DreamHost spinoff Inktank is the first company to provide enterprise-level Ceph support

How Inktank Supports Service Providers Running Ceph Storage Platform

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Open source unified storage platform Ceph was created by a co-founder of web host DreamHost in 2004, and since then, DreamHost has been developing it despite not having a QA department supporting the project. Eventually it became clear that it needed to create a support system for the increasing number of enterprises adopting Ceph, and on Thursday, Inktank was launched as the first company to provide enterprise-level consulting and support around the unified storage platform.

While Ceph was initially created with the intent to solve scalability problems in the high performance computing world, it has since evolved to a transformational storage system on which enterprises build or build storage with, Bryan Bogensberger, president and COO of Inktank says in an interview with the WHIR.

Since Ceph combines object storage, block storage, and file-system storage all in one unified storage platform, there are many use cases for it, according to Bogensberger.

Hardware vendors are looking at reselling storage support solutions, he says, and other vendors are using Ceph to build a “full blown storage appliance.”

“Ceph can be for cloud, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be for cloud. Cloud storage is very direct when you talk about block devices and volume management — those are very applicable to cloud — where the file system is more applicable to big data or legacy applications,” Bogensberger says.

According to the Ceph website, German web host and cloud services company filoo has used a Ceph cluster to deliver block storage for compute VMs. Bogensberger says there are a lot of service providers looking at Ceph as a next-generation storage platform.

“They’re looking at two things,” he says. “They’re looking at Ceph to quickly be able to launch a S3 competitive product, so an object-storage product that speaks S3, and if they’re doing a cloud implementation based on OpenStack or even their own stuff, looking at the block device within Ceph to launch Elastic Block Store competitive product.”

Ceph has a low cost per gigabyte so service providers could be competitive against S3 immediately, Bogensberger says.

“Our object store has a gateway on top of it that speaks the S3 API and the Swift API,” he says. “If somebody has programmed an application to store on Amazon S3, all they really need to do is change their URL and point DreamHost dot whatever or other service provider dot whatever, and the protocol is exactly the same so there will be no friction. The application can store on that service provider as easily as it can store on S3.”

If service providers have an OpenStack deployment writing to Swift, they could point to a different cluster and wouldn’t have to change anything to the Ceph-based object store.

“The difference between Ceph and Swift is you can run the same cluster to do your object storage with Ceph and the block storage so your VM, your block device storage can all be run on the same cluster, where Swift only does object storage,” Bogensberger says.

While the technology is not feature complete for running the storage for a shared environment with hundreds of thousands or millions of customers yet, it will be another use case for Ceph when it is fully QAed and put into proof of concept by end of year, he says.

“Instead of using local discs or a bunch of big enterprise boxes you are using commodity hardware and having very low costs to run the entire storage for the shared environment.”

Currently, there is an enterprise building an object store in its private data center that by the end of 2012 should have 15 terabytes of storage in it. Inktank takes care of the professional services, for the proof of concept, implementation, performance and tuning and all of the ongoing support.

In another example, Inktank is doing some consulting with a service provider right now on its set-up, and when its service is launched Inktank will do level 3 support since it has the capabilities of doing level 1 and level 2 ticket-based support.

“To do professional services with consultants and project managers, and that whole kind of expertise, that’s different from what DreamHost does. DreamHost doesn’t have those types of capabilities,” he says.

Talk back: What use case of Ceph is most applicable to your organization right now? Would you run a shared environment with Ceph storage once it is able to support it? Let us know in a comment.

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