Dungeons and (open source storage) dragons

The world of data storage is changing and open source is helping (well, trying extremely hard) to shake up a few traditional technology standards.

For many years, storage has been about big boxes from big name storage vendors. Usual suspects here might include EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, NetApp, Oracle Exadata and obviously we could extend this list ad infinitum if we started to add hard drive manufacturers, big data players and database shops.

But could things really be changing now?

Nexenta specialises in industry standard, software-only, open architecture, hardware-agnostic storage solutions. The company suggests that an open source software-based approach to storage systems has the potential to free developers from the ties that bind them to dungeon-like onsite corporate storage systems.

Could open source developers be the new dragon slayers?

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NOTE: These storage options are bringing technologies like Sun’s Zetabyte File System (ZFS), which Sun transferred to the open-source community, back to the forefront.

“While Oracle, which took over Sun, still offers ZFS in its Solaris products, the technology appears to have been shunted to the sidelines. But a new generation of companies are using a fork of OpenSolaris, known as Illumos, to provide the foundation for a storage-focused Solaris distribution based on ZFS,” said Evan Powell, CEO, Nexenta Systems.

“While the larger storage vendors (and their customers and developers) are locked in to old file systems on proprietary hardware, open source software is providing customers and developers with the opportunity to break free of this lock-in and combine new file systems with commodity hardware,” added Powell.

The shift to an open source-based storage world is argued to be able to give developers the potential to have much more freedom and choice in their work. As ZFS is based on open source, developers are able to dip in and out if they need to work on any problem in the system and upgrade it individually by themselves.

Because their peers are handling open source software code development, developers who join the open source community have the opportunity to create and enhance code with people on the same wavelength as them.

Once developers begin to use open source software for one part of their infrastructure, it can make them much more open to the prospect of using other open source-based applications and help to keep costs down.

“Open source is also much better suited to the virtual world because ZFS is more flexible for developers using virtual machines to create, run and test pilot projects or programmes. By using open source storage software based on ZFS, all the testing can be handled separately and then brought online when it works,” said Nexenta’s Powell.

Can the open source-based storage approach really help developers break out of the proprietary box that vendors have locked them into?

Or… will storage always be too much of a ground level infrastructural element in any software architecture and therefore retain its inertia, sluggishness and inability to move to more nimble open models?

Nexenta aren’t angels, they’re still out to make a buck after all — but we hope the open approach will triumph.

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