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When it comes to emerging technologies it usually the path of least resistance that winds up gaining favor with most IT customers. Right now there’s a massive amount of interest in anything to do with cloud storage. But beyond using the cloud for anything more complex than backing up files and archiving data, the promise of cloud storage remains elusive.

But that may not be because of any inherent technology limitations. Customers have massive amounts of unstructured data that they are increasingly choking on. What they need is an approach to cloud storage that allows them to essentially replicate a familiar network-attached storage (NAS) model in the cloud.

That’s the thinking behind a Quicksilver Cloud Storage Appliance developed by Panzura. According to Ranajit Nevatia, vice president of marketing for Panzura, the core concept that Panzura is promoting is that storage appliance coupled with a global file system will allow IT organizations to treat multiple cloud service as a natural extension of their existing storage environment.

Panzura today released version 3.0 of that file system, called the Panzura Operating System, at the Interop 2012 conference that adds support for new version of the Quicksilver appliance that now features more memory and faster processors, 10Gb Ethernet connectivity, 3TB disk drives and a 50 percent increase in local cache capacity that can be used to pin specific files to the controller. Available in virtual and 1U and 2U form factors, Quicksilver controllers can now locally store about one-third of a petabyte, says Nevatia.

There’s an assumption that somehow the current leading providers of NAS storage are going to lead the way towards cloud storage. But as every solution provider knows business models sometimes slow incumbent vendors down when it comes to new innovation. Storage vendors want to not only sell as much on premise storage to as many customers as possible, they also want to control the customer account. In contrast, if more storage moves the cloud chances are that solution providers working on behalf of their customers are going to be in control of managing it. That not only creates opportunities for recurring revenue; it makes it easier for solution providers to play one storage vendor off against another.

Nevatia says that Panzura has relationships with a number of cloud storage providers, including EMC Atmos. Amazon, Google and Nirvanix. The Panzura approach gives IT organizations a more seamless way to incorporate multiple cloud storage providers in a way that allows them to tier data by storing instances of the company’s most important data using a tiered storage architectures that includes cache memory, solid state drives (SSD), local hard drives and cloud storage.

There’s no doubt that in the era of the cloud storage is getting more complex to manage. Customers not only need storage in the cloud, they need an easy way to access and manage it. The Panzura file system makes that happen be essentially turning all those cloud resources in an extension of the local NAS storage using an object-based storage system that as far as local systems are concerned looks like just another NAS server.