SwiftStack 6.0 – Universal Access And More

I haven’t covered SwiftStack in a little while, and they’ve been doing some pretty interesting stuff. They made some announcements recently but a number of scheduling “challenges” and some hectic day job commitments prevented me from speaking to them until just recently. In the end I was lucky enough to snaffle 30 minutes with Mario Blandini and he kindly took me through the latest news.

 

6.0 Then, So What?

Universal Access

Universal Access is really very cool. Think of it as a way to write data in either file or object format, and then read it back in file or object format, depending on how you need to consume it.

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

Key features include:

  • Gateway free – the data is stored in cloud-native format in a single namespace;
  • Accessible via file (SMB3 / NFS4) and / or object API (S3 / Swift). Note that this is not a replacement for NAS, but it will give you the ability to work with some of those applications that expect to see file in places; and
  • Applications can write data one way, access the data another way, and vice versa.

The great thing is that, according to SwiftStack, “Universal Access enables applications to take advantage of all data under management, no matter how it was written or where it is stored, without the need to refactor applications”.

 

Universal Access Multi-Cloud

So what if you take to really neat features like, say, Cloud Sync and Universal Access, and combine them? You get access to a single, multi-cloud, storage namespace.

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

 

Thoughts

As Mario took me through the announcements he mentioned that SwiftStack are “not just an object storage thing based on Swift” and I thought that was spot on. Universal Access (particularly with multi-cloud) is just the type of solution that enterprises looking to add mobility to workloads are looking for. The problem for some time has been that data gets tied up in silos based on the protocol that a controller speaks, rather than the value of the data to the business. Products like this go a long way towards relieving some of the pressure on enterprises by enabling simpler access to more data. Being able to spread it across on-premises and public cloud locations also makes for simpler consumption models and can help business leverage the data in a more useful way than was previously possible. Add in the usefulness of something like Cloud Sync in terms of archiving data to public cloud buckets and you’ll start to see that these guys are onto something. I recommend you head over to the SwiftStack site and request a demo. You can read the press release here.

Test Driving SwiftStack (For Charity)

I posted an article yesterday about test driving the SwiftStack platform. At the time I neglected to mention that their PR folk are running a competition that has two benefits. Firstly, it gets people like me blogging about them and gets people like you reading about them. Secondly, they are running a competition (using a points system and tracking URLs, etc). My post triggered a $50 donation to my chosen charity (in this case, World Vision). The more people who read my original post, comment, cross-post on LinkedIn, etc, the more points that get earned by me. Obviously, I’m not interested in people leaving crap comments on my article just to try and help me get more points. But if you find the article useful or want to know more I’m always happy for comments to go up.

Between July 11 and August 11 (let’s assume this is US time) the points get tallied, and the lead blogger gets an extra $1000 donated to their charity of choice, with a runner-up getting $250 to their charity. Finally, one of the readers commenting on a post will be selected at random to receive a prize of their choice, costing $500 or less.

I was initially reluctant to commit to this competition, as things are hectic with my day job and I only have so many available cycles. I also don’t really go in for competitions so much. But this one feels a little different and it didn’t take me that long to put together an article on getting started. So, go back and check out my original article. If you like it, comment on it. If you like it a lot, post it to LinkedIn or retweet it with the #SwiftStackTrial hashtag. Or do both if you’re feeling super enthusiastic. Sure, you’re doing some work for tech marketing people. But for once, it feels like all this nonsense might actually put some real money in places where it should actually be going.

Test Driving SwiftStack

I’ve recently been doing some work with SwiftStack, and thought it might be handy to put together a how-to document for getting started with SwiftStack’s test drive functionality. There’s a bunch of reasonably simple steps, with pictures, so I’ve put them in a document that you can grab from here. But first, a few links that will come in handy:

  • Sign up for the SwiftStack trial here;
  • The SwiftStack Quick Start guide can be found here;
  • I left the Swift User creation process out of my document – but you can read about that here; and
  • An interesting guide to SwiftStack hardware considerations can be found here.

