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SwiftStack Inc. releases upgrade, previews Swift File Access

SwiftStack 4.0 features integrated load balancing and metadata search; upcoming features include native file access and object synchronization to S3-compatible clouds.

SwiftStack Inc. Tuesday upgraded its OpenStack-based object storage software, integrating load balancing and adding metadata search. The vendor also previewed upcoming capabilities for Swift File Access and object synchronization.

San Francisco-based SwiftStack sells and supports a commercial version of the open source OpenStack Swift object storage platform. The company develops additional enterprise features designed to make the software easier to use and manage. 

SwiftStack 4.0 rolls up enhancements the vendor has already added, or plans to make available over the next 90 days. They include the integrated load balancing and metadata search capabilities, as well as a SwiftStack Drive client to enable users to mount object storage accounts on their desktops and access cluster data, IPv6 support, capacity planning improvements and advanced data migration tools.

SwiftStack is also leading the development of Swift File Access, which is known as ProxyFS in the OpenStack working committee, according to Mario Blandini, SwiftStack's vice president of marketing. SwiftStack expects to integrate Swift File Access in the second half of 2016.

SwiftStack Inc. adds better load balancing, Elasticsearch access to 4.0

A new key feature in SwiftStack 4.0 improves its load-balancer option. SwiftStack's new integrated load balancing can reduce the need for dedicated network hardware to prevent bottlenecks in front of storage clusters, Blandini said.

"Before, you could script and operationalize, and otherwise configure, a solution like load balancing with SwiftStack, but it was not an integrated, 'click one button and it's ready' sort of thing," Blandini said.

"What we've found is more and more of the storage teams that are using our product want to avoid having the expense of a dedicated load balancer, but also having to deal with networking people in their data centers."

SwiftStack 4.0 can also automatically send metadata for each object to the open source Elasticsearch engine, so it can be indexed and searched. Users can then query Elasticsearch to find data, manage it, move it based on policies or build dashboards around it.

Blandini said people have historically found metadata hard to use, "because they were walled-garden types of systems." Users could associate metadata with an object, and other applications could access those objects. But to use the metadata, the applications often had to crawl through all of the object containers. Blandini said the new metadata search capabilities will enable users to better take advantage of the metadata.

"People think of [object storage] as a large-capacity, low-cost tier of storage, but the real power is being able to take advantage of metadata in order to do more with that data, especially outside of applications," he said.

Blandini cited the example of life sciences. He said researchers would now be able to do an Elasticsearch against the metadata to find information such as genome type, patient age ranges and other attributes associated with the data.

"The value of object storage goes well beyond the flexibility it offers for cloud-specific applications. Building a metadata-rich storage environment offers a whole new spectrum of possibility to enable greater hybrid platform flexibility, data intelligence and storage automation capabilities far beyond those of traditional storage architectures," said Steven Hill, a senior storage analyst at 451 Research, via an email.

SwiftStack Inc. plans Swift File Access to eliminate gateways

At this week's OpenStack Summit in Austin Texas, contributors such as SwiftStack and IBM are discussing their work on file access in OpenStack Swift. SwiftStack's Swift File Access, or proxy file system, could write to containers natively via file services and eliminate the need for a gateway, Blandini said. Files would be able to enter the system over SMB and NFS and be accessed through object APIs, or vice versa, according to SwiftStack Inc.

"OpenStack Swift is globally distributed, scale-out object storage software, and it has modules that allow you to connect with the object APIs. We have Swift and [Amazon] S3 [Simple Storage Service] today. And you previously needed a gateway to have file services," Blandini said.

"The benefit of native file access extends primarily to classic applications that use NFS and SMB for data-intensive workloads. So, without the need for a gateway, those applications can take advantage of the multisite, scale-out properties of OpenStack Swift and SwiftStack. This also allows workflows that have a mix of classic and modern applications to collaborate on the same data sets, without having to refactor classic apps to use object APIs."

Amita Potnis, research manager at IDC's storage systems practice, said Swift File Access would give SwiftStack Inc. "a footing into the NAS space."

"That's a really big portion of the external storage systems market," Potnis said. "And once they are able to set foot into the NAS market, then they can more than likely expand in other areas in the object storage market, as well, very quickly."

She said IT organizations use NAS systems from vendors, such as NetApp and EMC, to meet their file requirements. But once the object storage vendors get into the file space, it will be an "easy switch" for end users to move to object storage eventually.

"Another upcoming feature for SwiftStack customers will be object synchronization. SwiftStack would be able to replicate objects to any clouds compatible with the Amazon S3 API for disaster recovery and sharing purposes once that capability is enabled.

"This is not copying the data over or migrating it over. Think of object synchronization as that S3 bucket is an extension of the SwiftStack cluster," Blandini said.

List pricing for SwiftStack starts at $375 per terabyte, per year. Blandini said SwiftStack licenses the object storage software based on the amount of storage the customer is managing, regardless of whether they use erasure codes or replication to protect their data.

Hardware vendors with certified SwiftStack configurations and documentations include Cisco, Seagate and Supermicro. Customers also use standard hardware from Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Lenovo, Quanta and others, according to Blandini.

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