Standardizing Cloud Computing With OpenStack And Software-Defined Storage - InformationWeek

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4/14/2016
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Daniel Gilfix
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Standardizing Cloud Computing With OpenStack And Software-Defined Storage

Companies choosing to take the flexible, scalable OpenStack approach have sought a similarly open architecture for their storage to keep it as responsive and resilient as possible.

As more and more companies move more and more of their IT operations to cloud computing, the importance of achieving standardization among cloud providers and the resulting interoperability become more and more important.

Imagine an environment in which every cloud service provider (CSP) establishes its own preferred protocol stack, its own security standards, and its own requirements for interoperability. You really don’t have to imagine too much; this is a good description of how many CSPs operate today.

The result is that every choice limits future choices, reducing flexibility and agility and hampering growth. Users find themselves locked in to some vendors, and completely locked out from others. While they have been somewhat reduced, these proprietary approaches have abounded in the cloud since the beginning.

Enter OpenStack

One of the most popular combatants in the fight for truly open standards in the cloud has been the OpenStack community. The home page of its website explains, “OpenStack software controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, managed through a dashboard or via the OpenStack API. OpenStack works with popular enterprise and open source technologies making it ideal for heterogeneous infrastructure.”

Heterogeneous infrastructure like that found in all of cloud computing.

The Importance Of Storage In OpenStack Environments

OpenStack.org explains important storage considerations when using OpenStack:

In addition to traditional enterprise-class storage technology, many organizations now have a variety of storage needs with varying performance and price requirements. OpenStack has support for both Object Storage and Block Storage, with many deployment options for each depending on the use case.

Object Storage is ideal for cost effective, scale-out storage. It provides a fully distributed, API-accessible storage platform that can be integrated directly into applications or used for backup, archiving, and data retention. Block Storage allows block devices to be exposed and connected to compute instances for expanded storage, better performance, and integration with enterprise storage platforms.

Storage has long been an area in which proprietary approaches are plentiful. Traditional storage appliances and storage arrays usually require expansion to come in the form of new equipment purchases from the same manufacturer. Management and security options are often limited. Increasing capacity often requires bringing the entire array down, and as more companies approach petabyte-scale storage requirements, they have found it increasingly difficult to have their storage solutions scale with them.

Choosing Open Storage For OpenStack

Companies choosing to take the flexible, scalable, open approach available from OpenStack have sought a similarly open architecture for their storage to keep it as responsive and resilient as possible. They know they need to avoid using existing storage solutions that were designed for a very different environment, and find a truly scale-out architecture that will not only support but exploit all of the advantages of OpenStack.

Many have found their solution in open source solutions such as Ceph, which was designed specifically to provide a healthy storage environment that supports the requirements of emerging workloads like a cloud environment. Ceph supports object data and block data as well as file, image, and other data types, creating a truly unified storage platform ideal for an open environment. This approach achieves the economies of scale, the levels of efficiency, and the ease of training, support, and administration that OpenStack users are seeking.

The Open Question

One very important question that all of these open source companies have had to ask themselves is how much of this do they want to do themselves, and how much do they need help and support to speed their time-to-value. Yes, there is a large OpenStack community of upstream coders and downstream supporters available to provide guidance and help. But sometimes companies simply cannot afford to bet the continuity of their operations solely on the community. That’s why many of them have turned to companies such as Red Hat, committed to open platforms and capable of delivering production-level services and support that are expected for enterprise deployment. 

Daniel Gilfix is part of the emerging storage business unit at Red Hat, responsible for Red Hat Ceph Storage marketing. His career has spanned over two decades, heavily focused on leading-edge technologies and integrated software solutions aimed at the enterprise. He was most ... View Full Bio
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