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Should traditional data centers start using OpenStack Swift and Cinder?

If your IT department has the skills set, OpenStack object or block storage might be a good idea, analyst George Crump said.

Let’s start by clarifying what OpenStack is. OpenStack is a set of software tools for bundling and managing computing platforms. It enables public and private cloud providers to build an infrastructure that allows compute to be offered as a service. It is also an open standard, which makes it easier for third-party vendors to develop tools.

When it comes to developing the supporting storage infrastructure, OpenStack only provides the base tools needed to build and integrate a block, object or file system into an application. Most enterprises don’t have the time or desire to do this type of heavy lifting. As a result, various tools have appeared to make developing an OpenStack storage infrastructure easier.

Those tools are OpenStack Swift, SwiftStack, Cinder, Ceph and Open vStorage. OpenStack Swift has the basic components needed to develop an object storage infrastructure, but it still requires a lot of work. Enterprises that plan to use OpenStack as an object storage platform should look at products like SwiftStack, which delivers a near turnkey object storage experience.

Cinder is the open source project that brings block-based storage to the OpenStack infrastructure. But similar to OpenStack Swift, it still requires a lot of work on the part of the IT team to fully implement. Like SwiftStack, IT should look to products like Ceph or Open vStorage to gain a more turnkey experience for applications that need block storage.

Open vStorage is designed specifically to be a middle layer between OpenStack-hosted virtual machines (VMs) and a storage back end. It provides features that enterprises are accustomed to in virtual environments, such as VM migration, and leverages host-side solid-state drives as cache.

So should enterprises use OpenStack? It largely depends on the enterprise, its level of expertise, and how much pressure there is to lower IT costs. If IT is a key component of the company’s offerings, then using OpenStack is probably worth the investment, especially considering the available tools that allow delivery of robust enterprise-class storage services.

Next Steps

How to build an OpenStack cloud

Complete guide to OpenStack Cinder and Swift

This was last published in January 2015

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