March 17, 2023
Companies with distributed operations often suffer from highly localized and isolated silos of data. We can see from our global customers that about 80% of an organization’s unstructured data is generated and stored outside of the central network. This can be a big factor when considering cloud file sharing solutions.
With cloud transformations already a fact of life in most enterprises, corporate IT teams are tasked with managing unstructured data at the edge across complex hybrid and multicloud infrastructures. To mitigate the corporate data compliance and security risks without undermining edge performance, companies wind up turning to costly and resource-consuming processes and solutions. How can that be avoided?
In this blog post we show how the partnership between Talon and NetApp, two leaders in the field of data storage, creates a performant, cost-effective Data Fabric across the entire enterprise through the combined use of Talon FAST and NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP.
A Closer Look at Managing Unstructured Data
In order for enterprises to securely and intelligently extract value from the massive volumes of unstructured data that they routinely generate and collect, they have to embrace robust data governance strategies. They know that actionable business intelligence is only possible if there is a single source of corporate truth based on high quality data sets—with the right people having access to the right data at the right time.
Data governance is both an organizational and an infrastructure/technological challenge. Good data stewardship starts with clear corporate goals and objectives that can be translated into well-defined, role-based processes. Internal data owners and users across all lines of business and all geographies should have a say in establishing data governance goals and guidelines, as well as keeping them updated in the face of dynamic business needs.
It then falls to central IT to actually create a well-governed centralized repository without impinging on the needs and user experience of data consumers no matter where they are located. IT teams will often deploy third-party Master Data Management (MDM) platforms to define and enforce data governance workflows, which should be as automated as possible.
Effective corporate data governance must also address the infrastructure challenges of managing diverse data formats (file, block, object) across a fragmented stack of on-premises and cloud-based storage appliances.
Introducing Talon FAST and Cloud Volumes ONTAP
Talon FAST is a software-defined data storage fabric solution that consolidates local data sets into a centralized, consolidated, and unified corporate directory structure (Virtual File Share) that is transparent to all users across the organization. Active data sets are cached locally in each branch location in order to provide low-latency performance at the edge. FAST’s Intelligent File Caching capability automatically updates the active data set on the local storage volume based on actual usage patterns and typically reduces storage capacity requirements by 70-80% at the edge.
Talon FAST is easily deployed at all edge locations on virtual Microsoft Windows Server instances, traditional servers, or virtualization platforms. It integrates seamlessly with unified corporate services such as Active Directory, ACLs, DNS/DHCP, NTFS permissions and DFS Namespaces so that all branch offices see the same standardized IT image.
With global file locking and other collaboration features, employees and trusted partners can access and collaborate on data in real-time anywhere in the world, with optimal performance regardless of bandwidth and distance.
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP is a virtual data storage and management platform that runs as an instance on Azure or AWS cloud infrastructure, providing storage efficiency features, automated tiering between block and object storage, and data protection and high availability features not offered by the cloud providers. All these features are managed with single-pane visibility and control via OnCommand Cloud Manager across the enterprise’s data storage infrastructure.
Extending Cloud Volumes ONTAP with Talon FAST
As shown in Figure 1, Talon and NetApp have collaborated to provide an enterprise-grade software-defined storage solution that combines Talon FAST’s seamless and intelligent global data fabric with Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s highly-efficient data storage and management platform.
Figure 1: The Talon FAST - NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP Solution
The enterprise deploys the FAST client-side software at all relevant edge locations. The FAST Core instance, which maintains the corporate Virtual File Share, uses Cloud Volumes ONTAP to securely and efficiently store and manage the enterprise’s central data repository. The key benefits of the joint solution are:
- It extends Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s storage efficiencies, data protection and simplified management to branch locations, saving costs by consolidating local IT assets and eliminating the need for local backups.
- It completes the enterprise’s software-defined storage fabric by providing high-performance access to centralized storage, with only frequently used data cached on the local storage volume.
- It lets the enterprise deploy and manage storage across a wide range of infrastructure architectures while providing users with a real-time collaboration experience as though they were all working from the same office.
Two Customer Success Stories
Global Manufacturer: Enterprise Storage Solution
A global company headquartered in the USA, this customer designs and manufactures propulsion systems for combustion, hybrid, and electric vehicles. With 50+ manufacturing facilities across 18 countries, it is a supplier to all three US automakers as well as many European and Asian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Their data was stored across several data centers around the globe and users in some branch locations were experiencing both performance and data consistency issues when accessing data for modeling and other business-critical purposes. Their existing Document Management System (DMS) solutions were unable to implement effective distributed file locking or to deliver large files efficiently to low-latency sites. As a result, the workflows of global project teams suffered.
Leveraging Talon FAST’s software fabric on Cloud Volumes ONTAP as its backend storage platform, the customer was able to enhance business productivity and achieve the following benefits:
- Full integration with Azure and Active Directory security controls.
- Lowered costs by automatically archiving inactive on-premises unstructured data to Azure
- Lowered costs and overall reduction of the company’s storage footprint.
- Eliminated costs and resources associated with local backups by centralization and consolidation of data.
- An end to the IT complexity they had faced for years.
- Dramatically improved file sharing performance and experience due to intelligent file caching.
- Effective global file locking mechanism that supports collaborative workflows.
Large Construction Company: Creating a Central Repository
Another proven scenario describes a large civil engineering/construction company based in Auckland, New Zealand. Among its diverse activities, it builds roads and bridges, does earthwork and infrastructure work for residential and commercial construction projects, offers solutions for ports as well as water and wastewater plants, supplies precast concrete elements, and provides landscaping services.
The customer faced significant unstructured data management challenges. Due to their aging and inadequate infrastructure, large design and image files were isolated in local offices because it was cumbersome to download them from—and upload them to—the central data center. They also suffered from file versioning issues, which made it difficult to maintain reliable distributed workflows. All of these challenges were further amplified when they had to move their data center to a new location, add new offices, and integrate their outdated hardware with a new modern network.
It was time to centralize over a petabyte of unstructured data in a cloud environment in order to upgrade the company’s file sharing and data management capabilities without having to purchase new hardware. The customer decided to deploy the FAST/Cloud Volumes ONTAP joint solution across all their remote locations. The benefits that they have reported to date include:
- Users can now easily access, edit and share data throughout the enterprise.
- Centralized and consolidated backups eliminate the need for local branch office backups.
- The centralization mitigated the security risks of isolated data.
- IT footprint and overhead has been reduced.
The company now enjoys the best of both worlds. They have centralized their unstructured data storage and management in a cost-effective and scalable cloud environment while continuing to consolidate and upgrade their hardware in the Asia region.
Talon and NetApp have integrated their industry-leading software-defined enterprise data storage and file sharing solutions to create a truly seamless, performant, and cost-effective Data Fabric across even the most complex and highly distributed infrastructures.