SwiftStack Inc. this week unveiled version 2.0 of its eponymous object storage software, featuring a gateway that enables customers to integrate their file-based applications. SwiftStack 2.0 also includes support for additional capabilities in the OpenStack Swift cloud technology platform.
The company sells a commercially supported version of open source OpenStack Object Storage, which is commonly referred to by its project code name, Swift. SwiftStack aims to address the concerns of enterprises that are wary of using open source software without a commercial vendor to maintain and support it.
In addition to providing a supported version of scalable Swift object storage, SwiftStack tacks on a proprietary management system and functionality that extends beyond the scope of OpenStack. The new SwiftStack Filesystem Gateway is one such example.
The SwiftStack Filesystem Gateway eliminates the need for customers to use third-party products or do their own programming to store unstructured data from file-based applications in the Swift-based object storage system. The gateway supports Network File System version 3 and Server Message Block (SMB) 2.1, and installs on standard Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
"We see it as a bridge so that objects can be consumed in the enterprise and we realize that this is where people want to go," said SwiftStack CEO Joe Arnold. "It allows you to put objects in and files out and vice versa, files in and objects out."
SwiftStack based the gateway on technology from Maldivica Inc. after acquiring technology rights to the Maldivica software and hiring the firm's founder and chief technology officer, Robert Minnear. "We had several joint customers at the time and there were many other customers who wanted this capability. So, it made a lot of sense for us to do," Arnold said.
SwiftStack's gateway in action
San Francisco-based Pac-12 Networks used the Maldivica software with its initial deployment of SwiftStack last year. Pac-12 selected SwiftStack for a centralized archive of roughly 300 terabytes (TB) of media it produces and stores each year from Pacific-12 athletic conference sporting events. Pac-12 is a Windows shop and uses SMB/CIFS with its Dalet media asset management system, so it needed a gateway to the Swift object storage.
"I never have to worry about talking Swift for archives or restores. [The gateway] does that. It sits in the middle and it lets my application make a copy," said Scott Adametz, director of system architecture and technology at Pac-12 Networks. "I say, 'I'd like to archive this file.' My media asset management, Dalet, takes that file from the SAN and copies it onto the cloud storage gateway.
"Then the cloud storage gateway says, 'I've got a new file. I'll go ahead and start chunking this into 5 GB chunks and move everything as objects instead of as files,'" he explained. "Now these objects are there. They are replicated three times, never on the same chassis or in the same rack. I have some geographic redundancy for power, data connectivity. I could lose an entire rack and my system wouldn't slow down. So, the gateway lets me use a legacy application with brand-new object storage."
Adametz said he wanted a commercial variant of OpenStack Swift to ensure the IT staff would not need special expertise to maintain the archive for years to come, even if he is no longer there to supervise. He said he sought out disk-based object storage software because of the ease of scaling on commodity server hardware and because he didn't want a big tape library.
He said users can restore an archived file with the gateway by simply right-clicking and selecting "restore request."
Adametz estimated he might have paid Dalet a six-figure development fee to make the application Swift-compliant without the gateway. He said he paid approximately $20,000 for the Maldivica gateway.
SwiftStack said pricing for its new file system gateway will be tiered and the company will work with customers to determine the cost on an individual basis. The gateway is currently available in beta and is due for general availability in July.
Additional storage support added in SwiftStack 2.0
SwiftStack also plans to add support for core OpenStack Swift features in SwiftStack 2.0. Global data distribution and heterogeneous hardware support are due in July and support for storage policies is expected in August. Last month, SwiftStack added plug-and-play integration with the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Active Directory for authenticated access to its object storage system. SwiftStack's Arnold cited Hewlett-Packard's IT department as one customer that wanted to integrate its existing LDAP environment to make account provisioning automatic.
"What we're seeing here is making object storage more enterprise-friendly, enterprise-grade," said Simon Robinson, a research vice president in storage and information management at 451 Research. "If this movement on object storage is actually going to succeed, then it's going to have to, at some point, find a way to break into the enterprise."
Robinson said open source-based object storage offers a low cost to entry but lacks "table stakes functionality" that proprietary object storage vendors have, such as global data distribution and erasure coding. SwiftStack 2.0 is a "reasonably solid update" moving in that direction, he said.