By Karthik Angamuthu | Dell EMC | Sr. Product Manager for Azure Stack
Dell EMC Azure Stack
Azure Stack is designed to help organizations deliver Azure services from their own data center. By allowing end users to ‘develop once and deploy anywhere’ (public Azure or on premises). Customers now can take full advantage of cloud for various applications that could not live in cloud otherwise, may it be due to regulations, data sensitivity, edge use cases, or location of data that prevents them from using public cloud.
Dell EMC co-engineers this solution with Microsoft with added value in automation of deployments, patches and updates along with integration of various key solutions to meet our customers’ holistic needs. One such value add is enabling our Azure stack customers to expand file storage.
Why should you care? – Because of the storage limitation!
Azure Stack storage is a set of cloud storage services that includes blobs, tables and queues which are consistent with public Azure storage services, built on Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). It is important to note that while ‘file storage’ is supported in public Azure, it is currently not supported on Azure Stack. This means that any tenant workload that needs to access files via SMB/NFS has to use external NAS storage residing outside the stack. Additionally, since Azure Stack is built on a hyper-converged architecture, it inherently limits the capacity of S2D storage.
What is the solution? – Isilon. Though there are many external file storage options available, Isilon is an excellent option for the following reasons.
Isilon is a scale out network-attached storage (NAS) platform offered by Dell EMC for high-volume storage, backup and archiving of unstructured data. While Isilon offers extremely high scalability that is highly cost effective, it provides enterprise class features such as
- Performance monitoring with InsightIQ,
- Tiering of data with SmartPools,
- Quota management with SmartQuotas,
- Data protection with SnapshotIQ,
- Data replication with SyncIQ,
- High availability and load balancing with SmartConnect,
- Deduplication with SmartDedupe,
- Data retention with SmartLock,
- Stringent compliance and governance needs through WORM capability and
- Last but not the least, seamless tiering of cold or frozen data to public Azure storage with CloudPools.
Isilon supports SMB, NFS, HTTPS object storage, and HDFS, among other protocols. And, there are three different Isilon platform families to meet the performance needs of the data, all running Isilon OneFS:
- The all-flash F-series, focusing on extreme performance and scalability for unstructured data applications and workloads
- The hybrid H-series, which seek to balance performance and capacity
- The archive A-series, for both active and deep archive storage
Configuring your file share
Ok, how do you set up such that tenant workloads can access external file shares? – Simple. If you have a NAS such as Isilon sitting outside of the stack, your tenants can directly map the file shares via SMB/NFS as long as the network connectivity is set up. It requires careful consideration, planning and administration.
Whether you are an existing Isilon customer who purchasing Azure stack or a new Azure stack customer that needs file storage for your documents, back up vault or running analytics workload with HDFS, you asked us for a simple and scalable storage solution that is easy to manage with Azure stack. We heard you!
Multi-tenancy and Administration complexity
Isilon supports multi-tenancy such that, each Azure stack tenant can access specific sub-folders of Isilon storage under the single namespace. You can set up access-zones, network segmentation with groupnets and subnets, authentication providers (AD/LDAP, etc.) along with quotas and policies for each tenant on Isilon. While it may not be complex to set up, ongoing administration can be non-trivial. For example, when Isilon and Azure stack are managed independently, and when the cloud admin needs to onboard new a tenant or offboard a tenant or one of the tenants need more capacity or change backup configurations, etc. You have to manage this workflow carefully with SLA and must plan for the overhead.
An ideal approach to simplify or reduce this overhead is to give autonomy to cloud admins to manage tenants’ storage. Cloud admins ought to be able to simply manage storage capacity and storage services with respect to their tenants. Furthermore, extend the flexibility to tenants to self-manage their storage space and users within their respective org. Needless to say, this must be done with a consistent Azure user experience.
That is what we have done with our VConnect plug-in for Isilon and Azure Stack.
How does it work?
Once Isilon is setup and multi-tenancy is enabled by Isilon admins, Azure stack admins can deploy our VConnect plug-in for Isilon and enable it through plans and offers for their tenants. Tenants now can subscribe to the storage services under that plan and self-manage storage capacity, users and access.
Step by Step Instruction
A detailed step by step guide to setup and use VConnect plug-in for Isilon is described below.
Whether you are a service provider or an enterprise customer, you now have the ability to offer Storage-as-a-Service to your customers with enterprise class storage features such as high availability and data protection, security and more with Azure Stack and Isilon.
How to order
This solution is currently available for purchase through our solution partner CloudAssert. You can reach out to your Dell EMC Azure Stack sales specialist to buy this.
For inquiries, questions and comments, please reach out to Dell EMC Azure Stack product manager Karthik Angamuthu at Karthik_Angamuthu@dell.com