Enterprise Class Open SDS – SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.5 Briefing Note

Software Defined Storage (SDS) promises to free organizations from storage hardware lock-in, and to some degree that is true. The problem is SDS then locks the customer into the storage software. Moving from one SDS solution to another is a painful ordeal. In all fairness though, some level of lock-in is a fact of life in the data center but what if the organization could gain the hardware flexibility of SDS while also having some flexibility in software?

Flexibility in both hardware and software selection is one of the critical advantages of Open Source SDS. Historically though, Open SDS solutions like Ceph have one major challenge, complexity in implementation and operation, almost eliminating it from consideration in the enterprise. SUSE is on a mission to make Ceph appeal to both the Linux power administrators and enterprise IT.

The Ceph Architecture

IT installs the Ceph software on Intel-based storage servers. Ceph clusters those servers together and creates a global storage pool, utilizing RADOS, its common object storage. IT subdivides the global storage pool into block, object storage, and file volumes. When correctly configured the infrastructure performs well, is highly scalable and resilient. It should reduce IT costs by using off-the-shelf server and storage media. Ceph is infinitely scalable. When more capacity is needed, IT adds another storage node and joins it to the cluster. Ceph then adds that storage node’s capacity to the global pool and dynamically rebalance data distribution.

Ceph is an open source solution. Developers from multiple organizations contribute to the code base. They can’t charge for these contributions. The way vendors monetize Ceph is by providing technical expertise and support. One way to differentiate between the various support providers is their contribution to the common code base. Eight out of the top twenty Ceph contributors are from SUSE. As a result, SUSE has more than doubled its Ceph customer base in its last fiscal year.

SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.5

In its latest release, SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.5, a distribution of Ceph, builds on and hardens many features first introduced in 5.0. The primary focus is to continue to make Ceph more appealing to enterprises. Along with ongoing performance and stability improvements, the 5.5 release enhances security enabling granular, role-based access to the storage cluster.

Ease of management is also an important focus for 5.5. Integration with OpenATTIC and DeepSea Management Infrastructure continues to improve. OpenATTIC is a GUI based management tool. It offers an easy to use a web interface for viewing and administering a Ceph cluster. IT can, from within the GUI, access status information, performance data and configuration settings. Ceph though is open – it many tools can configure it. OpenATTIC is stateless, instantly reflecting changes regardless of what other tools make them. The DeepSea Management Infrastructure is built on top of the Salt configuration management system and is a tool for deploying and managing Ceph storage clusters at scale.

Also, in the 5.5 release, Ceph now supports SMB/-/Samba exports from CephFS. The feature was previously only available in “tech preview” mode, now it is fully available. The CephFS cluster with the combination of Object Storage, NFS, and SMB/ can fulfill almost all of an organization’s unstructured data needs both from a protocol perspective and a capacity scale perspective.

StorageSwiss Take

SUSE is making significant strides in making CEPH enterprise ready. Most enterprises should be able to implement and operate the solution with the same staffing and time resources as any other enterprise-class solution, especially when one factors in SUSE’s ability to support the environment. IT professionals looking for Open SDS should consider SUSE more than an up and coming Ceph option, but now as the enterprise choice.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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