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Red Hat Storage Server 2.1 improves geo-replication performance

Software-only Red Hat Storage Server improves geo-replication performance and updates OpenStack support, but doesn't add erasure codes or SMB 3.0.

Red Hat Inc. today rolled out the latest version of its storage server software, adding improved geo-replication, greater OpenStack support and management enhancements.

Along with the general availability of Red Hat Storage Server 2.1, Red Hat said it will offer free product "test drives" for use on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Red Hat Storage Server is based on the open source GlusterFS scale-out file system, which runs over the local Linux file system and can pool storage across clusters of servers. Red Hat acquired Gluster Inc. in 2011. Red Hat Storage Server is a software-only storage product. Customers supply their own commodity hardware.

In addition to GlusterFS, Red Hat Storage Server includes the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system, the single-node XFS file system for each Linux box and a console management station based on the oVirt open source virtualization platform. Red Hat Storage supports file, object and virtual block, but not iSCSI block-based storage.

Version 2.1 provides an operating system update from RHEL 6.2 to RHEL 6.4, as well as the latest versions of the GlusterFS community release and oVirt, according to Sayan Saha, senior manager of product management for Red Hat.

Red Hat Storage Server 2.1 is the first release to officially support Red Hat's distribution of the open source OpenStack cloud software platform. The product updates support for OpenStack Swift object storage from Essex to the latest Grizzly release, and enables Red Hat Storage to serve as a back end for OpenStack Cinder block storage and the OpenStack Glance image service.

"The OpenStack [work] is significant," said Ashish Nadkarni, a research director for storage systems at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. "Red Hat is not just doing this whole OpenStack thing as a convenience. They're fully vested in trying to get as close to OpenStack as they can."

Red Hat Storage Server 2.1's integration enhancements extend to management. The product links to Red Hat Satellite software, which helps users install, provision and maintain Red Hat Storage servers and deploy patches, and the storage console now connects with the Red Hat Customer Portal for access to product support-ticket information, technology briefs, videos and additional educational materials.

"Red Hat wants to align all of their products in the same deployment and management scheme," Nadkarni said. "With this update, they have created the ability to provision Red Hat Storage very similar to how you provision Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It's a significant feature for large-scale deployments."

The most important change in the 2.1 storage server software is the improved performance of geographical replication, or geo-replication, according to Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"You can't really be a cloud platform or a cloud enabler if you do replication poorly," he said. "Replication is clearly going to be a key attribute for any of the cloud platforms."

Baltazar predicted Red Hat Storage Server 2.1 will appeal primarily to the company's existing customers, and pointed out that Red Hat has the advantage of its known brand and operating system distribution featuring broad application support.

"In a nutshell, [Red Hat Storage Server 2.1] is a good incremental update," he said. "It's not a major transformation of the platform, but it definitely shows the direction they're taking. And, just like every other player in the market in this particular segment, there's work to do."

Baltazar said the two most critical missing features are erasure coding for data protection with archival storage and support for Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0, formerly known as Common Internet File System (CIFS). Red Hat Storage Server 2.1 moves from SMB 1.0 to SMB 2.0 protocol compatibility.

Red Hat is working on SMB 3.0 support but does not have a projected timetable, according to the firm's Saha.

"To be fair, there are a lot of commercial [network-attached storage] NAS products out there that also lack SMB 3.0," IDC's Nadkarni said. On the plus side, he added, Red Hat now offers direct integration using an API, allowing users to bypass the Filesystem in Userspace client.

The API is new to Red Hat Storage Server 2.1, Saha said, and should improve performance for both small and large files when Red Hat Storage is accessed from Windows-based clients for purposes of file serving and sharing.

The primary customer problem Red Hat Storage Server aims to address is the explosion of unstructured data such as documents, images, audio and video files, email, virtual machine images and log files. Red Hat has acknowledged that the software is not intended for use with high-transaction databases.

"This will probably change in the future, but not in 2.1," Saha said.

Pricing for the 2.1 product starts at $5,000 per storage node per year. That's the same price as the 2.0 version, according to Ranga Rangachari, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's storage business unit.

Test drives on the cloud

Beginning Sept. 16, Red Hat will give customers a chance to try out Red Hat Storage Server on the AWS cloud for five hours. Red Hat Storage Server for Public Cloud is available through a pre-integrated and pre-verified Amazon Machine Image and is accessible using Network File System, SMB and GlusterFS native protocols, according to the company.

"There is no application rewrite; nothing that needs to be done," Rangachari said. "It truly is a test drive that helps [potential customers] get their feet wet on Red Hat Storage's capabilities. We are completely agnostic to whether they want to run it on a public cloud, bring it back on-premises or run it in a hybrid environment. A lot of our customers are going down the journey of an open hybrid cloud, and this is a pathway to help them get there."

Pre-configured use cases for the test drives include high availability and business continuity, secure enterprise file sharing and collaboration, large file and object storage, and media content delivery and storage.

The test drives will go online at the right time for ETrade Financial Corp., a heavy user of open source software, including Red Hat products and OpenStack compute technology. Duc Doan, director of system engineering at ETrade, said via email that the company just started looking at Red Hat Storage Server and is in the process of comparing it to other virtual storage options.

"We definitely want to test drive it," Doan said.

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