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Make the Most of Home Directories With Cloud Volumes Service

August 14, 2019

Topics: 7 minute read

A home directory is a directory on a multi-user file system that typically stores files specific to an individual user of that system. These home directories may contain the user’s personal data such as text documents, images, or video files as well as operating system-specific contents. Home directories can also contain valuable enterprise data. That data might be application-specific configurations, intellectual property documents (like work-in-progress application code), and other content that’s of significant value to most organizations.

Typically, home directories are stored in a centralized, shared file system hosted on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) solution. These centralized NAS solutions provide various benefits, such as centralized management of user data, high performance, high availability, and storage efficiencies to help reduce the overall storage footprint, and therefore the total cost of ownership of the data. To do this in AWS, users can turn to NetAppⓇ Cloud Volumes Service for AWS.

Home Directories on the AWS Cloud

Users moving their home directory file systems to Amazon Web Service (AWS) are often looking to benefit from greater scale and agility and access to cloud-based services for file management, security, governance, and analytics capabilities.

However, enterprise customers can face some challenges when planning to move existing Windows or Linux-based home directories from an on-premises solution to AWS. They’ll need to:

  • Guarantee business continuity, with minimal downtime and no data loss
  • Comply with data security, data protection, and disaster recovery regulations
  • Make sure all host client data formats and operating systems are compatible with a single solution
  • Migrate data without having to rewrite applications or using manual, cumbersome migration tools that aren’t optimized for cloud migration
  • Synchronize data between on-premises and cloud environments
  • Ensure data security at all levels
  • Solve for a lack of data management capabilities such as cloning, snapshots, and backups

Cloud Volumes Service for AWS enables your organization to meet all of those challenges.

Data Fabric Weaves It All Together

Cloud Volumes Service for AWS is a high performance, cloud-native, and fully managed file storage service that is based on the same NetApp ONTAP technology that many enterprise customers have relied on in their data centers. Over the years, ONTAP technology has been recognized as a best-of-breed NAS solution for hosting file shares and user home directories. It is offered as a cloud-native solution in the AWS marketplace, enabling AWS customers to consume ONTAP features, such as multiprotocol access (CIFS and NFS), instance cloning, and snapshots as discrete services without the need to procure a monolithic system.

As part of the NetApp Data Fabric, Cloud Volumes Service enables customers to consume digital technology solutions from across the AWS cloud and on-premises data centers, without fear of data movement or data management restrictions. It enables AWS users to consume NFS and SMB (CIFS) file storage capabilities within each AWS region and any AWS availability zone in that region, in a manner that’s consistent with their on-premises data center management. These services will typically be handled such that customer applications deployed within these Amazon EC2 compute instances can consume file data services from NetApp Cloud Volume Services seamlessly. 

Cloud volume services

Cloud Volumes Service provides a number of unique advantages to enterprise customers considering AWS cloud for their file and home directory data storage requirements. A few characteristics that users should take into account when using Cloud Volumes Service are:

Availability and durability
Cloud Volumes Service comes with the ONTAP 99.99% availability and high durability at 99.999999% to provide enterprise grade uptime for enterprise data on AWS.

Cloud Volumes Service also provides enterprise grade scalability of up to 100TB per file support and thousands of client connections per share.

Rich data management
ONTAP’s advanced data management features enable enterprise customers to move their valuable data to AWS; using Cloud Volumes Service for AWS, users benefit from NetApp SnapshotTM technology, instant restore, and instant clones. Furthermore, additional data transfer capabilities from Cloud Sync enable hybrid cloud mobility for customers to synchronize their primary data with other AWS regions and cloud platforms.

Data security
Cloud Volumes Service provides built-in data security thanks to ONTAP encryption at rest (AES-256bit) and encryption in flight (TLS) for end-to-end security for critical data. That capability, coupled with integration to external authentication platforms (including cloud native identity and access management for sensitive customer data) create unparalleled data security.

Three service levels are available to suit customer requirements (the Standard level is best for general purpose file shares, including home directories; the Premium level is best for VMs and database applications; and Extreme is for extremely latency-sensitive application data such as high performance computing). Actual throughput is only limited by the underlying AWS limitations (600MB/s per network session).

Simple, on-demand file shares
With support for NFS v3 and SMB 3.0 and 3.1.1, Cloud Volumes Service allows customers to use the protocol(s) of their choice to host their file data. Data is easily accessible through the graphical user interface (GUI), command-line interface (CLI), or APIs. All Cloud Volumes Service file shares are accessible by any VM or a microservice (container) in an AWS virtual private cloud (VPC).

NetApp Cloud Volumes Service and User Home Directories: How It Works

NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for AWS provides a fully managed SMB file system so that enterprise customers can easily move their Windows-based home directories to AWS. Cloud Volumes Service provides SMB support through CIFS shares with tight integration with Microsoft Active Directory (AD), as well as Distributed File System (DFS).

A home directory is accessed by many different users. Storing a directory on Cloud Volumes Service for AWS allows access to thousands of Amazon EC2 compute instances that are running Windows for shared file storage. Cloud Volumes Service can also be used for other cloud-native applications that require SMB shares from a centralized repository with a single pane of glass for management.

Because it’s a fully managed service, Cloud Volumes Service eliminates the administrative overhead of managing Windows file servers as VMs, such as provisioning servers, security hardening, software updates, or patches. Instead, users can immediately start provisioning storage volumes, which can be increased or decreased in size on the fly. The ability to create, read, delete, and update home directory file systems in minutes makes it easy to respond to changing business requirements.

Cloud Volumes Service or Native AWS Offerings?

There are a number of advantages to using Cloud Volumes Service over native AWS solutions such as Amazon EFS or FSx when it comes to storing user home directories on the cloud. Cloud Volumes Service provides:

  • A single solution that can cater to multiple protocols such as NFS, SMB, and S3.
  • Higher performance for critical throughput-sensitive data of up to 128MB/s per TB data stored. 
  • Significantly greater scale of up to 100TB per storage volume.
  • The flexibility to change capacity and performance on the fly, providing customers with choice.
  • High availability in all Availability Zones (AZ) within a region.
  • Data management capabilities, such as snapshot copies and cloning capabilities not natively available on AWS.
  • Data migration between on-premises and Cloud Volumes Service is free using NetApp Cloud Sync for Cloud Volumes Services customers.

A Better Way to Do Home Directories

For supporting the shared file access demands of home directories, Cloud Volumes Service for AWS provides a NetApp AFF-backed, high-performance, cloud-native file service that’s fully integrated with AWS services such as Amazon EC2.
But home directories are just the beginning of what Cloud Volumes Service on AWS can do for many other use cases. Database users will finally have a cloud-based solution with the scale to meet SQL and Oracle database storage requirements. For developers, this service provides an infrastructure-as-code resource through the RESTful API, a fast and efficient cloning feature to speed up the dev/test/release cycle, and full integration with Trident and NetApp Kubernetes Service to provision persistent storage for containerized workloads. In high performance computing (HPC), Cloud Volumes Service provides shared persistent storage with high throughput and low latency that meets the performance demands of HPC applications such as genomic sequencing, electronic design automation (chip design), video rendering and transcoding, seismic analysis, and 3D modelling for oil and gas.
It’s performant storage like nothing the cloud has ever seen, for home directories and much more.

Try It Out Now

Request a Cloud Volumes Service on AWS demo or sign up for Cloud Volumes Service for AWS today.


Solution Architect