Chatting up John Dickinson from SwiftStack

We caught up with John during the DevNation Hackathon at Red Hat Summit 2014. He was proud of his new status as a member of Gluster’s board and we wanted to hear all about it — and about everything else he’s been up to.

Who are you?

I’m John Dickinson, Director of Technology for SwiftStack, an object storage software company, and I’m the Project Technical Lead for the OpenStack Object Storage project, code-named Swift. I also recently appointed to join the Gluster community board.

John Dickinson, aka @notmyname on Twitter
John Dickinson, aka @notmyname on Twitter

 

What do you do?

My daily responsibilities involve communications management, contributor management, a lot of code review, code writing, evangelism for the OpenStack Swift project. Inside SwiftStack, it means ensuring we add the most value on top of the Swift object store. It’s a community role and a technical role.

Tell us about Swift

OpenStack Swift is an object storage system built for scale, optimized for durability, high availability, and massive concurrency across the entire data set — it lets you create an Amazon S3-like public cloud in your own data center. It’s ideal for storing content that needs to be made accessible on the web. For example, images, videos, potentially backups, and user-generated content.

OpenStack Swift powers some of the world’s largest storage clouds through Red Hat, Hewlett-Packard, Rackspace, IBM, service providers, and other private cloud storage deployments. Many companies are choosing OpenStack Swift as the technology behind their storage solution. One of my favorite Swift deployers is Wikipedia — if you see an image on Wikipedia, it’s coming from their own Swift cluster.

How is SwiftStack different than OpenStack Swift?

Swift is a flexible and powerful storage engine that allows operators to take advantage of scalable storage on commodity hardware. Deployers need a way to simply configure, monitor, and manage their Swift cluster and integrate it into their existing IT infrastructure. That’s where SwiftStack comes in. SwiftStack is a decoupled management control plane for OpenStack Swift. It integrates Swift into your existing infrastructure, tells you what’s going on, and helps you handle the day-to-day cluster management.

Why is OpenStack and Swift important?

Customers need to have ownership and control over their data. Ownership doesn’t just mean you can only see the code; ownership means you can influence it. And with the OpenStack governance model, you not only see the code but influence its direction and get involved with the community as a whole. That gives you lots of control and ownership of what is actually touching your data.

Also, data consumption models have radically changed in recent history. The storage solutions that used to work no longer do! And the reason is because mobile deployment has exploded. Everybody assumes all their data is available on all their devices all the time. But our devices aren’t necessarily getting more storage; they’re relying on some centralized storage system. So when you need to solve storing data at massive scale and supporting modern workloads, you need Swift.

How does the Gluster community play into this?

We know that software is eating the world, and that we have the ability now with software storage to do something radically new. We have the ability to go bigger and be more available at a lower price than we’ve ever been able to.

But one of the challenges is migrating from legacy storage systems. The reason I’m interested in the Gluster community is the joint interest we have in migration from legacy storage. Gluster-Swift is a great indicator of how this could work. The Gluster and Swift communities are both interested in this and it would appear we could collaborate is some ways even beyond the Gluster-Swift project to accomplish a smooth migration and management within Red Hat.

My vision for Swift is that everyone, everywhere, every day will use it whether they know it or not. I think we’re on our way to that goal. We see adoption from consumer facing web sites to major cloud service providers to finance software as a service, gaming, mobile media, and video content delivery. And with tools like Gluster-Swift, we can accelerate this goal.

What’s the Red Hat connection in all this?

Red Hat’s upstream collaboration demonstrates Swift’s ability to be extended and to support different use cases. This is a model that other companies can follow. Red Hat has embraced the upstream community by taking advantage of the existing areas of extensibility within the Gluster and Swift projects, and, where those were lacking, contributes back improvements.

Red Hat is the leading Linux distribution for enterprise deployers. SwiftStack’s community partnership with Red Hat contributes directly to our mutual goal of giving customers access to high quality and well-supported open storage systems.

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