The case for object storage is compelling. Object stores can scale to store hundreds of petabytes of information very cost-effectively. They also support a variety of unstructured data use cases including replacing NAS for storing home directories, long-term storage of backed up data, serving as an archive of unstructured data and even being the primary storage for high file count workloads like IoT. The problem is that many organizations continue to use network attached storage (NAS) for these use cases because object storage is seen as hard to adopt.
The first adoption challenge for object storage was its uniqueness. It was just different from a traditional NAS file system. It is after all an object store, and it eschews the need for hierarchical directory structures. Instead, it gives every object a unique identifier and applications retrieve objects (files) via that identifier. Some object storage vendors overcame the “different” problem years ago by providing traditional protocol access, like SMB and NFS, with their systems.
One adoption challenge remains however, implementation. To keep prices down, most object storage vendors would rather sell the organization just the software and let the customer load the software on servers of their choosing. The problem is an object storage system needs to create a storage cluster to scale and maintain consistent performance. A storage cluster requires precise networking and ensuring that nodes can communicate together effectively.
In many cases, the software-only, any-hardware model starts to show signs of complexity during implementation. As a result, some object storage vendors resorted to turnkey appliances forcing the customer to purchase the software and hardware from the vendor. The problem with the appliance approach is it increases prices and the potential for vendor lock-in.
Scality RING 7.4 The Ease of Use Release
Scality, in its recent RING 7.4 release, took a different approach. It focused hard on making the software installation process significantly easier than in the past. Scality realizes that the software approach has advantages in scale, flexibility and cost savings but comes up short in comparison to the appliance-like approach used by others. The RING 7.4 release focuses on end-to-end simplification of deployment (less than one-hour deployment in most cases), unified operation monitoring and management, integrated service provisioning and integrated secure data access.
The design of the simplified Scality installer delivers one-hour installs. It supports 45+ references architectures, including HPE, Cisco, Dell, and Supermicro. The single installer installs all RING components including S3, SOFS, RING and the Supervisor. The new installer leverages SaltStack to automatically deploy and orchestrate the process. It performs full pre-install and post-install checks including dependencies, network configurations, and server inventories. During installation, the administrator can select the role (S3, SOFS, RING or combined) of each server.
The revamped management supervisor portal provides simplified and unified management of S3 and file services. It also provides comprehensive monitoring of the software and the server platform on which it runs. Scality has developed a deep integration with HPE Apollo and Cisco UCS Servers. The management console also features an integrated data browser.
The next step for RING is to provide unified installation for multi-site deployments and even deeper integration of server platform APIs into the Supervisor. It will also continue to improve workflows to add support for cloud and other advanced provisioning requirements as well as automated software updates.
Object storage vendors have tried a variety of techniques to accelerate their adoption, including supporting legacy protocols, building in or collaborating with archive and backup software vendors. A missing piece that has slowed adoption has been making the software-only installation easier. Scality, in Ring 7.4, is taking a significant step forward in this process. It is a technique that not only other object storage vendors need to pay attention to but all software-defined storage vendors that count on sophisticated clustering to deliver their value.