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OpenStack Mitaka brings new wave of storage features

OpenStack Swift, Cinder and Manila storage software get feature updates in latest Mitaka release, as open source project teams plot future capabilities.

OpenStack's 13th software release, known as Mitaka, just became available, but storage project leaders are already...

plotting the release of future features such as ProxyFS file system access and data-at-rest encryption.

Major OpenStack open source releases emerge twice a year, in the spring and fall. OpenStack core services include Swift object storage and Cinder block storage, with the Manila file-share service as an optional add-on. The OpenStack Mitaka release came out this month, and Newton is due in October. The new features were a hot topic at last week's OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas.

ProxyFS and encryption are important features in the works for OpenStack Swift. ProxyFS can eliminate the need for gateways, but it's only an "ecosystem project" at this point, according to John Dickinson, director of technology at SwiftStack and project team lead (PTL) for OpenStack Swift. That means it's not yet part of Newton and is not guaranteed to make it into the OpenStack code base, although Dickinson said he expects significant interest in ProxyFS.

"We're not making any commitments as far as its [ProxyFS'] inclusion with the upstream OpenStack Swift code base. That's something the community will have to decide over time as it grows and matures," Dickinson said. "But it is something we expect a lot of people to be interested in."

Dickinson likened the work on ProxyFS to an ecosystem project for Amazon Simple Storage Service API support, which he said was managed under the OpenStack namespace. He said even if ProxyFS is not in the OpenStack Swift code base, the open source software will be available to anyone who wants to use it.

"The point of ProxyFS is to allow completely bimodal access so that you can read and write via a file system and can read and write via the Swift API, even at the same time," Dickinson said.

SwiftStack, which calls ProxyFS Swift File Access, brought the functionality to the OpenStack Swift community.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Intel have led the work on data-at-rest encryption, which is expected to make it into Newton. Dickinson said software-based encryption would be simpler operationally than self-encrypting drives "because we're actually able to generate new keys for each individual object, much less each individual user." He said users would need different keys for individual self-encrypting hard drives.

In April's OpenStack Mitaka release of Swift, prime areas of focus were performance improvements of update and read operations. Other Mitaka work included improvements to cluster configuration options and cluster-to-cluster synchronization.

New Cinder block storage features

The OpenStack Mitaka release of Cinder for the first time offers a public cloud option for back-end block storage. A new driver enables enterprises to back up their local, private cloud data to Google Cloud Storage, according to Sean McGinnis, Manila PTL and a senior principal software engineer at Dell.

New drivers for on-premise storage available with OpenStack Mitaka include Coho, Fujitsu Eternus, ITRI DISCO, Nexenta Edge and NexentaStor, and Tegile. More than 70 drivers for back-end storage are now available for use with the Cinder storage management interface.

"The benefit for enterprises is, if they're looking to deploy an OpenStack cloud, they have a lot of flexibility," McGinnis said. "Hopefully, with all these drivers, they can just point Cinder at whatever they already have in their data centers and use the existing hardware without having to make another capital investment just to do something like a proof of concept for OpenStack."

Replication is available with the OpenStack Mitaka release of Cinder, but McGinnis said it's a "primitive base level" enabling the automatic replication of data between storage arrays of the same type in different data centers.

"We don't have integration with [OpenStack] Nova [compute], so it's not like it fails over the virtual machines as well. It's kind of limited use right now. It is purely for disaster recovery," McGinnis said. "There's a lot of manual work that an admin needs to do to get everything back, set up and running."

He said the upcoming Newton release of Cinder would expand replication use cases. Other Newton-targeted features include rolling upgrades and active-active high availability.

Users previously had to shut down the Cinder service, upgrade all components (Cinder API, Cinder Scheduler and Cinder Volume) and then start back up again to do an upgrade. Now they can upgrade individual pieces and maintain the ability to talk between old and new pieces with the planned rolling upgrade capabilities, according to McGinnis.

He said active-active high availability will allow multiple Cinder volume nodes to manage the same back-end storage. It will also bring additional redundancy to OpenStack services to maintain uptime during outages to reboot a machine or perform maintenance tasks.

Manila file-based storage updates

Manila, the newest of the three OpenStack storage products, is starting to move beyond the "kicking the tires" phase into production use with a handful of major deployments, according to Ben Swartzlander, the OpenStack Manila PTL and a senior software engineer at NetApp.

New Manila drivers added with the OpenStack Mitaka release include ZFS on Linux, LVM, CephFS native and Tegile IntelliFlash. Swartzlander said the major new feature is share replication, allowing tenants to configure and manage replication relationships between OpenStack availability zones to ensure data availability even if an availability zone fails.

The upcoming Newton release of Manila will be a "stabilization release, where we take features that are currently experimental and make them fully supported," Swartzlander wrote via email. Share migration, for instance, currently doesn't work in all use case. Share migration APIs, allowing administrators to move shares across storage systems, also have some "rough edges," he wrote.

Next Steps

An in-depth view into OpenStack's Cinder and Swift storage components

A guide to working with the OpenStack storage platform

Swift, Cinder and the OpenStack plan: How they fit together

Swift and Cinder storage

Dig Deeper on Enterprise storage, planning and management

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Which of the storage features in the OpenStack Mitaka release will be most important for enterprise users?
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Surprised that they don't offer encryption as a feature yet. Hope they get that settled pretty quick. And what *kind* of encryption?
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