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Gluster adds data storage management, virtual server support to open-source clustered NAS

Gluster Storage Platform adds support for virtual servers and other enterprise features to its "do-it-yourself" clustered NAS software based on open-source code.

Gluster is joining a recent wave of emerging vendors adding enterprise storage management features to clustered network-attached storage (NAS) systems based on commodity hardware with this week's release of the Gluster Storage Platform.

Gluster came out of stealth in 2007 with GlusterFS, a scale-out file system for clustered NAS based on open-source code but reengineered "from the ground up," according to senior director of marketing Jack O'Brien. Version 2 of GlusterFS came out last May with striping, data replication and management tools.

The Gluster Storage Platform, which became available this week, continues to build on those management features with a new software delivery model, an updated Web-based management GUI, and new support for virtual servers, including the ability to self-heal data errors in virtual server environments.

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With the Gluster Storage Management Platform, users can now get GlusterFS, the Linux operating system kernel layer and management tools in one package loaded on a thumb drive. Gluster calls this "clustered storage on a stick." This package also includes a two-step installation process with the goal of making the open-source software accessible to customers who aren't used to working with code. "We call this release rated 'E' for everyone," O'Brien said.

Similarly, the Gluster Storage Platform uses a Web-based GUI that's added support for more of Gluster's management features, such as event logging, which used to require a command line interface.

Finally, though not officially certified with any major server virtualization vendor yet, Gluster is offering support for running virtual machines (VMs) on its clustered NAS. Customers who choose this option can use the cluster's internal replication to provide high availability (HA) failover for VMs running on the cluster, which is set up using a checkbox at the time of installation. From there, the file system automatically handles the replication using the underlying object-based storage system.

Gluster claims that in case of a failure, Gluster Storage Platform will also automatically resync from the replicated copy of the virtual machine without interruption to the application. The clustered NAS system uses a checksum-based error-correction system to identify and correct errors in virtual machines by comparing the production VM against the replicated copy.

The Gluster Storage Platform costs $1,500 per storage node.

Vendors bringing high-performance file systems into the mainstream

The Gluster Storage Management Platform is one of several product updates hitting the market this quarter from vendors looking to bring high-performance file systems previously used mainly by high-performance computing (HPC) shops into the mainstream enterprise with new management features. Nexenta Systems Inc., which bases its NexentaStor clustered NAS product on Sun Microsystems Inc.' open-source ZFS file system, also announced a product update last week that includes a new management software application called Pomona and certification with VMware and Citrix virtual servers.

Scale Computing updated its version of IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) for midmarket enterprises this week, adding support for snapshots and asynchronous replication, as well as a new 4 TB node appliance.

Meanwhile, proprietary clustered NAS vendors such as Isilon Systems Inc. have been touting its products' use cases in virtual server environments and targeting enterprise environments with the rollout of new enterprise storage management and tape backup features earlier this year.

Tom Trainer, founder and analyst at Analytico Inc., said the trend of these "do-it-yourself' systems based on commodity hardware is rising in parallel to a trend of major IT vendors prepackaging proprietary products in vertically integrated stacks. "It's a natural development," he said. "There's always a progression of alternative technologies and ways of doing things" in response to what the mainstream is doing.

"In the early days of SAN, there were lots of companies like international law firms who built their own SANs with Fibre Channel switches and 'Brand X' storage," Trainer said. "It depends on whether a company is more willing to spend capital or 'human time.'"

Large vendor alliances -- such EMC Corp., VMware Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.'s Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition -- are looking to appeal to organizations who want to cut down on operational expenditures by having a vendor pre-configure and set up their IT infrastructure. Open-source commodity-hardware clustered NAS systems target those companies with the technical expertise in-house to build a system but that want to cut capital expenditures, Trainer said.

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