Red Hat clears up its software-defined storage options

Red Hat clarifies where Ceph and Gluster fit into your big data storage plans.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

If you were a little confused about Red Hat's open-source, software-defined storage options in the past, no one could blame you. On one side there was Inktank Ceph Enterprise, a distributed object store and file system. On the other was Red Hat Storage Server which deployed the Gluster, a multi-protocol, scale-out file-system that can deal with petabytes of data. So, how do you decide which one is for you? Red Hat's trying to make its storage portfolio a little clearer.

First, the company is renaming Inktank Ceph Enterprise to Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Storage Server to Red Hat Gluster Storage. This isn't just a rebranding. In the case of Red Hat Ceph Storage, Red Hat claims that the program has now gone through Red Hat's quality engineering processes and is now a fully-supported Red Hat solution.

Both programs are open-source, scale-out software-defined storage solutions that run on commodity hardware and have durable, programmable architectures. Each is optimized for different enterprise workloads. Red Hat Gluster Storage is well suited for enterprise virtualization, analytics and enterprise sync and share workloads. Red Hat Ceph Storage is better suited for cloud infrastructure workloads, such as OpenStack and Amazon Web Services. You can use either for archival and rich media workloads.

Both are also still works-in-progress. While Gluster is more mature, its developers are getting ready to release Gluster 3.7 with better small-file performance, SELinux integration, and a much needed common framework for managing Gluster's many daemons.

As for Ceph, while its block and object store system works well, its POSIX file-system interface, CephFS, needs a lot more polishing before it's really deployment-ready. Mind you, as John Spray, a Red Hat senior software engineer recently said at Vault, the Linux Foundation storage summit, "Some people are already using it in production; we're terrified of this. It's really not ready yet." Still, Spray continued, this "is a mixed blessing because while it's a bit scary, we get really useful feedback and testing from those users."

In particular, as the development site states, "CephFS currently lacks a robust 'fsck' check and repair function. Please use caution when storing important data as the disaster recovery tools are still under development."

So, will Red Hat eventually merge the two? That doesn't seem to be in the works.

As Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, told Carol Sliwa of SearchStorage last fall, Red Hat's "going to have two platforms in the foreseeable future. Those aren't going to merge. Gluster is definitely the file storage type. There are ways they could use it that can complement Ceph. It still remains to be seen where it will wind up 10 years from now."

Growing pains and all, with our data storage demands doubling every two years, software-defined storage programs are going to be a corporate necessity. If you don't want to get buried by big data, Red Hat, with its twin data-storage options should be on your technology evaluation list.

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