Five lessons you learned as a child that apply to your enterprise storage strategy

By Bianca Owens, Red Hat Storage

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Open, software-defined storage is only possible through the collaboration between hundreds, even thousands, of contributors worldwide who join forces to tackle some of the trickiest challenges around enterprise storage. Innovation isn’t limited to a small group of product managers and engineers but is instead a continuum of ideas from enthusiasts and practitioners, which is then hardened for enterprise consumption and backed by Red Hat’s world-class support.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

IT hardware has feelings, too. When your shiny new servers arrive in the datacenter, somewhere there is a tear shed by your trusty, and perhaps rusty, servers. Thanks to software-defined storage, they can now enjoy a new life as storage servers. Red Hat Storage software has smarts built into it to allow non-disruptive additions to the hardware cluster, allowing storage workloads to be deployed on newly added servers (or servers with newly added components) almost immediately.

Eat your veggies so you grow big and strong

Using a software-defined storage solution will help you scale easily as your storage needs evolve. Just as we all grow in steady, small increments, allowing for our bodies to adjust and balance as we gain height, Red Hat Storage enables administrators to scale with extremely granular control so they can build balanced storage systems that are not awkwardly skewed in favor of compute, network, memory, or capacity.

Don’t be afraid to make new friends

By definition, software-defined storage is independent of the hardware on which it runs. This translates into greater flexibility and choice for customers who can use any industry-standard hardware and components. Red Hat Storage has many friends who make durable, cost-effective hardware and works closely with each of them to create reference architectures and product bundles to give customers a range of solutions along the build vs. buy spectrum. Read our lip: No vendor lock in.

Red Hat is also friends with public cloud providers. For instance, Red Hat Gluster Storage is available on Amazon, Google, and Microsoft public clouds. And what’s more interesting is that the same bits are deployed on premise, in containers and virtual machines, and public cloud deployments, which means fewer application rewrites and retooling as applications are transitioned across boundaries.

Money doesn’t grow on trees

Customers and analysts agree that software-defined storage can significantly reduce storage costs. In a recent whitepaper on the economics of software-defined storage, IDC found that “over a five-year period, procuring server hardware with internal disks and deploying a software-based storage solution such as Red Hat Gluster Storage and Red Hat Ceph Storage can save businesses over 60% and 46%, respectively, compared with a competitive NAS solution.”

Comparable features and performance, at about half the price. What’s not to like? When it comes to storage, it’s never been better to be a kid in a candy store. Get started with your goody bag here.

IDC: The economics of software-defined storage

Red Hat Storage received a resounding endorsement from IDC in the recently published analyst opinion whitepaper on the economics of software-defined storage. Over the past decade, one of the change drivers motivating companies to move off traditional storage appliances to software-defined storage has been rising costs, given the mounting pressure to retain and process more data than ever before.

In this paper, IDC concludes that “over a five-year period, procuring server hardware with internal disks and deploying a software-based storage solution such as Red Hat Gluster Storage and Red Hat Ceph Storage can save businesses over 39% and 53%, respectively, compared with a competitive NAS solution.”

But wait—There’s more….

The savings numbers by themselves are compelling enough for most CIOs considering the transition from monolithic, proprietary storage appliances. However, there are a number of additional savings that can make the decision a no-brainer.

  • Businesses can leverage the latest innovation in servers, spinning disks, memory, flash, external disk systems, and other components to continuously evolve their storage systems, rather than being tied to the plodding innovation cycle of their storage vendors. As hardware prices decline, companies can purchase hardware at lower prices over time rather than being forced to make a large investment at the outset.
  • Customers can scale storage infrastructure built on practices and standards adopted by the largest cloud service providers, bringing greater efficiencies and helping to convert capital expenditure (CapEx) to operating expenditure (OpEx).
  • Datacenters that have undergone recent hardware refreshes can reuse older servers and hardware as storage servers, thus reducing cost and improving utilization.
  • Capacity planning is a breeze, because enterprises can purchase exactly how much they need for ready-to-go projects rather than over-provision to allow for future growth. With software-defined storage, expensive and cumbersome migrations are a thing of the past, because the hardware and software updates happen on an incremental and more manageable basis rather than discrete forklift upgrades.

“Open” is more than a modifier

One of the topics clearly outlined in the IDC paper is the preeminence of “open” and “open source” in almost every aspect of the datacenter. The open source experiment that started more than 20 years ago has now turned to the default option for many enterprises. In the words of IDC: “Today, Linux not only is used to run applications but also powers many hardware-based storage platforms—a fact that has not gone unnoticed by many.”

Storage built with open standards, using open source storage controller software, offers customers the best of both worlds—latest innovations driven by hundreds and thousands of practitioners across the world and unmatched cost efficiencies for enterprise-grade solutions on par with any incumbent storage technology.

Open source has cost implications beyond product and support. For instance, because Linux skills are ubiquitous in most datacenters, training to be a storage administrator for Red Hat Ceph and Gluster Storage is a much smaller skills investment compared to what’s required for a dedicated storage administrator to master a proprietary storage appliance.

