NAS vs. SAN: Should It Really All Be about the Lowest Cost?

May 12, 2021 | David Pollock

In today’s challenging environments, everyone is trying to stretch their storage budgets as far as possible. Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are cheap. But is it a good investment for your M&E business? While NAS will be less expensive, will it help you to be more efficient, productive and profitable?

Let’s look at some of the main factors in choosing between a NAS or a SAN* solution.

*In this post, a Storage Area Network (SAN) refers to a high-performance, block-level file level sharing solution that enables concurrent read and write access to a common dataset.


1. Cost

NAS devices are commodity storage. They are readily available and come in a wide range of prices and performance levels. SAN solutions are typically more specialized, more complex and more expensive.


2. Administration complexities

One of the main reasons people use NAS is because of their legendary ease of use (in addition to the price). They are as close to “plug & play” as possible. Traditionally, SAN have been complex to deploy, manage, and maintain. That’s because one needs to deal with the underlying infrastructure, the storage as well as the management software. In most cases, the underlying file system is proprietary and intertwined with the arbitration logic. Troubleshooting is often difficult given the various components that are interacting.


3. Latency/Speed

NAS devices have inherently limited performance capabilities due to the bottleneck of the built-in server that transfers data between the disks and the client machine. Some vendors offer scale-out-NAS, but at the expense of additional complexity and price. And even then, the maximum performance available to a client is limited by the node delivering it.

A SAN offers the best possible performance as there is no middle layer between client computers and storage. It is technically like a DAS (Direct Attached Storage).


4. Cross-platform Sharing

NAS devices can fulfil the promise of affordability and ease of connectivity, but they can be a source of challenges for those in M&E, considering the various hardware and OS platforms that must communicate over a “standard” protocol (SMB or NFS). Unfortunately, these protocols are only as good as their implementation. When every manufacturer is responsible for their own implementation, problems can arise.
In a SAN, a special software agent must be installed on each client. This agent communicates with the metadata controller (MDC), which acts as a traffic cop to the storage. Given this agent is developed by one and the same company, there are typically fewer cross-platform issues.


Tiger Technology for High-performance LAN/SAN Media Workflows

The Tiger Technology solutions are arguably as easy to setup, maintain and troubleshoot as any NAS device and don’t require specialized IT staff. That’s because Tiger Store, our MDC software, keeps the data store (i.e., file system) separate from the arbitration logic. When using Tiger Store, you format your storage with NTFS, the most widely used file system on the planet. The software only performs arbitration between the client machines. If anything goes wrong, or you need to decommission your setup, it is easy to remove the arbitration layer, and deal with the storage on its own as it is still a standard NTFS file system. Your data is never held hostage.

When it comes to connectivity, Tiger Technology delivers the best of both worlds. It is not only compatible with the SMB and NFS protocols but has also developed its own IP SAN protocol for more efficient block-level connectivity over high-speed ethernet LAN networks. By controlling and optimizing both ends of the protocol across various hardware and OS platforms, Tiger Technology can provide the fastest and most reliable of connections. The same software agent automatically establishes a SAN connection if the physical storage LUNs are visible by the OS. Transparent failover takes place to LAN if issues are detected on the SAN connection.

Let’s look at the advantages of a Tiger LAN/SAN hardware and software solution over a NAS setup.

Presents storage to cross-platform clients as a local attached disk device versus a network share;

  • Optimizes TCP/IP protocol for large block data transfer;
  • Workspace & project management;
  • Scalable performance (all the way up to 8K uncompressed);
  • Wide range of connectivity options (Fibre Channel, Thunderbolt, iSCSI and regular LAN);
  • Tiered performance storage with active archives;
  • Seamless cloud integration for multi-site collaboration;
  • Native support for Active Directory;
  • Automatic file system defragmentation and image sequence alignment

    NAS Environment
    What is NAS

    Tiger LAN/SAN Environment
    SAN with Tiger Store

    The Tiger LAN protocol is the perfect solution for facilities where the performance of a single storage server is sufficient to meet the workload requirements. For more demanding environments, Tiger Technology offers dedicated metadata controllers that can manage any number of RAID controllers striped together to offer a high-performance parallel file system that can simultaneously be accessed by multiple servers/workstations. This highly scalable architecture meets the need for a large seat count and demanding workflows, such as colour grading.

    On top of providing an efficient and reliable shared storage platform, Tiger Technology offers advanced project workflow management tools that make it really easy to create dedicated workspaces for new jobs, assign them to teams and control access. Tiger also offers advanced storage management solutions to optimize storage resource utilization, manage backups, protect against crypto virus attacks, and extend your workflow to remote locations. Tiger does all this and is the only company offering a software-only, dedicated MDC Server or all-in-one appliances.

    So, is cost the most important factor?

    Overall, while NAS is the cheaper option, you should also consider the efficiency and seamlessness of the solution you’ve chosen to integrate into your high-performance media workflows. If you’re looking for a solution that combines scalability, management and performance, it is nearly impossible for any NAS to compare to what Tiger Technology offers.

    Looking to enable high-performance SAN/LAN workflows? Contact our sales team to find out more and book your demo.