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Red Hat updates Ceph, Gluster storage, teases unified management

Red Hat storage boosts performance and scalability with a new version of Ceph and adds erasure coding and automatic tiering with an update to Gluster.

BOSTON -- Red Hat today upgraded its storage technology to boost performance and scalability in its block- and...

object-based Ceph software and tack on features such as erasure coding and automated tiering to its scale-out Gluster file store.

While customers welcomed the Ceph 1.3 and Gluster 3.1 enhancements, they said they were eager to see greater unification between the two products. Red Hat demonstrated future unified storage management technology at this week's Red Hat Summit, and several users said they would like to see the vendor combine Ceph and Gluster storage.

"I came here with stars in my eyes hoping that they were going to come out there and [say], 'We have a storage announcement. Ceph and Gluster are now one.' I was waiting for it, and it just didn't happen," said Nicholas Gerasimatos, director of engineering at Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), which provides analytics software and tools for business and is well known for its credit scores.

Gerasimatos said FICO uses Red Hat Ceph Storage but has deployments where it also needs a file system. He said FICO runs open-source Gluster on top of Ceph in those instances, but he wishes that Red Hat could take the best pieces of Ceph and Gluster and "slam them together."

Arun Chandrasekaran, a research vice president for storage, cloud and big data at Gartner, said there are separate development communities for Ceph and Gluster. He said work is ongoing on a file system for Ceph, but Red Hat needs to think about how to position the two storage products, "particularly from a file and an object standpoint where there's clearly an overlap."

"Red Hat is going to be a little hard pressed in terms of how they would position Gluster to customers, or what are some of the strong reasons why customers should acquire Gluster as a product," Chandrasekaran said.

Red Hat positions Gluster for analytics, enterprise virtualization, sync and share and file-based rich media and archival. It recommends Ceph for cloud infrastructure, including VM storage with OpenStack, and rich media and archival.

"It's no longer a discussion of, 'Is it GlusterFS or CephFS or whatever?' It's all workload centric," said Ranga Rangachari, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's storage and big data business unit. "When we within the business talk about new features, where we are going, everything from the top starts off from a workload side."

Red Hat earlier this year rebranded its storage products.  Red Hat Gluster Storage is based on the company's October 2011 acquisition of Gluster, which sold and supported a commercial version of the open source GlusterFS file system. Red Hat Ceph Storage resulted from the company's May 2014 acquisition of Inktank, which based its commercial product on open source Ceph distributed block, object and file storage. But Red Hat does not consider the file storage to be enterprise-ready.

Red Hat Ceph Storage 1.3, available today, optimizes the software for flash storage thanks to work by Intel and SanDisk. Ceph 1.3, based on the Hammer release of open source Ceph, also improves scalability and performance through such enhancements as rebalancing logic, time-scheduled scrubbing to prevent automatic administrative checks during peak hours, and sharing of Amazon S3 bucket metadata across the cluster.

"This is a collection of improvements and optimizations particularly for large-scale deployers," said Ross Turk, director of product marketing for Red Hat storage. "Ceph is a complicated system. It does a lot of stuff on the back end where it rebalances and moves data around. And when you get to a very large scale, the finer points of how that is tuned and how a system behaves start to become really, really important."

Red Hat Gluster Storage 3.1, due to become available in the summer, adds erasure coding to help large-scale customers in particular to save on capacity, automatic tiering to enable users to move data between hot and cold tiers of storage, and bit-rot detection to prevent data corruption from silent failures. The new Gluster version also adds security through support for SELinux and SSL-based network encryption and NFSv4 and SMB 3 capabilities.

Ashish Nadkarni, a storage research director at International Data Corp., said the Gluster enhancements help to bring it to a level of feature parity with products such as EMC's Isilon and even Ceph, which already supported erasure coding.

Zdenek Sedlak, an infrastructure architect at Ikano Bank, said he finds the tiering and security enhancements appealing. Ikano operates in northern Europe and is part of Ikano Group, which was originally part of IKEA. Ikano uses Red Hat Gluster Storage for file services and is considering Ceph for databases in test and development. But Sedlak said he would want a single management console to present to developers.

"I'm a Linux expert, but they [developers] are not, and they have to think about, 'If I want to create storage for file services, I need to go there. If I want to create storage for databases, I need to go over on the other side,'" Sedlak said. "This is not good for the user experience. That's why I'm looking forward to a unified management console to give them a better experience."

Red Hat's Turk said the unified storage management will use the business logic from the current Ceph and Gluster dashboards. Rangachari added that the software will be linked to Red Hat's Cloud Forms. The management software is in the early stages and has no scheduled release date, according to Rangachari.

"We're putting a lot of thought towards making it easier," Rangachari said. "We understand that the build-your-own storage audience is distinct form the appliance storage audience, but they still want more of that appliance experience."

Also today, Red Hat said it has expanded its partner ecosystem through deals with server and storage hardware supplier Supermicro Computer and Vantrix, which helps video service providers optimize media processing operations. Supermicro has sold Red Hat Gluster since 2013 and is adding Red Hat Ceph into the fold with 1U, 2U, 4U and full 42U rack form factors. The Vantrix alliance incorporates Red Hat Gluster into the Vantrix Media Platform to provide high-performance storage in enterprises that deploy rich media and archival storage workloads.

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Do you think Red Hat should combine its Ceph and Gluster storage products?
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Yes, certainly. Or at least make them a lot more seamless. Red Hat just isn't big enough to have two different lines of storage products, and as the article mentions, it's confusing for users. 
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