Dan's Take

Analyzing SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.0

Building on the Ceph open source foundation.

SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.0 was announced at SUSECON in September, and is expected to be released in late October 2017. It's built upon the foundation of the Ceph open source project.

SUSE Enterprise Storage 5.0 has scalability upgrades (from terabytes to petabytes) and can use off-the-shelf storage systems. It's a software-defined storage (SDS) solution for enterprises that can support workloads requiring bulk and large data. It's based on enhancements to the Ceph file system, CephFS, and SUSE claims a performance boost of more than 200 percent over the previous version.

Ceph is an open source project focused upon "transforming IT infrastructure" and making it possible to support "vast amounts of data." Ceph is supported by the Reliable Autonomic Distributed Object Store (RADOS), which provides applications with object, block and file system storage in a single unified storage cluster.

Here's how SUSE describes Enterprise Storage 5:

  • SUSE Enterprise Storage solutions provide a single unified software-defined storage cluster that provides applications with object and block storage designed with unlimited scalability from terabytes to petabytes, no single points of failure to maximize system resiliency and to maximize application availability following hardware failures.
  • SUSE Enterprise Storage uses commodity gear to keep CAPEX costs down, helps reduce IT operational expense with a single tool for managing a storage cluster for your heterogeneous server environment and helps optimize infrastructure without growing your IT staff by automatically rebalancing data placement without any manual intervention.
  • It can automatically respond to changing demands with self-managed and self-healing storage that optimizes for system performance, enables enterprises to easily provision and seamlessly deliver additional storage without disruption and provides maximum flexibility by using off-the-shelf commodity hardware that can be repurposed if business priorities change.

Ceph has become a popular choice for many open source software and hardware suppliers.

SUSE is using this technology as the heart of its SUSE Enterprise Storage. Red Hat's Ceph Storage is based on the same foundation, and Canonical has also promoted the use of Ceph to its customers.

Hardware suppliers such as Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu and Intel have partnered with one or more of the Linux distributors to supply storage virtualization solutions to their clients.

The primary reasons for this broad industry support appear to be that Ceph provides reliable storage for critical applications and supports large to extremely large data stores. The Ceph file system (CephFS) offers POSIX semantics, meaning that it easily integrates into many computing environments and workloads, and the technology is intelligent enough to balance the file system to improve storage performance.

Since SUSE is just one of the gang of Ceph supporters, it faces the challenge of branding Ceph and/or getting the industry to think "SUSE" when thinking about Ceph and storage virtualization. At this point, it appears that Red Hat is doing a much better job of getting the industry to think about its packages that include Ceph and other open source technology. I often get questions about Red Hat's products. I seldom get similar questions about SUSE.

Dan's Take: Sit-Down Dinner or Buffet?
This may be due to the different approaches the companies are taking when integrating open source technology. Red Hat acts like a chef at a fine restaurant: it choses how the technology will be integrated into its computing environment, and makes key decisions about how it will be supported. SUSE acts more like the owner of a buffet. The technology is made available alongside many other open source options. Sometimes this means that the enterprise is faced both with a great deal of freedom about what and how to consume the technology, and difficult choices about what buffet items should be used.

Both approaches have proven workable, depending on the expertise of the enterprise IT staff. Some prefer Red Hat's strategy of offering products that are integrated and supportable to SUSE's approach of packaging a number of technologies and leaving the choices and some of the integration up to the enterprise. Others clearly like the freedom of selecting just the right ingredients for themselves.

SUSE Enterprise Storage 5 appears to be a worthy ingredient for an enterprise banquet if the chefs -- the IT developers -- prefer to season everything themselves.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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