Red Hat fills cloud storage gap with Gluster acquisition

Red Hat addresses potential $4 billion storage market with $136 million purchase of disruptive open source storage solution

Red Hat announced it's paying $136 million to acquire Gluster, a startup founded in 2005 with the goal of simplifying storage using open source software and commodity hardware. The company appropriately gets its name from a combination of the words "GNU" and "cluster."

This acquisition marks an exciting new area of potential growth for Red Hat as industry analysts estimate the total addressable market for unstructured data storage at approximately $4 billion and growing.

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At the heart of the startup company is its technology called GlusterFS, a software-only, scale-out storage system that allows enterprises to combine large numbers of commodity storage and compute resources into a high-performance, centrally managed, and globally accessible storage pool. It is capable of scaling to several petabytes of data, and clusters storage building blocks over Infiniband RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) or a TCP/IP interconnect. GlusterFS was built upon an open source model that makes for a good fit with Red Hat's operation.

Currently, GlusterFS supports Apache Hadoop for Big Data applications and can be installed across a host of file systems such as ext3, ext4, XFS -- exposing the file system as a global namespace that spans the storage server nodes as a CIFS, NFS, or Gluster Native mount point. It also sends data to Linux, Unix, and Windows servers, and it has multitenant capabilities that give it added value for use in a private or public cloud.

Gluster's ability to advance Red Hat's storage capabilities offers a unique opportunity for Red Hat and its customers.

"Our customers are looking for software-based storage solutions that manage their file-based data on-premise, in the cloud and bridging between the two," said Brian Stevens, CTO and vice president, Worldwide Engineering at Red Hat. "With unstructured data growth (such as log files, virtual machines, email, audio, video and documents), the '90s paradigm of forcing everything into expensive, single-system DBMS residing on an internal corporate SAN has become unwieldy and impractical."

Gluster's technology also offers capabilities that are well suited to Red Hat's cloud computing strategy. Red Hat is actively building cloud solutions, as demonstrated by its IaaS/CloudForms and PaaS/OpenShift announcements made earlier this year. Red Hat executives noted that Gluster provides a leading open source storage solution for bridging the management of data from on premise to the cloud, calling this a key next-generation IT requirement.

With the acquisition, Red Hat gains value and expertise within the virtualization market since GlusterFS supports a number of hypervisor technologies, including KVM, Xen, and VMware, as well as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) on Elastic Block Storage. Customers who choose to implement this clustered file system could use the cluster's internal replication to provide high-availability (HA) failover for running VMs. This purchase could also become part of Red Hat's response to VMware's vStorage APIs.

In a recent Q&A session, Red Hat provided an official response as to how it sees the Gluster acquisition fitting into the company's virtualization and cloud strategy:

We view Gluster to be a strong fit with Red Hat's virtualization and cloud products and strategies by bringing to storage the capabilities that we bring to servers today. By implementing a single namespace, Gluster enables enterprises to combine large numbers of commodity storage and compute resources into a high-performance, virtualized and centrally managed pool. Both capacity and performance can scale independent of demand, from a few terabytes to multiple petabytes, using both on-premise commodity hardware and public cloud storage infrastructure. By combining commodity economics with a scale-out approach, customers can achieve better price and performance, in an easy-to-manage solution that can be configured for the most demanding workloads.

But at the end of the day, when thinking about the acquisition, perhaps AB Periasamy, co-founder and CTO of Gluster, summed things up best by simply stating, "Gluster started off with a goal to be the Red Hat of storage. Now, we are the storage of Red Hat."

The deal is expected to close sometime this month, and Red Hat said it has plans to make new investments in sales and support to build up what it describes as a disruptive storage solution.

Red Hat added that it intends to market Gluster's GlusterFS and its Virtual Storage Appliance on a subscription basis, while integrating the company's technology into other as of yet unspecified products.

This article, "Red Hat fills cloud storage gap with Gluster acquisition," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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