To do this trial I used my Ravello Systems provided vExpert account to provide compute and disk resources temporarily via Google’s cloud. Incidentally, if you need to use a private key with ssh on your Mac you need to be mindful of the permissions on your key file (this is no doubt old news for many of you).

Last login: Mon Jul 11 05:06:05 on ttys000
imac27:~ dan$ ssh -i /Users/dan/Downloads/Test1.pem ravello@centos63vanilla.ravcloud.com
The authenticity of host 'centos63vanilla.ravcloud.com (104.144.155.170)' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is SHA256:fAQIdjsC5X5d0c+J+Nj7dF9L3qqyzFYmPYkagKLWCCg.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added 'centos63vanilla.ravcloud.com,104.144.155.170' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
@         WARNING: UNPROTECTED PRIVATE KEY FILE!          @
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Permissions 0644 for '/Users/dan/Downloads/Test1.pem' are too open.
It is required that your private key files are NOT accessible by others.
This private key will be ignored.
Load key "/Users/dan/Downloads/Test1.pem": bad permissions
Permission denied (publickey,gssapi-keyex,gssapi-with-mic).

Note that you’ll need to modify the permissions on your key file to 600 to ensure that it is accepted.

imac27:~ dan$ chmod 600 /Users/dan/Downloads/Test1.pem
imac27:~ dan$ ssh -i /Users/dan/Downloads/Test1.pem ravello@centos63vanilla.ravcloud.com
[ravello@test1 ~]$ top

And you’re good to go.

I’ve written about SwiftStack before and was intrigued by the relative ease with which you could deploy Swift capability inside your DC. If you’re looking to deliver this kind of capability internally, I recommend looking into SwiftStack. The test drive is a snap to sign up for you, and if you follow the bouncing ball you’ll be up and running in no time.

SwiftStack Announces Object Storage Version 4.0

If you’ve not heard of SwiftStack before, they do “object storage for the enterprise”, with the core product built on OpenStack Swift. I recently had the opportunity to be briefed by Mario Blandini on their 4.0 announcement. Mario describes them as “Like Amazon cloud but inside your DC and behind your firewall”.

New SwiftStack 4.0 innovations introduced today (and available now or in the next 90 days) include:

  • Integrated load balancing reducing the need for expensive dedicated network hardware and minimizing latency and bandwidth costs while scaling to larger numbers of storage nodes
  • Metadata search increases business value with integrated third-party indexing and search services to make stored object data analytics-ready
  • SwiftStack Drive is an optional desktop client that enables access to objects directly from desktops or laptops
  • Enhanced management with new IPv6 support, capacity planning and advanced data migration tools

Swift00

One of the key points in this announcement is the metadata search capability. Object storage is not just about “cheap and deep”, and the way we use metadata can have a big impact on the value of the data, often to applications that didn’t necessarily generate the data in the first place.

Like all good scale out solutions, you don’t need to buy everything up front, just what you need to get started. SwiftStack aren’t in the hardware business though, so you’ll be rolling your own. The hardware requirements for SwiftStack are here, and there’s also a reference architecture for Cisco.

 

Futures

SwiftStack have plans to introduce “Swift File Access” in 2016

Swift00_File

Some of the benefits of this include:

  • Scale-out file services; SMB and NFS – minimizes the need for gateways
  • Fully bimodal > files can come in over SMB and accessed through object APIs and visa versa
  • Integrated into the proxy role > performance scales independently of capacity

SwiftStack also have plans to introduce “Object Synchronization” in 2016

Swift00_ObjectSync

This will provide S3 Synchronization capability, including

  • Replication of objects to S3 buckets
  • Policy-driven > protecting and accessing files using centralized policies
  • Supporting any cloud compatible with the S3 API

This is pretty cool as there’s a lot of momentum within enterprises to consume data in places where it’s needed, not necessarily where it’s created.

 

Final Thoughts

Object storage is hot, because folks love cloud, and object is a big part of that. I like what object can do for storage, particularly as it relates to metadata and scale out performance. I’m happy to see SwiftStack making a decent play inside the enterprise, rather than aiming to be just another public cloud storage provider. I think they’re worth checking out, particularly if you have data that could benefit from object storage without necessarily having live in the public cloud.