What Large Storage Vendors Aren't Telling You About OpenStack And Software-Defined Storage - InformationWeek

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Daniel Gilfix
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What Large Storage Vendors Arenít Telling You About OpenStack And Software-Defined Storage

Simple, low-cost commodity storage devices can be used just as effectively, if not more so, than traditional proprietary, high-cost options.

Large hardware manufacturers have been building high quality, dedicated storage appliances and storage arrays for many, many years. Many enterprises have been using them successfully for a long time.

And why not? With so much structured data requiring simple, straightforward file-system storage, the intelligence integrated into these products made storage one less thing to worry about.

Then Came Cloud Computing

Cloud computing was essentially borne out of the realization that great economies of scale could be realized, along with incredible increases in service quality, by centralizing infrastructure under the control of dedicated professionals in a purpose-built data center.

These professionals needed far more control over the storage environment than enterprise IT administrators. They also wanted far more flexibility to enable their innovations.

This community of professionals ultimately banded together inside the open source community. One of the initiatives they launched was OpenStack, designed to help people move to the cloud and design their infrastructure to take the fullest possible advantage of the flexibility available from cloud computing.

What Is OpenStack?

The homepage at www.openstack.org defines OpenStack as follows:

OpenStack software controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a data center, managed through a dashboard or via the OpenStack API. OpenStack works with popular enterprise and open source technologies making it ideal for heterogeneous infrastructure.

Hundreds of the world’s largest brands rely on OpenStack to run their businesses every day, reducing costs and helping them move faster. OpenStack has a strong ecosystem, and users seeking commercial support can choose from different OpenStack-powered products and services in the Marketplace.

The software is built by a thriving community of developers, in collaboration with users, and is designed in the open at our summits.

In other words, OpenStack brings cloud computing and automation to businesses while providing enough flexibility for integration with existing and/or commodity components. It’s fair to say that the popularity of any open source project is often determined by its overall usefulness to businesses and how relevant it is to solve a particular problem. OpenStack has quickly become the fastest growing open source project in history and is arguably one of the most well-known. This alone is not only an indication of how relevant OpenStack is to addressing modern business challenges, but after nearly seven years and still gaining momentum, it’s also a testament to OpenStack’s success in actually delivering real-world results.

Scale Out Cloud, Scale Out Storage

Half of the features bulleted in the introduction to the latest release of OpenStack from Red Hat focus on storage:

The current Red Hat system is based on OpenStack Liberty and packaged so that available physical hardware can be turned into a private, public, or hybrid cloud platform including:

  • Fully distributed object storage
  • Persistent block-level storage
  • Virtual-machine provisioning engine and image storage
  • Authentication and authorization mechanism
  • Integrated networking
  • Web browser-based GUI for both users and administration

What The Large Storage Vendors Aren’t Telling You

Despite the fact that OpenStack and software-defined storage are ideally suited for petabyte-scale data storage, the storage appliances and arrays on which most businesses have invested tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for decades are simply inappropriate in an OpenStack environment. They can certainly be used for legacy and traditional virtualization storage needs, but they lack the openness, flexibility, and scale-out design that OpenStack was meant to exploit.

What the storage vendors are not telling you is that software-defined storage separates intelligence from storage hardware. This means that simple, low-cost commodity storage devices can be used just as effectively, if not more so, than traditional proprietary, high-cost options. Since healthy storage for an OpenStack environment supports OpenStack’s fundamental elements and architecture, it must have flexibility to handle object data, block data, file data, image data, and more, ideally in a unified storage platform. And because the intelligence is now separated, storage hardware becomes a matter of simple COTS (commercial off the shelf) components.

Enter Red Hat

The latest OpenStack release, in combination with open source storage software such as Ceph, creates a flexible, extensible, scalable cloud operating environment. Red Hat OpenStack Platform includes 64 TBs of Red Hat Ceph storage for each unique Red Hat customer account, so that a company’s OpenStack-based infrastructure has the right scale-out storage from day one. Companies also have the option of deploying an even broader OpenStack solution, fully integrated with the new Red Hat Cloud Suite.  

Learn more about these options at http://www.redhat.com/en/about/press-releases/red-hat-powers-cloud-scale-devops-general-availability-red-hat-cloud-suite-and-red-hat-openstack-platform-8.

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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