Is Enterprise NAS the Best Option for Your Organization?

Barbara Murphy. November 17, 2021
Is Enterprise NAS the Best Option for Your Organization?

Looking into enterprise NAS? We explain what enterprise NAS is, how it works, and other options you may want to consider.

What is enterprise NAS?

Enterprise network-attached storage is large-scale computer data storage connected to a computer network to provide data access to an organization.

Why Is Enterprise NAS Critical for My Business?

Network-attached storage (NAS) is an alternative to direct-attached storage (DAS), or local storage, in that it makes storage available over a network. For example, a NAS server within a system serves as a location where structured or unstructured data may exist and remain accessible to devices and users on that system.

However, unlike a generic server setup, NAS functions more like a high-volume hard drive attached to the network that is accessible from computers on that network. The NAS storage system isn’t necessarily centralized like a hard drive. Instead, it is distributed across several devices and servers for security and redundancy purposes while appearing as a single entity on the network.

For the most part, NAS beneficially serves applications like continuously running security camera networks or high-volume backup solutions where reliability and scale are critical. But in terms of enterprise applications, it’s simply not enough to just have attached storage in place. Several additional capabilities should go along with a NAS setup for it to be considered an enterprise solution. These include the following:

  • Purpose-Built for Enterprise Use: While enterprise use seems self-explanatory (it is “enterprise” NAS, after all), the details are usually more involved than a simple term. An enterprise NAS system will often include specialized mechanisms for transmitting data over specific protocols, tying into existing file-sharing infrastructure.
  • Scalability: Enterprise NAS will almost invariably focus on scalability. Even traditional NAS is known to promote scalability far beyond DAS. Enterprise NAS takes that to an entirely different level with extreme scalability for rapidly expanding business needs.
  • Performance: Enterprise operations need data access that moves fast, responds quickly, and doesn’t falter under pressure. This performance must apply to typical file sizes and massive information volumes alike. That’s why Enterprise NAS will use high-performance features to empower high-performance backups and data access.
  • Redundancy: In terms of enterprise data, there must be multiple, accessible copies of all information available at any time. An enterprise NAS solution will usually support, or serve as, a hot, always-on backup, or even as a component of long-term cold storage.
  • Security and Compliance: It perhaps goes without saying, but if an enterprise business works in a regulated industry, their data storage and transmission infrastructure must meet all security, governance, and privacy regulations. This is just as true for an enterprise NAS solution.

What Are the Advantages of Enterprise NAS Solutions?

While enterprise NAS is purpose-built for enterprise use, it can benefit businesses of any size. The advantages that it can provide are becoming integral to the success of any data-driven business, large or small.

Some of the advantages of enterprise NAS architecture include the following:

  • Business Continuity and Protection: As with any data storage and backup solution, an enterprise NAS infrastructure brings an extra level of data support and business resilience. With regular backup or continuing system snapshots, you can, in cases of emergency, reset a system state or backup data almost immediately without significant disruption to your operations.
  • Accessibility: The outstanding accessibility of a NAS solution isn’t just a boon for backups. Even for day-to-day operations, strong and high-performance NAS systems can make sharing files, accessing essential files, and saving files easier for your employees.
  • File-Sharing: There are several enterprise-grade file-sharing platforms out there, but many of them come with significant bells and whistles to the point you are paying extra just for cloud services, modern analytics, and so on. However, with an on-premise or cloud NAS, you have that much more control over your data and your file sharing without involving a middle person.
  • High-Performance Computing: If you combine high-performance NAS with nodes of workstations contributing to complex problems in areas like life sciences or machine learning, you can effectively network concentrated and highly-collaborative HPC environments. Additionally, suppose you are building any accessory nodes to an existing HPC environment. In that case, you can control data orchestration and access points between HPC cloud infrastructure and individuals working with data on a smaller scale.

What Are the Challenges of Implementing and Maintaining Enterprise NAS?

While enterprise NAS provides several key advantages over traditional storage or DAS, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any challenges. From implementation to maintenance, enterprise NAS, like any technology, calls for attention to specific issues.

Some of the challenges of enterprise NAS include the following:

  • Configuring systems for low latency and high availability: NAS is only as good as its components. If you aren’t configuring an enterprise NAS system correctly, you’ll find limitations in transmitting files or working with them in real time. High latency and a lack of availability can kill an effective NAS, especially if your team can’t access or work on critical files as needed.
  • Security: NAS systems are, by definition, connected to a network. Even if you block access to a NAS system from external connections (which is increasingly unlikely in our modern era), you still run the risk of exposing data to hackers should they breach other systems. The security of data at-rest and in-transit throughout the NAS system and at all workstations must be always maintained.
  • Bottlenecks: The truth is that, no matter how well-configured your NAS is, it’s entirely realistic to expect bottlenecks. Too many users, too many connections, or too much throughput can choke a system and make it unusable by your employees or team members.

WEKA: The Data Platform for AI and High-Performance Computing

Enterprise NAS solutions have a particular niche where they shine. While they can fit into other areas, like cloud computing and backups, NAS systems aren’t as well-suited for the demands of modern high-performance computing. Cloud technologies have, in many ways, surpassed traditional and enterprise NAS setups in terms of speed, availability, security, and resilience.

Suppose you are in a position where you think a NAS solution could support high-volume workloads for enterprise AI applications, machine learning, scientific computing, or analytics. In that case, we instead suggest you look towards a platform more suitable for the task: WEKA. Our Data Platform powers some of the most intense applications in specialized fields of research in areas like healthcare, AI, genomic sequencing, and more through strategic implementation of the following features:

  • Streamlined and fast cloud file systems to combine multiple data sources into a single HPC system
  • Industry-best, GPUDirect Performance (113 Gbps for a single DGX-2 and 162 Gbps for a single DGX A100)
  • In-flight and at-rest encryption for GRC requirements
  • Agile access and management for edge, core, and cloud development
  • Scalability up to exabytes of storage across billions of files

If you’re ready to invest in infrastructure that can support your technical workloads now and well into the future, contact us to learn what WEKA can do to support you.

Additional Resources

NAS vs. SAN vs. DAS – Advantages & Disadvantages

WEKA Architecture Whitepaper

Technical overview of the features and benefits of WEKA

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