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Red Hat Storage Server 3 update brings capacity, analytics features

Red Hat's new Storage Server 3 software update adds support for snapshots and hot-button capabilities such as petabyte-scale capacity, SSDs and Hadoop.

The third major release of Red Hat Storage Server software became generally available Thursday with new capabilities including multi-petabyte scale-out capacity, flash drives, snapshots, convergence and Hadoop-based data analytics.

Red Hat's Storage Server 3 runs on commodity server hardware and is based on the open source GlusterFS 3.6 file system and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 operating system. Red Hat does not sell hardware appliances but claims to have increased the scale and usable capacity of its commercially supported Storage Server software by 200% to handle up to 19 PB of data per cluster. Storage Server 3 supports up to 128 servers per cluster and 60 drives per server, compared to Storage Server 2's limits of 64 servers and 36 drives, according to the company.

Red Hat senior product manager Irshad Raihan noted that the company now factors the availability of 6 TB hard disk drives (HDDs) into its capacity calculations. The maximum capacity of HDDs was 4 TB at the time of the Storage Server 2 release, according to a company spokesperson.

With the latest release, Red Hat also claims to have made software enhancements to enable Storage Server to take advantage of solid-state drives. Customers also have more hardware options to run Storage Server thanks to an expanded compatibility list and a new option to run it on Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers.

"Previously, Red Hat Storage Server had to be deployed on a standalone storage appliance. Now you can take a portion of your server real estate and drop Storage Server on it," said Simon Robinson, research vice president for storage at 451 Research. "It opens the door to Red Hat making a convergence or a hyper-convergence play because you can now run the compute and the storage on a single node or a single cluster."

Robinson said Red Hat also filled a big gap by adding enterprise snapshot support. Red Hat Storage Server 3 includes thin-provisioned volume snapshot capabilities for point-in-time copies of data across the storage cluster and lets users create up to 256 snapshots per volume.

"This platform has always positioned itself as an alternative to NetApp and [EMC] Isilon. It's an enterprise file NAS platform. So, not having quality snapshot capabilities was definitely a gap," he said. "The fact that they addressed it is really important."

Storage Server 3 has a new plug-in for the Hadoop Distributed File System to enable users to run Apache Hadoop-based analytics workloads. The product tightly integrates with Apache Ambari for managing and monitoring Hadoop and the underlying storage, according to Red Hat.

Red Hat also enhanced the management and operational control of Storage Server clusters through tight integration with open source Nagios monitoring software and support for the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) standard for managing networked devices.

Raihan said the upgrade addresses issues important to Red Hat's open source community.

"We're not doing this in a bubble. It's about community-driven innovation," he said. "There are actually practitioners to these real-life workloads, and we can incorporate that faster and compress that innovation cycle."

Road to significant software adoption could be long

Even though the 3.0 product hits hot-button storage features, Red Hat Storage Server might need years to achieve significant adoption levels among enterprise IT organizations that tend to be cautious about trying new approaches to data storage, according to analysts.

"My sense is that it's still a fairly, if not very, small part of Red Hat's business. There hasn't been this kind of mass conversion," 451 Research's Robinson said. "Scale-out NAS is still a fairly small market in aggregate. The overwhelming amount of spending is in block and SAN storage."

"Right now, obviously they're not a market share leader," said Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "The transition to software storage is going to take a while. It'll take several years for software to overcome appliances. But I'm already starting to see signs of software expanding into the space, especially with service providers."

Storage Server is based on technology Red Hat gained from its 2011 acquisition of Gluster, which sold a supported version of GlusterFS. Storage Server is one of two Red Hat storage platforms, along with Red Hat's Inktank Ceph Enterprise based on open source Ceph storage software. Red Hat acquired Inktank Storage in May for $175 million and updated Inktank's main storage product in July. Inktank Ceph Enterprise caters to object- and block-based storage for enterprises deploying public or private clouds, including users of open source OpenStack cloud technology.

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Will Red Hat's upgrades will help drive Storage Server adoption?