What does NZFS stand for?

NZFS stands for “Next-Generation Zion File System”.
A Zion is an imaginary place considered to be perfect or ideal.

What is NZFS?

NZFS is a data storage virtualization technology.
It is an extremely flexible framework that allows to you achieve the followings without additional cost:

  • Optimal storage capacity
  • Optimal storage performance
  • Optimal storage data protection

The typical problem: Optimal Capacity vs Optimal Performance vs Optimal Protection

Let’s say you have a system with 6x 3TB drives.
On those drives you want to:

  • Store a large amount of data (optimal capacity, so you are tempted to go with RAID 5)
  • Write some editing content very fast (optimal performance, so you are tempted to go with RAID 0)
  • Store some highly important documents (optimal protection, so you are tempted to go with N-way Mirror)

With traditional systems, you are either:

  • Forced to make a compromise and choose one RAID type for all usages losing either space or protection level
  • Or forced to split the drives into less than optimal RAID configurations losing even more space or protection level
  • Or forced to buy more drives to implement all three scenarios
  • Or forced to buy a new computer and more drives to implement all three scenarios if the existing system cannot host additional drives

NZFS allows you to have all three optimal configurations in a single system using a single set of disks.
More on that in a separate topic.

Implementation

NZFS is implemented as a two part series:

  • A completely independent RAID system that works with any file system (use your favorite file system on top of it)
  • An optional File System designed to take greater advantage of the RAID system and provide advanced features such dedup, copy-on-write, checksuming, self-healing, etc. The file system component is optional because there are existing file systems such ReFS that provide some of the features the NZFS file system provides or the user might just not need those extra features. NZFS does not try to put you into a box unlike ZFS with its RAIDz system.

We will not cover the optional file system of NZFS yet. Since it is optional, it can be considered as a separate project to be discussed later.
In this first introduction to NZFS, we will lightly brush on the RAID system.

The RAID System

The RAID system in NZFS can implement all standard RAIDs and many non-standard RAIDs including:

  • N-way mirror
    • You are no longer limited to mirroring just two drives.
    • With NZFS, you can define as many mirrors for your important data as you need to.
  • RAID 0, 4, 5, 6, 10, 50 60, etc. (much more complex RAID layouts can be implemented)
    • NZFS does not just implement these standard RAIDs; for most of them, the NZFS implementation is an improvement over standard implementation (more on that in a separate topic).
    • NZFS let you design your RAID. You want 0+5 or any eccentric configuration? No problem. NZFS will support it.
    • NZFS also supports Spanned arrays and Spanned arrays + Parity (for energy efficient configurations – more on that in a separate topic)
  • Transparent RAID (tRAID)
    • This feature will get many users super excited. specifically, unRAID users will love this feature.
  • NZFS supports RAID migration from any RAID type to any RAID type without needing you to move your data in and out.
    • So, you can start with one RAID type and convert it to another RAID type as your needs change without your data being affected.
    • The only thing that changes is the RAID layout. Your data stays intact. Migration is done in-place. Talk about absolute flexibility!

Taking the use case approach

NZFS is vast in features so much so that we will approach each feature as a use case in order to avoid overwhelming the potential user.

Use case 1: Using the Transparent RAID feature of NZFS as a replacement for unRAID

Transparent RAID
Imagine a RAID system where you can take any one drive from the RAID and have that drive fully readable in another system without the other drives part of the RAID.
Then, imagine a RAID system where losing more drive than the tolerance level will not cause you to lose all your data beyond the drives lost.
Well, it is here. NZFS’s tRAID: a Storage Technology Breakthrough. :)

Transparent RAID has the following features:

  • Independent disks with transparent dedicated parity
  • Can tolerate X drives failures, where X is the number of drives the user has configured for parity.
  • Each drive can be formatted with its own independent file system.
  • Each drive can be pulled and read in another system by itself.
  • In case of failure past the tolerance level, surviving drives are fully readable/writable.

tRAID vs unRAID

Transparent RAID is a better version of unRAID that runs on any modern version of Windows and Linux.

Advantages over unRAID:

  • Multi-Parity support
    • Running a large array with just one parity is simply foolish. unRAID is limited to one parity drive.
    • Hard drives tend to fail in batches and we tend to buy drives in lots, which almost always come from the same batch.
      When you lose a drive, chances are great that you might lose another drive shortly after if they are all from the same manufacturing batch.
      Worst, RAID recovery tend to put greater stress on your drives and that’s the time when another drive might fail.
      Improve your protection level and recovery chance by using two or more parity.
  • Support for drives with existing data
    • Outside of FlexRAID’s RAID-F technology, NZFS’s tRAID is the only other system on earth to support creating a RAID array using drives with existing data on them.
    • tRAID also supports adding drives with existing data to an existing RAID.
    • Other RAID systems (including unRAID) will format all your drives before adding them to the RAID. This means, you need to have another storage array with enough space to copy your data to and from. This create additional cost (you have to buy more drives to temporarily hold your data) and additional time (the time to copy the data out and back in).
  • NZFS runs on any modern Windows or Linux OS
    • unRAID runs on a non-standard OS and users are limited to the hardware its customized OS supports.
    • By running on your favorite OS, NZFS let’s you build a storage box that can run other applications such that you have a more complete and usable system.
      These value added applications are essential to running an effective storage box.
  • No cache drive required with tRAID (no gimmicks)
    • unRAID requires you to add a cache drive (along with all the many issues that go along with that) in order to achieve adequate performance.
    • No such thing with NZFS. An NZFS Transparent RAID use no gimmicks and has high performance out of the box. No cache drive. No additional way to losing your data.
    • A cache drive as used in unRAID leaves your data vulnerable! Yikes!
  • Rich UI
    • The client application for managing your NZFS hosts is a very rich and slick UI that makes management a breeze and keeps you from making mistakes. There is nothing more frustrating than something that is cryptic to manage or a UI that can lead you to doing the wrong thing and lose your data in the process. Taking cues from the interface we designed for FlexRAID, the NZFS client interface is a fresh and intuitive new approach.
      Your time is valuable. The NZFS UI keeps it simple for users that want simplicity while giving users that like to tinker something to tinker with.
    • A single client install can manage an unlimited number of hosts.
    • unRAID relies on its user community to create unsupported UI plugins to restyle the default UI into something usable. Managing your precious data with an unsupported UI modification? Yikes!
  • NZFS is far more innovative
    • Remember that it is only one feature of NZFS that is a complete and better replacement for unRAID. When you add the many other features, you start to realize that the people behind NZFS have a far greater expertise in storage technologies.

We brought you Snapshot RAID & RAID-F (others tried to copy), Storage Pooling (others copied), and now we are bringing you NZFS.
Can the copycats keep up?
Intrigued yet? Well, we are just getting started. :)

Feature
unRAID
tRAID
Multi-Parity support?NoYes
Supports drives with existing data?NoYes
Can each drive in the RAID have its own independent file system?NoYes
OS support?Proprietary OS with limited hardware support.Any modern Windows or Linux OS
Let's you easily run other applications on your storage box?NoYes
Rich UI?NoYes
Use cache drive gimmicks to achieve adequate performance?YesHeck no
Future proof?NoYes

NZFS is currently in private beta testing.

 

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