, compression and other storage optimization features. It can be used to host virtual machines, file storage, backup repositories, media libraries and databases.

TrueNAS is a flash-turbocharged storage platform that can scale to nearly 10PB. In addition to multiple file and block protocols, it is compatible with S3 APIs for object storage and supports every common operating system, hypervisor and application. It provides unlimited point-in-time snapshots with the ability to roll back to previous versions to protect against data corruption, user error and ransomware attacks. TrueNAS is also available in all-flash and hybrid versions, and uses caching to deliver flash-like performance with disk capacities and economics.

A lower-end FreeNAS solution will cost more than a consumer-grade NAS device, but it is considerably less expensive than an enterprise-class platform. TrueNAS is also cost-efficient yet delivers the features and capacity to meet enterprise demands.

Rahi Systems is an iXsystems partner with expertise in the most common use cases and their implementation. For our European customers, Rahi Systems complements and extends IX support by handling communication that is usually done during U.S. business hours. Systems will be shipped through us, and we can take care of replacements and the ordering/shipping of spare parts.

Rahi Systems can help you take advantage of open source storage, and provides support for iXsystems anywhere in the world. If your organization needs high-performance, highly reliable storage with enterprise-class features, open source storage is a cost-efficient alternative that will take you into the future.

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