There is a great deal of controversy around the public IT cloud and over the last 12 months I've spoken to over 200 IT professionals and there is confusion and frustration on how they are going to use it, what the value proposition is and where to even begin. A startup vendor, Nasuni, which recently launched their company and product, I believe helps to answer some of these questions(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ battery).

Nasuni provides a "NAS-like" software appliance. NAS-like is their term - so much for naming creativity - but essentially it is software that you download and run on a physical server as a virtual appliance(Sony VGP-BPS8 battery).

It looks like NAS storage to your applications. Right now it only supports Windows environments. Since they are going after the SMB market focusing on Windows is pragmatic. They will support NFS based on market demand(Sony VGP-BPL9 battery).

It takes "15 minutes" to get up and running and storing files in the cloud. They work with leading storage cloud providers including Amazon S3, Iron Mountain ASP and will soon support Nirvanix(Sony VGP-BPS9 battery).

One of the core technologies of Nasuni is its file caching capability. They keep the most frequently accessed files locally so you get fast performance and rarely have to perform reads from the cloud provider. It remains to seen what their cache hit rates are but it is in their best interest to make it as efficient as possible (see below for more on this). But their engineering team are cache algorithm gurus so I am pretty confident they did a good job(Sony VGP-BPL11 battery).

All billing is through Nasuni. I love this part for two reasons: 1. It makes the cost of the service very easy to understand. 2. The customer just has to go through Nasuni to set everything up. Making it easy for people to use public cloud services is extremely valuable and essential to its proliferation(Sony VGP-BPL15 battery).

Nasuni charges customers $300 to use their appliance on a month-to-month basis; $250 per month if you prepay for one year; and $200 if you prepay for two years. They pass through the cost of the cloud capacity with no mark up. Additionally, Nasuni PAYS for the cloud bandwidth service charges - the upload/download fees(Sony VGN-FZ460E battery). That last part is very important since it is the variable that could make public cloud storage costs unpredictable and cost prohibitive. The reason Nasuni can do this is because of their file caching - since most of the reads will be local and rarely pulled from public cloud storage they will not incur heavy costs for bandwidth utilization. If you want to store 1 TB of data onto Amazon S3 for example and have a one year pre-paid deal with Nasuni the total costs for you will be $4,800. Its pretty simple(Sony VGP-BPS13 battery).

What do you get for your $4,800? You get the capacity in the cloud. You get NAS capabilities including file level access and logical snapshots. You get fast performance utilizing Nasuni file caching. Nasuni encrypts the data so it is secure. Additionally, they claim you don't have to backup any of the data because they keep protection copies and provide you with an easy way to recover data at the file or directory level(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21M battery ). Nasuni stores both primary and snapshot copies efficiently using file level data deduplication and logical snaps. This last part is very important since the cloud storage providers don't provide these capabilities and this is where your capacity costs could otherwise be a runaway train(Sony VGN-FZ150E battery).

And you don't have to pay for the power, cooling and floor space that local storage requires.

Also keep in mind that this is a Just-In-Time capacity model. You don't get charged for unused capacity but only for how much storage that the actual data consumes. In a world of 20%-50% capacity utilization rates that translates into significant cost savings. Additionally, you don't get any RAID capacity penalties. All of these things must be factored into your cost savings calculations(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18M battery).

Another interesting thing about Nasuni is that their "NAS-like" appliance is a fixed charge. They don't make any more money if you are using 1 TB or 10 TB or 100 TB. The cost of using Amazon S3 capacity will go up but thats it(Sony VGN-FZ31E battery).

Now we must consider that the $3,000 or so cost of Nasuni software is an annuity. Customers have been saying for years that they are tired of paying a price per GB for storage systems. Well, Nasuni throws the old pricing model out the window. If you go with their two year option the cost of their software is $2,400 a year(Sony VGN-FZ11S battery). Over four years it amounts to $9,600. The cost of other storage vendors' annual maintenance is higher than that. Additionally, with Nasuni there is no additional maintenance cost - the annual charge includes support and upgrades(Sony VGN-FZ17 battery).

Nasuni supports heterogeneous cloud services. You can use individual cloud providers or a mixture if you want. You can switch providers if you are unhappy with any of them (they don't have a bulk move tool yet but this is coming). Right now the list of service providers is limited but I suspect this will grow over time(Sony VGN-FZ220E battery).

If there are any issues with your service then you call Nasuni and not the cloud providers. Again, this simplifies the experience of using public cloud storage(Sony VGN-FZ11Z battery).

I like their animated videos. I am rather critical of how vendors educate their customers but I give Nasuni points for telling their story intelligently and quickly and without me wanting to stick a sharp object in my eye. I also like their FAQ section - it lays everything out very clearly(Sony VGN-FZ11M battery).

Nasuni seems to make a lot of sense for file sharing, tiered storage, secondary copies, and backup. Both SMB and remote office / branch office customers should be interested in this solution. I also think that there is a use case for collaboration in the cloud using Nasuni between employees and/or partners(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31M battery).

Nasuni has thought through their solution holistically keeping the customer experience top of mind. Their biggest challenges will be over coming cloud cynicism. But I contend that the Nasuni product was designed to address the limitations and objections to using public IT cloud storage(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z battery). Additionally, with their price point they will need to reach a lot of customers. Nasuni has to build an efficient machine to drive up awareness and customer acquisition. For IT professionals considering the cloud, Nasuni makes it easy and the cost and risk of using their solution is minimal(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery).

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