March 9, 2015

SUSE Explains Why the Future of Enterprise Storage is Open Source

Jason PhippenThe storage market is growing rapidly, creating a new market for open source solutions, software-defined storage, and cloud computing. So SUSE's announcement last month of its new enterprise storage solution based on the open source Ceph project is perfectly timed.

Ahead of the Linux Foundation's new Vault storage conference, taking place in Boston this week, SUSE's head of global product marketing Jason Phippen answered questions about SUSE Enterprise Storage, why they use Ceph, and industry trends in open source, software-defined storage.

If you're attending Vault this week, be sure to look for the four SUSE engineers presenting there, including Lars Marowsky-Brée, a SUSE Distinguished Engineer and architect for SUSE Enterprise Storage. See the full conference schedule.

Linux.com: What is SUSE Enterprise Storage?

Jason Phippen: SUSE Enterprise Storage, powered by Ceph, is a highly scalable and resilient software-based storage solution. It enables organizations to build cost-efficient and highly scalable storage using commodity off-the-shelf servers and disk drives. It is self-healing and self-managing and delivers storage functionality comparable to mid- and high-end storage products at a fraction of the cost. It also scales from terabyte to a multi-petabyte storage network.

This unlimited scalability enables enterprise IT organizations to deliver the agility businesses demand by non-disruptively adding capacity at the cost they want to pay while enabling storage administrators to minimize the amount of time spent managing storage.

Why did you go with Ceph for your storage solution?

SUSE chose Ceph as it is the most popular OpenStack distributed storage solution. It is extensively scalable from storage appliance to cost-effective cloud solution. As of the Firefly release, Ceph provides industry-leading storage functionality such as unified block and object, thin provisioning, erasure coding, and cache tiering. It is self-healing and self-managing.

Does Ceph's Red Hat backing (post Inktank acquisition) make a difference in the decision to use Ceph or the timing of the SUSE storage release?

SUSE has been tracking the Ceph technology for over 5 years. We announced our intention to produce a SUSE supported storage product based on Ceph at our SUSECon 2013 conference.

Why is software-defined storage an advantage over traditional storage solutions? 

In a typical enterprise data center today, IT organizations are rapidly breaking free from server vendor lock-in with hypervisors, which can virtualize any workload on any server using an x86-64 processor. However, most networking and storage environments remain silos of restrictive and expensive vendor-specific hardware and software.

With software-defined data centers, IT organizations are beginning to transform their networking and storage infrastructure from expensive, proprietary, vendor-specific hardware into open-source based software and low-cost, commodity hardware, key factors driving the migration.

Traditional enterprise-class storage can be described simply as block, object and file storage systems including software embedded on expensive, proprietary system controllers, along with server-based storage management software. Transform both types of software into open source software running on industry-standard servers and commodity storage, and you have software-defined storage. This will lie at the heart of a software defined data center, providing a flexible, cost-effective, high-performance, highly available and massively scalable storage environment.

How does the SUSE Enterprise Storage offering fit into the array of new features that enterprise SUSE is offering? For example, with your new live kernel patching feature?

Enterprise data storage customers demand continuous availability from their storage platforms. SUSE Enterprise Storage runs on top of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. As a result, the customer inherits all the reliability, availability and supportability that has been built into SUSE Linux Enterprise Server over the past two decades

Software upgrades to SUSE Enterprise Storage are done online. Additional capacity, performance or both can be added to the SUSE Enterprise Storage cluster while online. Data can be migrated from older hardware in the SUSE Enterprise Storage cluster to new hardware in the cluster while remaining online. The system is designed to scale to exabytes of data. SUSE Enterprise Storage is designed to provide continuous data access to our customers once deployed in their environment.

How is SUSE Enterprise Storage adjusting to accommodate enterprise computing trends such as containerization, microservices architectures, and distributed computing? Is SUSE Storage part of this new strategy?

SUSE Enterprise Storage provides the perfect foundation to address the data needs by all of these trends. Any service, container, or distributed computing architecture begins with the need to store and access data. SES’s scalability allows the storage subsystem to grow according to the needs of the services, both in terms of capacity and performance. It can be optimized to meet the requirements of any environment. Its dependability and self-healing ensure continuous access and thus availability of the services. And by providing multiple different interfaces to the data from the same converged cluster, it can accommodate flexible deployments – be it object/S3 interfaces for Cloud applications or block for raw storage.

What's the future of enterprise storage, according to SUSE?

Enterprise data storage will transition into two tiers or classes of storage. Latency sensitive data will increasingly be deployed on solid state; both memory and disk. Less latency sensitive data will transition to scale out storage.

SUSE Enterprise Storage powered by Ceph allows these two different tiers to be consolidated into a single, seamless cluster through the use of cache tiering, with the software automatically placing the data based on the access pattern. It is built upon the most popular open source software-defined storage solution. Deploying SUSE Enterprise Storage on top of industry standard servers creates a value proposition that will produce an impact on current enterprise storage with the same impact as Linux did to the Unix market.

What is the state of industry collaboration in software-defined storage at the moment? Where is it succeeding and what are the challenges?

SUSE can’t speak to the broad software-defined storage industry as it is very diverse and consists of many proprietary solutions. What SUSE can speak about is the open source community. This community is very healthy, active and collaborative. Literally thousands of software engineers regularly contribute to functionality developed by this community. Linux and OpenStack are just two examples of what this community can deliver.

SUSE Enterprise Storage powered by Ceph is built on the most broadly deployed software-based storage solution utilized within the OpenStack framework. The open-source community has already selected the best software-based storage solution for their needs. It will only be a matter of time until the rest of the enterprise data storage industry follow.

How is SUSE contributing to Ceph – what features are you working on now?

As we mentioned earlier, there are literally hundreds of software engineers contributing to the Ceph technology. The architecture is almost 10 years old. The functionality provided by the product rivals any software-based storage product available in the industry.

SUSE is building our technology on top of Ceph and deploying our engineering resources to build and deliver storage solutions. Initial use cases will target archive, object and bulk (block) solutions. In addition to developing solutions to address these use cases, SUSE is working to automate and simplify the initial installation and ongoing administration of the system.

Combined with SUSE's world class enterprise support, our focus is on providing the enterprise storage customer with a best in class customer experience.

Is SUSE storage at the Linux Foundation's new Vault conference this week? Any talks you'd like to highlight, or demonstrations?

The Linux Foundation’s new technical conference will gather the best and brightest engineers and consumers working on all parts of the Linux storage stack. SUSE is proud to be a member of this community and a Gold sponsor of the Vault conference. SUSE engineers participate as speakers and attendees to collaborate with their peers from all over the world, present our work, and engage in dialogue on shaping the future development in the interest of our customers. SUSE participated in the technical program committee, and is honored to have four engineers selected to present. It is also a unique chance for SUSE, as a successful and growing business, to reach out to those community members who wish to work more in this exciting area.

Lars Marowsky-Brée, a SUSE Distinguished Engineer and architect for SUSE Enterprise Storage, will present his research into the challenges of measuring, evaluating, and predicting the performance of distributed storage systems based on Ceph. Due to the flexibility of the technology, such understanding is key to be able to design, implement, and optimize SDS solutions that meet the requirements of their users. But we recommend checking out SUSE’s other presentations in the great line-up at Vault, too!

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