Five Things to Consider Before Upgrading Your NAS

Jun 01, 2010, 08:30 ET from Avere Systems

PITTSBURGH, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Businesses looking to boost the performance of their NAS environments typically look at a variety of potential upgrades to solve their problem, from adding more hard disk drives (HDDs), short-stroking HDDs, installing Flash PCI cards or SSDs, or upgrading to higher performance and much more expensive NAS filers. But these solutions can increase costs unnecessarily, offer minimal performance increases and are short-term solutions that cannot scale to keep pace with a company's need to serve new clients and applications, according to Avere Systems, a company focused on delivering Demand-Driven Storage™ solutions.


For most businesses it makes more sense to add a Tiered NAS appliance, such as the Avere FXT Series, to dramatically increase NAS performance while reducing NAS CAPEX and OPEX costs. Here are the top issues to consider before spending scarce capital resources on new NAS upgrades:

The True Cost of HDDs

Users need to consider the total cost of adding hard disk drives to a NAS infrastructure.  Beyond the acquisition cost of enterprise-class Fibre Channel or SAS drives, you also have to factor in the hidden costs of power and cooling and the necessary rackspace and data center floor space. Furthermore, adding hard disk drives is a costly and largely ineffective method of increasing NAS performance. HDDs are inefficient at providing IOPS, so adding expensive HDDs is not a good IT investment from a cost-performance metric. The value proposition becomes even worse when companies over provision capacity and short-stroke drives in a futile search for higher performance.  Instead of trying to modify HDD technology, NAS users will get a better return on their storage investment by adding an intelligent storage tier that makes the best use of newer Solid State Disks and produces a dramatic gain in IOPS performance.  This approach eliminates the expense of adding hundreds of enterprise HDDs to the NAS environment, recovers capacity on existing HDDs that was previously unavailable due to short-stroking, and solves NAS performance issues while enabling IT to leverage low-speed (and low cost) SATA drives for capacity requirements.

Inefficient Use of Flash Storage

Integrating Flash storage into NAS systems is a new method of improving performance that is being promoted by vendors of traditional NAS.  This includes adding Flash in the form of Flash-based PCI cards and Flash-based solid state arrays.  This approach to using Flash storage is expensive, inefficient and does not scale.  For environments that have multiple NAS systems deployed, adding Flash to each and every NAS system is not only expensive, but highly inefficient as well since Flash must be deployed to handle the peak performance that each NAS system will experience periodically during the day.  In addition, adding Flash to an existing NAS system does not scale since the single controller where the Flash is installed limits the maximum performance of the NAS system.  Contrast this with a consolidated and scalable solid state tier that can be shared across multiple NAS systems where the amount of solid state used can be tuned to the steady-state performance requirements across all NAS systems.


A NAS upgrade can be a painful, disruptive process on IT operations.  New drives are added, controllers swapped out to handle new SAS or Fibre Channel HDDs and NAS servers must be taken off line to add SSD layers.  NAS server downtime can deal a significant blow to the bottom line with even short-term unavailability for revenue-generating applications.  A tiered NAS appliance is a better solution as it is a simple drop-in upgrade, installing in minutes with a near-zero impact on data center management and workflow.  The Avere solution is designed for simple, non-disruptive setup and operation in new or existing NAS installations with no changes required to application servers, clients, existing NAS mass storage or storage management procedures.

Total Upgrade Expense

Upgrading a NAS environment has IT expense ramifications far beyond the cost of installing more HDDs.  Users also need to calculate the total cost of new NAS controllers required to handle the higher performance and increased capacity needs and the cost of new software licenses that accompany the controller upgrade for backup, replication and other storage management functions. In a period of economic uncertainty and restrictive IT budgets, companies can make a more intelligent decision by opting for a tiered NAS appliance that not only produces the required performance improvements but extends the life cycle of the existing NAS hardware.

Scalability and Manageability

Adding more HDDs, Flash storage, or a new filer to a NAS installation in the search for improved application performance is a short-term solution that ends up with companies facing the same dilemma in a matter of months when application demands again outstrip their NAS infrastructure's ability to scale performance.  With a Demand-Driven Storage tiered NAS appliance, scalability is built in. When the enterprise adds more clients and new applications requiring higher IOPS performance, the Avere FXT cluster can be upgraded with the simple non-intrusive addition of a new appliance to scale performance linearly. Up to 25 appliances can be added to a cluster, delivering plenty of IOPS horsepower.

Manageability is another "hidden" cost to upgrading an existing NAS infrastructure.

With falling prices and improved durability making new storage media such as Flash solid state widely available to boost application performance, many companies are tempted to install a new Flash solid state storage tier and expect that it will solve their performance problems. But installing fast-access storage media is only part of the problem. IT also needs to address which applications are best served by the new tier of storage without the time and expense of finding an expert in storage media read/write rates and application Quality of Service schemes.  The better solution again is a tiered storage appliance that includes the intelligence to dynamically allocate data to the appropriate storage tier and media based upon both data and access characteristics, allowing storage administrators to avoid the scenario of having to manually allocate data to specific storage tiers.

Intelligently upgrading your NAS environment will provide you with the required performance increases for the long term at a lower cost and will scale to keep pace with your company's need to serve new clients and applications.

About Avere Systems

Avere provides Demand-Driven Storage solutions that dynamically organize data in response to business demand. The Avere FXT series enables faster application performance at dramatically lower cost by intelligently moving active data between traditional storage devices and FXT appliances. The FXT series appliances tier data on SSD and HDD media and can be clustered for maximum scalability. Learn more at, and you can follow the company on


Judy Smith

JPR Communications



Rebecca Thompson

VP Marketing

Avere Systems

412-635-7170 ext 220

SOURCE Avere Systems