StorPool Announces Version 21

StorPool recently announced version 21 of its storage platform, offering improvements across data protection, efficiency, availability, and compatibility. I had the opportunity to speak to Boyan Krosnov and Alex Ivanov and wanted to share some thoughts.


“Magic” Scale-out Erasure Coding

One of the main features announced with Version 21 was “magic” scale-out erasure coding. Previously, StorPool offered triple replication protection of data across nodes. Now, with at least five all-NVMe storage servers, you can take advantage of this new erasure coding. Key capabilities include:

  • Near-zero performance impact even for Tier 0/Tier 1 workloads;
  • Data redundancy across nodes, as information is protected across servers with two parity objects so that any two servers can fail and data remains safe and accessible;
  • Great flexibility and operational efficiency. With per-volume policy management, volumes can be protected with triple replication or Erasure Coding, with per-volume live conversion between data protection schemes;
  • Always-on, non-disruptive operations – up to two storage nodes can be rebooted or brought down for maintenance while the entire storage system remains running with all data remaining available; and
  • Incremental mesh encoding and recovery.


Other New Features

But that’s not all. There’s also been work done in the following areas:

  • Improved iSCSI scalability – with support for exporting up to 1000 iSCSI targets per server
  • CloudStack plug-in improvements – introduces support for CloudStack’s volume encryption and partial zone-wide storage that enables easy live migration between compute hosts.
  • OpenNebula add-on improvements – now supports multi-cluster deployments where multiple StorPool sub-clusters behave as a single large-scale primary storage system with a unified global namespace
  • OpenStack Cinder driver improvements – Easy deployment with Canonical Charmed OpenStack and OpenStack instances managed with kolla-ansible
  • Deep integration with Proxmox Virtual Environment – introduces end-to-end automation of all storage operations in Proxmox VE deployments
  • Additional hardware and software compatibility – increased the number of validated hardware and operating systems resulting in easier deployment of StorPool Storage in customers’ preferred environments


Thoughts and Further Reading

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about StorPool, and the team continues to add features to the platform and grow in terms of customer adoption and maturity in the market. Every time I speak to Alex and Boyan, I get a strong sense that they’re relentlessly focussed on making the platform more stable, more performance-oriented, and easier to operate. I’m a fan of many of the design principles the company has adopted for its platform, including the use of standard server hardware, fitting in with customer workflows, and addressing the needs of demanding applications. It’s great that it scales linearly, but it’s as equally exciting, at least to me, that it “fades into the background”. Good infrastructure doesn’t want to be mentioned every day, it just needs to work (and work well). The folks at StorPool understand this, and seem to working hard to ensure that the platform, and the service that supports it, meets this requirement to fade into the background. It’s not necessarily “magic”, but it can be done with good code. StorPool has been around since 2012, is self-funded, profitable, and growing. I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of the product since I was first introduced to it, and am looking forward to seeing what’s next in future releases. For another perspective on the announcement, check out this article over at Gestalt IT.

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StorPool And The Death of Hardware-Defined Storage

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 18.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

StorPool recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see their videos from Storage Field Day 18 here, and download a PDF copy of my rough notes from here.



StorPool delivers block storage software. Fundamentally, it “pools the attached storage (hard disks or SSDs) of standard servers to create a single pool of shared block storage. The StorPool software is installed on each server in the cluster and combines the performance and capacity of all drives attached to the servers into one global namespace”. There’s a useful technical overview that you can read here.

[image courtesy of StorPool]

StorPool position themselves as a software company delivering scale-out, block storage software. They say they’ve been doing this before SDS / SDN / SDDC & “marketing-defined storage” were popular terms. The idea is that it is always delivered as a working storage solution on customer’s hardware. There are a few ways that the solution can be used, including:

  1. Fully-Managed software + 24/7/365 support, SLAs, etc
  2. On HCL-compatible hardware; or
  3. As a pre-integrated solution.

Data Integrity

The kind of data management features you’d expect from modern storage systems are present here as well, including:

  • Thin provisioning / reclaim;
  • Copy on Write snapshots, clones; and
  • Changed block tracking, incremental recovery, and transfer.

There’s also support for multi-site deployments:

  • Connect 2 or more StorPool clusters over public Internet; and
  • Send snapshots between clusters for backup and DR.

Developed from Scratch

One of the cool things about StorPool is that whole thing has been developed from scratch. They use their own on-disk format, protocol, quorum, client, etc. They’ve had systems running in production for 6+ years, as well as:

  • Numerous 1PB+ flash systems;
  • 17 major releases; and
  • Global customers.

Who Uses It?

So who uses StorPool? Their target customers are companies building private and public clouds, including:

  • Service Providers and folk operating public clouds; and
  • Enterprises and various private cloud implementations.

That’s obviously a fairly broad spectrum of potential customers, but I think that speaks somewhat to the potential versatility of software-defined solutions.


Thoughts and Further Reading

“Software-defined” storage solutions have become more and more popular in the last few years. Customers seem to be getting more comfortable with using and supporting their own hardware (up to a point), and vendors seem to be more willing to position these kinds of solutions as viable, production-ready platforms. It helps tremendously, in my opinion, that a lot of the heavy lifting previously done with dedicated silicon on traditional storage systems can now be done by a core on an x86 or ARM-based CPU. And there seem to be a lot more cores going around, giving vendors the option to do a lot more with these software-defined systems too.

There are a number of benefits to adopting software-defined solutions, including the ability to move from one hardware supplier to another without the need to dramatically change the operation environment. There’s a good story to be had in terms of updates too, and it’s no secret that people like that they aren’t tied to the vendor’s professional services arm to get installations done in quite the same way they perhaps were with dedicated storage arrays. It’s important to remember, though, that software isn’t magic. If you throw cruddy hardware at a solution like StorPool, it’s not going to somehow exceed the limitations of that hardware. You still need to give it some grunt to get some good performance in return. That said, there are plenty of examples where software-defined solutions can be improved dramatically through code optimisations, without changing hardware at all.

The point of all this is that, whilst I don’t really think hardware-defined storage solutions are going anywhere for the moment, companies like StorPool are certainly delivering compelling solutions in code that mean you don’t need to be constrained by what the big box storage vendors are selling you. StorPool have put some careful consideration into the features they offer with their platform, and have also focused heavily on the possible performance that could be achieved with the solution. There’s a good resilience story there, and it seems to be very service provider-friendly. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and not everyone will get what they need from something like StorPool. But if you’re in the market for a distributed block storage system, and have a particular hankering to run it on your own, preferred, flavour of hardware, something like StorPool is certainly worthy of further investigation. If you want to dig in a little more, I recommend checking out the resources section on the StorPool website – it’s packed with useful information. And have a look at Ray’s article as well.