AuriStor Brings the Andrew File System to Life – Blocks and Files



Andrew file system developer AuriStor updated attendees in an IT Press Tour briefing on his work on the file system with HPC and large enterprise customers dating back 16 years or older.

AuriStorFS (a modern and licensed version of AFS) is a networked file system providing local access to files in a global namespace that has claimed superior performance, security, and data integrity than any of the offerings of file sharing based on public cloud such as Nasuni and Panzura.

AuriStor is a small, distributed organization dedicated to expanding the popularity and cross-platform use of AuriStorFS.

AFS Context

The Andrew File System (AFS) originated as the Andrew Project by Carnegie Mellon University, which was founded when the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research merged in 1900. The founders of these two institutes were Andrew Carnegie (steel industry mogul) and Andrew Mellon (banking mogul) – hence the eponymous Andrew Project.

AFS is a scalable client-server distributed file system, like NFS and SMB, with global namespace, location independence, client-side caching, reminder notification to clients of system content changes files and replicated read-only data access. It looks like a local file system on an AFS client. An AFS cell entity is one or more AFS servers and their clients forming an administrative domain.

OpenAFS is an open source implementation of AFS based on code made available by IBM-owned, Pittsburgh-based Transarc in 2000. Transarc was started in 1989 by several members of the Andrew Project and IBM was an initial investor.

AuriStor

Jeffrey Altman.

AuriStor was founded in 2007 as Your File System, Inc., by CEO Jeffrey Altman. It is a small business – you could even say tiny – with only five employees listed on LinkedIn. However, it says it has a distributed team with members in its offices in New York, Cambridge MA, Edinburgh, Scotland and Nova Scotia, Canada.

An informational presentation slide showed only eight contributing developers since January 2019.

AuriStor’s goal was to accelerate the development of AFS by selling a licensed version of AFS, thereby funding its own engineering and support efforts. Its AuriStorFS is said to be a better cross-platform offering than Microsoft’s Windows DFS, more reliable than Gluster, as good as GPFS, and more cost-effective than Panasas for general storage needs. AuriStor wants to sell its AuriStoFS to large, medium and small businesses, and even to individuals with smartphone client software.

AuriStorFS is backward compatible with AFS and OpenAFS. It has been certified for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4, making it the only software in the AFS family certified for use on any Enterprise Linux distribution. It is validated for the use of the public cloud Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS and Oracle and AWS. Customer support includes Linux, macOS, and Windows.

The source code of AuriStorFS is available for licensed organizations wishing to participate in its development as part of a private community.

Competetion

Here is a competitive matrix from the AuriStor website:

It looks a bit dated. It does not include, for example, Panasas, Spectrum Scale, DAOS or WekaIO.

Scalability and performance

An AuriStor cell can store up to 2259 file stream up to 16 exabytes – the maximum allowed distributed database size. OpenAFS exceeds 2 GB – a tiny fraction of that.

The number of volume IDs per cell is 264 – much more than the 231 OpenAFS limit. There can be 290 objects (directories or files) by volume compared to OpenAFS 226.

The granularity of Auristor’s timestamp is 100ns, which compares to the second of OpenAFS.

There is no need to continue. AuriStorFS is ridiculously more scalable than OpenAFS.

AuriStor claims that AuriStorFS is faster than OpenAFS and competitive in performance with Luster, GPFS (Spectrum Scale), Panasas and NFS v4.

Customers

AFS, thanks to the support of IBM, has gained HPC users and large enterprises, such as Morgan stanley, which in 2004 had more than 25,000 hosts in more than 50 sites on six continents. Morgan Stanley said that AFS could provide better WAN file sharing than NFS because it had a better client: server ratio of hundreds to one compared to NFS then 25: 1.

At that time, AFS was considered outdated, but Morgan Stanley’s investment in it made it impossible for the company to migrate.

View of Morgan Stanley on AFS in 2004.

Goldman Sachs is another AFS user and replaced its OpenAFS client with the AuriStorFS client in 2017, deploying it to 25,000 hosts, a number that has since grown. His experience is discussed in a 2020 Youtube video by Vice President of Basic Engineering, Tracy Di Marco.

Slide of the presentation by Tracy Di Marco, vice president of Goldman Sachs.

Di Marco said that AuriStorFS “enables us to deliver hundreds of thousands of hosts that perform business functions to the enterprise, near the speed of the local disk, without repeated use, possibly expensive and unnecessary. network, and with a small standard disk allocation, rather than larger and more expensive disks.

Slide of the presentation by Tracy Di Marco, Vice President of Goldman Sachs.

Other AuriStor customers include CERN, Intel, IRS, Qualcomm, United and KLM. We were unable to find any HPC customers and believe their number is low. WekaIO, for example, has never encountered AFS, OpenAFS or AuriStor in the HPC market.

Comment

It is a niche business. AuriStor is a small company focused exclusively on its own products and supporting a relatively small number of very large customers. It is funded by license sales and not by venture capitalists, which makes it very different from competing file system vendors like WekaIO.

In our opinion, AuriStor’s main competition comes from public clouds – AWS, Azure and Google – and applications such as CTERA, Egnyte, Nasuni and Panzura. Another competitor is Hammerspace, with its global file system namespace.

One of the primary marketing goals of AuriStor is to encourage its adoption by OpenAFS users. A secondary goal, in our opinion, is to prevent its user base from defection to the public cloud.

If it manages to pull out of the enterprise user market with more than 20,000 servers, it will increasingly compete with CTERA, Egnyte, Nasuni and Panzura and may suffer from appearing more complex to install and manage. than the products of these suppliers. At the same time, it has more bells, whistles, levers and hooks that administrative staff can use, secure and optimize.

Price

The starting price for an AuriStor installation is $ 21,000 / year for a perpetual license with four database services and four file service instances. Additional file or database service instances in a cell start at $ 2,500 each and decrease to $ 1,000 each depending on the quantity. Single server cells are licensed at a base price of $ 6,500.

Fact sheet

Get a downloadable 24-page AuriStor fact sheet in PDF format from here.

See Tracy Di Marco’s presentation “Optimizing AFS Storage Systems to Facilitate Global Software Deployment” here and slides here.


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