IBM Cloud Object Storage and Panzura: Manage the exponential growth of unstructured file data

August 28th, 2019 IBM Cloud Object Storage and Panzura: Manage the exponential growth of unstructured file data

Ian Wright
Systems Engineer


Network Attached Storage (NAS), for many years, was the center of the world of unstructured data with CIFS/SMB (used primarily by Windows) and NFS (used primarily by Unix and Linux systems).

IBM had (and still has) generations of solutions for that space going back to the NAS500G; but it was a market that IBM had difficulty cracking as successfully as NetApp.

On the other hand, in 2015, IBM made an interesting acquisition. They bought Cleversafe, an Object Storage provider. IDC stated that they believed 80% of cloud applications would be big data intensive.1 The move didn’t get IBM into the position of breaking into the NAS space, but it may have been one spot better. Their product was later renamed IBM Cloud Object Storage (iCOS).

What is Object Storage and what about NAS?

Object Storage is relatively new. It’s not based on a hierarchical file system. Instead, Object Storage uses buckets or containers (not to be confused with Docker/Kubernetes) of storage depending on the Object API. The bits are stored in a single level and are differentiated by the metadata associated with the object. In this way, objects are far more flexible than files in traditional NAS storage and are used extensively in cloud-based computing, just as IDC expected.

While the space for traditional NAS may be shrinking, as Object grows in popularity, NAS is still a necessity in many data centers. Customers are continuing to create documents and presentations, and they still organize their data for user directories in hierarchical file systems. Additionally, even though Object is, in many ways, the future of big data, a majority of data-intensive processes still use NFS today. So, to that end, NAS is still needed in the marketplace.

IBM has different options for addressing NAS. Spectrum Scale (formerly GPFS) is certainly a powerful option for the right customers. For the smaller customers, storage such as an IBM Storwize V5010E, could be mixed with Microsoft Windows Server as part of a VersaStack, to provide NAS functionality. But what about iCOS?

IBM Cloud Object Storage

iCOS is an Object Storage Platform, not a file platform. And, while Files can be Objects, Objects aren’t typically accessed through NFS or CIFS/SMB (Amazon’s AWS S3 API and OpenStack’s Swift are among the Object APIs used for access). In February, IBM did release IBM Cloud Object Storage File Access V1, which provides NFS and CIFS/SMB access. However, it will not meet the requirements of all customers.

The other thing to consider is how many sites need file access. The great thing about iCOS is that it allows a user to have multiple sites that all have access to the same data without requiring 3x the capacity if the business is spread across 3 sites. But how do you take advantage of the geographic dispersion?

IBM and Panzura Partnership

IBM is partnering with Panzura to offer their Freedom NAS family with IBM Cloud Object Storage.

With Panzura Freedom NAS, you can consolidate unstructured data that currently resides across data islands into iCOS, eliminating copy data sprawl, improving data security, and according to Panzura, reducing total costs by up to 70 percent.

How does Panzura Freedom NAS work?

The Panzura filers access vaults in the iCOS systems, including retention enabled vaults for WORM data2. Users can access the filers through CIFS/SMB or NFS. The access can be as simple as a single site, such as Freedom Archive, which could use a single-site configuration of iCOS. But it also offers options, such as Freedom NAS and Freedom Collaboration.

Freedom NAS offers high-performance CIFS/SMB or NFS access to the file data in iCOS. The Panzura Cloud File System uses a Global Namespace already, but when you consider that you could have iCOS distributing data to locations all over the world, it could literally be a Global Namespace. Panzura Freedom will deduplicate, maintain SnapShots and restores, and has FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption across the file system.

The Panzura Filers (which could be run in an appliance or a VM) will cache the most accessed data. If a user wants to build a filer using their own hardware and VMWare, they could even attach IBM storage such as an IBM FlashSystem 900 for caching. This gives high-speed access to the data that needs to be used regularly, while the bulk of the data just needs to be retained in iCOS.

Freedom Collaboration builds upon this by using Panzura Distributed File Locking. This allows users to work on the same file from across the enterprise, without fearing data corruption.

Benefits of IBM COS with Panzura Freedom NAS:

For customers looking toward the future of NAS and Object Storage, it’s a powerful combination. Panzura Freedom NAS and IBM COS deliver:

  • High-performance NFS/SMB file services
  • Integrated backup, cloud DR and data protection
  • Encrypted data in flight and at rest
  • Infinite scale and durability of the IBM COS
  • Automated, API-driven workflows
  • Advanced search and analytics



For more information on how iCOS and Panzura Freedom NAS can help your business, please contact your Mainline Account Executive, or click here to contact us with any questions.

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