Monday, 23 September 2013

Why Open Source Storage?

Let's start at the beginning...

Back in the 'old days', storage arrays would be designed and built with bespoke components - components designed to make the best use of limited resources in cpu and memory. Low level microcode ruled the roost - squeezing every last ounce of performance from the hardware.

Fast forward to now, and open up a shiny new array from your favourite hardware vendor and what do you see?

Probably an intel insideTM logo!

Storage arrays today are built from commodity components - the smarter storage vendors started making the switch to commodity over 10 years ago. At first this was done solely where it made sense, replacing components where the impact was low. But the beauty is that Moore's law continued to deliver across the board; processor, memory, pci bus etc.

Here we are in 2013. Take a look at AMD's 6000 series processors with 16 cores per socket or, if you prefer, Intel's Xeon E7's with 10 cores per socket plus hyperthreading.

That's a lot of grunt.

So here's the deal. The power available from commodity components has meant that in some ways the only real differential between vendors is in fact the capabilities of their software. So you could say that the storage industry has been delivering storage through a software layer for a while!

And while this adoption of commodity has, no doubt, reduced the costs for the hardware vendors, customers have obviously been reaping these benefits too...Yeah right!

Storage continues to be expensive, putting IT and project budgets under increasing pressure.

So what's next?
  • What about de-coupling the software from the hardware?
  • Why not let the customer buy the hardware that works for them? 
  • What if storage was just a service layer on top of standard server hardware?
Match this shift in how storage is provided, with the track record of Linux - and you have the potential to 'change the game'.

But can you adopt this kind of strategy today? YES!

Open source storage solutions have been evolving for years, and vary widely in scale and the market they address. At one end of the spectrum you'll find solutions like;

Whilst at the other end, you'll find distributed, scale-out filesystems;
Ten years ago, adopting open source technology was perceived as a risky strategy - but companies like Red Hat have changed that. In fact, glusterfs, swift and ceph are all backed by commercial organisations offering support, training and consultancy - taking these open source storage solutions into the "main-stream".

So if you're interested in reducing costs or simply regaining control of your storage budget, take a look at open source storage.