Open Source Storage Buying Guide

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Open source storage has been with us for some time now. While it hasn’t quite realized the dream of 15 years ago — supplying free or very cheap software for all and thereby unseating all the major proprietary software providers — it has at least carved out a nice niche in the market with a core of respected suppliers.

Here are some worthwhile candidates for enterprise class open source data storage.

Red Hat Storage

Red Hat is perhaps the most recognized player in the entire open source field. As addition to promoting its operating systems, the company has been involved in storage for quite some time. Red Hat Storage is an open platform that is available for on-premise, public clouds such as Amazon, and hybrid cloud deployment. Pricing is by annual subscription based on the number of storage nodes.

“Red Hat Storage provides an open, software-defined storage platform leveraging Red Hat Enterprise Linux and bringing together technologies from open source communities such as,,, and,” said Scott Clinton, Senior Director, Product Management and Marketing, Red Hat. “It eliminates the need of a central meta-data server choke-point, making the solution able to scale beyond traditional approaches without requiring specialized hardware assistance.”

It is designed as a scale-out architecture using standard x86 hardware systems. Clinton cites a recent IDC study that found that Red Hat Storage reduces Opex costs by 20 percent compared to traditional storage approaches. He added that Red Hat Storage enables users to converge their storage and compute infrastructure into a single tier by allowing them to run applications directly on the storage nodes.

Red Hat Storage provides support for OpenStack storage services such as Swift, Cinder, Glance, and Nova. It has a Hadoop connector so users can link the storage to big data systems without the usual ingestion process required by the Hadoop file-system. This means you can perform in-place analytics on your data. It also has built in replication, encryption for data at rest and in-flight.


SwiftStack private cloud storage is said to provide petabyte-scale private cloud storage for less than $0.01 per GB/month. It positions itself as software-defined storage (SDS), combining a decoupled storage controller with the OpenStack Swift object storage system that runs on commodity hardware. It can be used to implement multi- tenant cloud storage.

Other open source technologies like Nexenta, Inktank (sponsors of Ceph), and Red Hat focus on either file or block storage. Where they support object storage, they support the Swift API as the standard interface for open object storage. SwiftStack focuses exclusively on object storage, to support applications with growing unstructured data.

“SwiftStack is the only company leveraging OpenStack Swift as the engine for its product, the same engine that runs the world’s largest storage clouds,” said Joe Arnold, CEO, SwiftStack. “While the largest organizations have the resources and teams to build their own product on open source, the majority do not, and they need an easy to use product so they can focus their energy on their unique offerings to their customers.”


Like the others in this guide, Nexenta has bought into the software-defined storage concept. Company CEO Tarkan Maner calls NexentaStor commercial grade software-defined storage (SDS). By using it as a storage foundation, organizations are said to be able to implement high-performance, cost-effective data storage solutions with features that include inline compression, unlimited snapshots, cloning and support for high availability storage. It is available via a network of resellers and Maner said they tend to compete mainly with the likes of NetApp and EMC.

“By separating hardware from software for our clients storage needs, Nexenta significantly reduces both the complexity of enterprise storage, but also drastically improves the economics for our customers,” said Maner. “Nexenta has more than 5,000 customers and over 800 Petabytes of storage under management.”


Inktank is based on Ceph, an open source SDS system that is said to facilitate massively scalable object, block, and file storage at a very low cost per GB. A recent survey by OpenStack found that Ceph is the most popular option for distributed block storage amongst OpenStack users.

Inktank Ceph Enterprise is a stable version of Ceph available by subscription for object and block storage. It includes a graphical manager and support services. Features include cluster visualization, monitoring and diagnosis of Ceph, cluster and per node usage and performance stats and Hyper-V integration.

In addition, it provides multi-tenancy, integration with OpenStack and Apache CloudStack, block storage with copy-on-write, snapshots and cloning, and the ability to run on multiple sites simultaneously. In particular, it is finding adoption among IT, financial, telecommunications and academic organizations.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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