Top Ten Ways to Use OpenStack for Storage

In the first article in this series, we explained what OpenStack is. Now we are following it up with some tips for those thinking about implementing it for specific tasks. Here are ten popular ways to use this open source cloud computing software for storage purposes:

1. Opening Up SDS

One reason for the recent frenzy over OpenStack is that it opens the door to far greater software defined storage (SDS). Arvind Soni, product line manager, VMware, advised users to align OpenStack to their SDS and virtualization objectives. He said it will facilitate ongoing plans aimed at attaining greater storage virtualization and ease the way towards SDS.

“OpenStack is accelerating the pace of adoption of the software-defined data center and specifically software-defined storage,” said Soni.

2. Better Abstraction

Server virtualization has always led while storage virtualization lagged. OpenStack may bridge that gap.

By providing an application programming interface (API), it enables better access to data center services such as storage. As a result, organizations can use OpenStack to abstract the infrastructure via software, allowing flexibility in the underlying storage technology, said Soni.

3. New Storage Services

Using OpenStack, organizations can now provide multiple storage services such as block (Cinder), image (Glance) and object (Swift). Further, it makes it easier to provide some of the new storage services such as shared storage as a service (Manila) depending on the needs of the application.

4. Mix and Match Storage

Those with mixed storage environments will be happy to know, said Soni, that OpenStack has the capability of mixing and matching various storage vendors and various technologies such SAN, NAS and DAS in a single abstraction. Again, this takes us a step closer to true storage virtualization. Additionally, it can leverage some of the new, cloud-born x86-based hypervisor-converged, scale-out storage technologies such as Virtual SAN.

5. Workload Optimization

Depending on the technology provider, some operators can leverage integration between the hypervisor and the storage to accomplish policy-based management and manage VMware virtual volumes.

“Thus it is possible to provide automatic and optimum placement of workloads on the appropriate storage technology for optimum performance and cost, as well as manageability,” said Soni.

6. Cloud Storage

Implementing cloud is just not about buying a product. It’s about implementing many new tools and processes that sit around a cloud infrastructure. This is as true for storage as it is for the compute part of a cloud.

“Businesses should be willing to invest time in using the professional services of organizations who are supporting the OpenStack code to help them get from proof of concept to production,” said Ross Turk, director of product marketing, storage, Red Hat.

7. Cloud Competition

As well as SDS, what isn’t realized is that OpenStack is rapidly becoming a serious competitor to the existing powers in cloud storage such as Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google, and VMware vCloud Air, according to Lauren Nelson, an analyst with Forrester Research. Therefore, anyone looking to utilize public cloud services should also consider OpenStack-based offerings.

8. It Can’t Do Everything – Yet

Nelson added that OpenStack’s suitability for application development can sometimes mask the fact that it still has shortcomings that it has to overcome. Many of these are being worked on within the OpenStack Community, but Forrester noted such items as delays when provisioning 50 or more virtual machines, lack of software-defined networking maturity, and that OpenStack is not a cloud manager or platform-as-a-service – yet.

9. Innovate

Perhaps the most valuable thing you can use OpenStack to accomplish in your specific storage environment is something you haven’t thought of yet. Oscar Wahlberg, director of product management, Nexenta, urged storage managers to train their administrators in OpenStack and make sure they are provided with enough time to contribute to upstream projects (those within the OpenStack open source community).

“Contributing to upstream projects and being an active participant in the community is not only a great way to learn, but also enables end users to improve the part of a project that is most important to them,” said Wahlberg.

10. Have a Goal in Mind

It is imperative to know what you aretrying to achieve with the technology before you go with OpenStack. If you don’t work that out, you are likely to end up with little real value, said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group.

“A fundamental tip when it comes to OpenStack is knowing and understanding what it is that you are going to do, and why you are doing it,” he said. “For example are you simply learning, exploring, doing some proof of concept to figure out what it can or can’t do today, planning for the future or getting some hands-on time?”

It might be best to have a specific project or initiative in mind where you could use OpenStack. If you have a plan or project or architecture that you are looking to support, implement or test, that will help in having a use case scenario to build and test against versus simply installing the software and saying, “ok, now what?” added Schulz.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.
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