Today I would like to introduce you to NetApp’s Global File Cache. The product is quite new in the NetApp universe, but the technology is very proven. The Global File Cache (GFC) was created from NetApp’s acquisition of Talon in early 2020.
After GFC was offered exclusively for NetApp’s own cloud offerings such as Azure NetApp Files (ANF), Cloud Volumes ONTAP (CVO), and Cloud Volume Services (CVS), the Global File Cache is now available again for ON-premises installations.
First of all, the question… What is GFC?
Simply put, the Global File Cache is a piece of software that hangs as a caching instance in your file services. It doesn’t matter if your main file server is on-premises, in Azure NetApp Files, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, or Cloud Volumes Services. The software consists of a core instance and 1+n Edge instances.
The core instance is located at your main file server (whether it’s in the cloud or on-premises). The Edge instances are installed on your exterior locations.
How does the Global File Cache work?
The Core instance provides users with a global namespace. Users navigate their file share, as usual, start “opening requests” and are authenticated. The core instance then allows the user session, opens, and Locked the file centrally. Data that has not yet been opened at an external location is streamed from the core instance to the edge instance. Frequently used files are held in the local cache of the Edge instance and are served locally from that cache.
If a user from another location tries to open a file that is already open by another user, they receive a message that the file is in use.
The advantage here is quite clear, the active file locking. This will no longer result in duplicates or multiple versions of a document. So the files exist only once in the world and in the central instance. When working with a file in an edge location, only the changed blocks are transferred back to the core instance.
This behavior, among other mechanisms, makes the Global File Cache at outdoor locations extremely fast.
“I’ve tried ne Riverbed, I haven’t brought anything. Why should GFC help now?”
Well… Riverbed does network optimization. But don’t care about “storage” ;). This is where the Global File Cache comes in.
Before I write more about performance… See for yourself in the video. First, I copy a 390 MB file “normal” from my file server to my desktop (approx. 15MB/s). Then I copy the same file from the file share. This time only with the Global File Cache in between (approx. 370MB/s). BOOM!
Who needs the Global File Cache?
In my view, actually, every company with central file services which are accessed from external locations. For companies that have given up the fight against latency and duplicates and keep their file services locally in multiple locations, the GFC can be an ingenious solution to centralize and consolidate file services.
If you have any questions, I am happy to answer.
DISCLAIMER: This post represents my personal observations and is not officially by NetApp or other authorized. Subject to misinterpretation or misunderstanding.