“Software-defined” defined

Not surprisingly, many traditional storage appliance vendors have tried to rebrand themselves as “software defined” by adding superficial add-ons, but when you look under the covers, they leave much to be desired in terms of flexibility and choice.

The IDC paper cites a few building blocks essential to any software-defined solution that can serve as a litmus test for customers looking for a truly software-defined solution:

  • Standalone or autonomous storage controller software for storage access services, data persistence, networking functions, and interconnects that make no assumptions of underlying hardware components or any underlying resilience or redundancy schemes like RAID
  • A system that supports rolling hardware and software upgrades, as well as the ability to run mixed hardware configurations
  • Platforms that do not contain proprietary hardware components like custom-designed ASICs, accelerator cards, chipsets, memory components, or CPUs
  • A shared-nothing architecture in which data is shared and distributed (commonly found in scale-out environments) and that allows nodes to function independently, in contrast to scale-up systems with proprietary interconnects to share hardware resources

The breakdown

The IDC whitepaper compares the acquisition and maintenance cost of 300TB of Red Hat Gluster Storage and 500TB of Red Hat Ceph Storage (on Supermicro hardware) with competitive NAS storage system spanning 3- and 5-year horizons. The results speak for themselves.

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It’s more than just storage

While the IDC whitepaper focuses squarely on the economics of software-defined storage, the author is quick to point out that Red Hat Storage can bring added value to the organization through “storage and data management efficiency, increase in application performance, reduction in storage infrastructure costs, and increase in IT productivity.”

You can dive into the IDC whitepaper and get started right away with your Red Hat Gluster Storage or Red Hat Ceph Storage test drive today.

Jack of all trades: New Cisco UCS S-Series and Red Hat Storage

imagesToday, Cisco announced its new UCS S-Series storage-optimized server with the introduction of the UCS S3260, marking its entry into the emerging server market for data intensive workloads.

Red Hat and Cisco have worked together for a long time, including our collaboration on Red Hat OpenStack Platform.

Out with the old…

By jumping into the high-density storage-optimized server market, Cisco validates what we see as the continued movement to emerging software-defined, scale-out architectures for solutions like OpenStack and container-native storage and hyper-converged infrastructure.

With the ability to spread data across multiple servers, both Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage are helping to drive this trend. Open, software-defined storage enables enterprises to build an elastic cloud infrastructure for newer, data intensive workloads.

Ceph provides unified storage over a distributed object store (RADOS) as its core by providing unified block, object and file interfaces, while Gluster provides an elastic, scale out NAS file storage system.

As more organizations move to open source SDS from appliances / traditional SAN arrays, they often miss the recipes for a best practice deployment. Red Hat has worked with Cisco to produce reference design architectures to take the guess work out of configuring throughput-optimized, cost / capacity-optimized and emerging high IOPs performing clusters, including whitepapers for both Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage with Cisco’s previous generation of the S-Series, the C3160 high density rack server.

Open source drives storage innovation

Both Ceph and Gluster use community-powered innovation to accelerate their core feature sets faster than what is possible via a single proprietary vendor. Red Hat is a top contributor to both Ceph and Gluster upstream development, but several hardware, software and cloud service providers, including eBay, Yahoo!, CERN (Ceph) and Facebook (Gluster), all contribute to the code base. Cisco itself is a top-50 contributor to Ceph in terms of code commits.

Versatility

The Cisco UCS S-Series builds on the x86 storage-optimized server trend – but seemingly shuffles the deck with more of an enterprise spin via features such as dual-node servers, quadruple fans and power supplies, connected to Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnects.

One aspect of the new UCS S-Series design we are excited about is “versatility”. UCS offers common, consistent architecture for variety of IT needs that we expect may enable it to become a standard hardware building block for enterprise environments. S-Series includes features such as a modular chassis design, facilitating upgrades to new Intel chipsets including its disk expander module, providing the ability to swap out a server node for an additional 4 drives (increasing the raw capacity from 560 to 600 TB).

Cisco has also integrated networking fabric into its storage-optimized servers, making it easier to extend your interconnect as your cluster scales out. The S3260 offers dual 40GbE ports for each server node. As one moves to denser servers (with more than 24 drives) in Ceph configurations, the need for 40Gb Ethernet becomes greater. Enterprises can benefit from tightly-integrated fabric interconnect which translates to less latency, which is important for applications like video streaming.

A key piece is the UCS Manager configuration and handling tool which can simplify deployment. UCS Manager enables the creation of an initial configuration profile for storage, network, compute, etc. for the S3260, helping customers to more easily grow their Ceph environments by pushing out the profile to additional S3260s as they expand.

Combined with the Red Hat Storage ability to handle block, object and file access along with being flexible enough to handle throughput optimized, cost / capacity and high IOPS workloads, Cisco’s UCS S-Series may not just be a jack of all trades, but also a master of many.

Stay tuned for more upcoming joint solution papers from the Cisco UCS S3260 and Red Hat Ceph Storage teams. In the interim, learn more about the UCS S-Series at cisco.com/go/storage.