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Windows Apps on AWS Cloud? Solving the Top Four Concerns

In this entry of our series on file services with the AWS cloud, we look at solving real-world challenges with the right cloud file system.

A large UK-based firm was an early private cloud adopter and had built a large on-premises infrastructure. But massive data growth threatened to overrun internal storage, so the firm decided to move their IT infrastructure to the AWS cloud.

This migration was not a matter of replacing in-house Office applications with Microsoft 365. It was moving entire websites, thousands of Citrix thin clients, proprietary SQL-based applications, and petabytes of data.

The actual migration, which they carefully planned with AWS, went smoothly. When they were on AWS, they planned to use Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) Namespaces to manage their Windows Server resources. But they found that DFS had its own set of problems and decided to replicate their on-premises Windows infrastructure in the cloud.

This approach presented another issue: AWS lacked the services that the firm needed to re-create their large Windows storage environment. There were four major concerns for the firm: 1) no dual protocol support, 2) moderate snapshot capabilities, 3) high storage costs, and 4) heavy management overhead.

Breaking Down the Four Common Concerns

  • Lack of dual protocol support slowed down volume creation. NFS support was available through the Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) service, and SMB/CIFS was available through Amazon FSx. But the separate services required separate subscriptions and interfaces, and there was no way to combine the protocols on a single volume.
  • Moderate snapshot capabilities affected service levels. The firm stored petabytes of data, much of it critical SQL data that fed into enterprise applications. Downtime is a serious issue with the firm, but AWS starts volume backups with a full source copy. From then on, AWS takes snapshots of delta changes, but the source backup requires quiescing applications.
  • High storage costs affected the bottom line. To achieve lower costs, the firm needed storage efficiencies like thin provisioning, compression, deduplication, efficient point-in-time snapshots, and data cloning. These services were either not available on AWS or resided in different services.
  • High management overhead affected IT. The cloud configuration process differed from on-premises processes for operations like provisioning shares, authentication, and lifecycle management. Although IT expected the learning curve, they did not expect that the management process would continue to take more time than on-premises management had taken.

NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for AWS

The firm went with NetApp® Cloud Volumes ONTAP® for AWS to re-create their efficient Windows infrastructure at a lower cost.

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP simplifies Windows applications in the cloud at a low cost. NetApp Cloud Volumes Service lowers costs even more with a fully managed, automated software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering for files systems on AWS.

In contrast to AWS file services, Cloud Volumes Service provides dual-protocol support at volume creation time. It also provides rapid NetApp Snapshot™ copies for high service levels, lower costs with storage efficiencies and dynamic storage tiers, and simplified management with managed services.

Efficient Operations with Multiprotocol Accesss

Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables on-demand volume provisioning by allowing users to easily choose NFS, SMB, or dual protocols when they create a volume. With multiprotocols, users can provide both NFS and SMB protocol access to the same file. This access enables users to seamlessly share files between Linux and Windows clients in the cloud.

ONTAP supports all versions of these protocols on AWS and on premises, which adds efficiency and value to hybrid cloud infrastructures. NetApp integrates Active Directory, which protects your existing domain credentials, authorized users, and groups.

High Availability and Data Protection with Efficient Snapshots

NetApp Snapshot technology rapidly backs up files without pausing the source file for an initial backup. The 4KB Snapshot copies take up minimal storage space, and quickly restore to protect recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) service levels. And cloning based on Snapshot technology allows developers to quickly clone volumes for rapid deployment and environment testing.

NetApp SnapMirror® data replication uses Snapshot copies for disaster recovery. SnapMirror uses Snapshot copies to transfer data from the primary dataset to a disaster recovery copy. SnapMirror copies an entire dataset to the disaster recovery instance once, and then continually synchronizes the disaster recovery copy by updating delta changes.

Lower Cost

Storage efficiency features enable Cloud Volumes ONTAP to significantly decrease used storage capacity and costs. These features include thin provisioning, data compaction, compression, and deduplication.

ONTAP also lowers computing costs by simplifying performance/cost ratio decisions. For example, high-performance computing (HPC) can be costly, because high performance requires fast data access. This means that users either store active data on a higher-level AWS storage tier or incur data transfer charges by moving between tiers. ONTAP offers three dynamic storage tiers that balance performance and costs just when you need it: Standard, Premium, and Extreme. The performance balancing is automatic, and users can adjust storage tiers as needed.

NetApp Cloud Manager monitors and reports these storage resource costs over time, which supports accurate decisions when assigning workloads to service tier levels.

Simplified Management

Cloud Manager simplifies Cloud Volumes ONTAP instance deployment and management. Cloud Manager’s simple interface walks administrators through creating and provisioning volumes, setting up new storage systems, creating Snapshot schedules and cloning environments, and creating new file shares. NetApp integrated Cloud Manager with leading automation software such as Jenkins, Ansible, and OpenStack.

For the easiest management of all, deploy NetApp Cloud Volumes Service as a fully managed file service for NetApp Cloud Volumes. Cloud Volumes Service has all the ONTAP functionality along with highly automated storage management functionality.

In Summary

Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides robust file sharing services. For more insight on file shares with NetApp on AWS, you can view the webcast The Basics of Migrating to the Cloud with AWS and Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

For more on our files services on the AWS cloud blog series please visit our entries The Cure for Windows File Share Blues, SMB and NFS? NetApp Has You Covered, Not my legacy, and Windows Apps on AWS Cloud? Solving the Top Four Concerns.

Also, you can read about Cloud Volumes Service or start a free trial of Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

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Product Marketing Manager, Cloud Data Services