Red Hat continues to burnish Storage Server

Red Hat Storage Server now works with Microsoft Active Directory and OpenStack

Nearly two years after the purchase of Gluster, Red Hat continues to polish the scale-out storage software for enterprises, making it more compatible with cloud services and Microsoft enterprise software.

The latest version of the software, now called Red Hat Storage Server, works easily with Microsoft Active Directory and the open source OpenStack cloud software stack, particularly with Red Hat's own OpenStack distribution. Replication has also been improved and Red Hat Storage Server 2.1, like most other Red Hat products, can now be automatically updated through the Red Hat Network Satellite.

Red Hat is not the only enterprise software vendor that has taken an interest in extending its stack to the storage layer. VMware also recently announced its VSAN (virtual storage area networking) technology, also designed to manage commodity servers as a storage network.

"For the customers to gain true benefit from the convergence of compute and storage, you need compute and storage to peacefully coexist," said Ranga Rangachari, Red Hat vice president and general manager of Red Hat's storage business unit.

In a study funded by Red Hat, IDC had found that software defined storage servers can cut the costs of procuring storage systems by 52 percent and provide an additional 20 percent in operational savings. "You just can't have compute going on all over the place without storage subsystem that supports it," Rangachari said.

Red Hat acquired Gluster in October 2011. Gluster developed a way to pool large numbers of commodity servers equipped with SATA drives into a single storage network, using the GlusterFS (Gluster File System). The Red Hat Storage Server combines GlusterFS with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the oVirt virtualization platform and Red Hat's own XFS file system.

Red Hat has been focusing its marketing efforts on the storage server software to midmarket and large enterprises. According to Rangachari, the software is used quite a bit for disaster recovery operations, data archival that does not use tape, and for Internet services that need to store large and ever-growing repositories of data, such as digital music files or video. Financial software provider Intuit and streaming music company Pandora both use Red Hat Storage Server.

The software "decouples the hardware dependencies, [to] help customers run on an x86 storage server on premise, in a public cloud, or in a hybrid cloud [where] the workloads move back and forth seamlessly without having to rewrite applications," Rangachari said.

The OpenStack cloud framework can now run on the Storage Server, so that users can access data through the Swift object storage API (application programming interface), eliminating the need to write code for an application to get at data stored in OpenStack. The Storage Server also now recognizes the OpenStack block storage -- through OpenStack Cinder -- and machine images, through the OpenStack Glance service.

Storage Server has been strengthened for disaster recovery. The product's replication technology, Geo-replication, can now speed data transfers across a WAN (wide area network) 38 times faster than the previous version.

Storage Server 2.1 now interoperates more easily with Microsoft's enterprise software. It recognizes Microsoft's Full Server Message Block (SMB) 2.0 protocol, allowing the Storage Server to act as a Windows file server. Previously, the Red Hat software supported SMB 1.0, though it performed data exchanges three times slower than those executed using SMB 2.0.

Storage Server also now recognizes credentials from Microsoft Active Directory. Storage Server required a lot of configuration to work with Active Directory, so this new version comes with a complete set of documentation to get the two software products to work together.

As a result with these integrations with Microsoft products, "Users in a Windows environment who already have Active Directory credentials can just access files from a Red Hat storage Server as if they are accessing it from a Windows server, or any other server using the SMB protocol," Rangachari said.

Support for the Storage Server has been added to Red Hat Network Satellite, the systems management service that Red Hat uses to install and update its software on behalf of its customers. The company is updating its software for managing storage clusters, called the Red Hat Storage Console, which has been released as a preview.

Red Hat also announced that the Red Hat Storage Server can now be tested on Amazon Web Services (AWS), through a program called Red Hat Storage Test Drives. The program offers five hours of free AWS server time. Currently, cloud deployments and at-home deployments may not share the same domain space, which is the directory of all the resources within a SAN (storage area network), though Red Hat is working on this capability for future versions of the software, Rangachari said.

Red Hat will explain more about what is new with Red Hat Storage Server 2.1 on a webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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