Storage startup Nasuni today debuted a VMware-based virtual NAS file server that, according to the company, consolidates NAS clusters by putting primary storage data in the cloud.

The Nasuni Filer, which is currently available as a free download from Nasuni’s website, supports Windows CIFS Shares, ACL and Active Directory to fit into existing NAS environments. As a result, the Filer can be used to consolidate a NAS cluster into a single device or to support an existing application, such as a content manager or an image server.

Nasuni’s CEO and co-founder, Andres Rodriguez, says the Filer can function as a substitute for primary file servers and eliminates the need for internal primary storage by passing data from the customer to any cloud provider.

“The cloud has been seen as the ‘end tier’ for storage strategies for storing backup and archive data. We believe that with the right kind of performance and architecture you can bring primary data into the cloud,” says Rodriguez.

He claims that Nasuni’s architecture supplies the necessary performance, availability and functionality to make primary cloud storage feasible.

At its core, the Nasuni Filer is a downloadable virtual machine image. The Filer’s cache keeps copies of working files in the user’s local storage for fast access. The Filer deduplicates, compresses and sends file changes to the cloud.

Since the back-end storage is provided in the cloud, the Nasuni Filer allows for unlimited capacity expansion, and automatically adjusts to increasing or decreasing storage needs while charging the user for capacity usage.

Nasuni captures the entire file system hourly and saves snapshots to the cloud, where administrators can roll back to any point in the life of a file, directory, or file system.

The Filer also employs end-to-end data encryption and key management (OpenPGP with AES-256).

Rodriguez says a software-only approach is necessary for mid-market customers. “Users in the mid-market have already made the leap by entrusting application data such as e-mail to outsource service providers. Now they can do the same thing with their files,” he says.

Nasuni is pricing the Filer at $250 per month or $3,000 annually with advanced payment. The back-end storage capacity will vary based on the cloud provider of choice.

Rodriguez says the Nasuni Filer is capable of working with any cloud storage provider. Initial cloud services will be provided by Amazon Web Services, Iron Mountain Digital, Nirvanix and Rackspace.

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