Gluster is launching a beta program for VMStor, new software that will let administrators use NAS devices for virtual machine storage rather than SANs. The functionality, which will be offered as a module in the Gluster Storage Platform product, virtualizes storage by providing open source software on commodity x86 hardware that is clustered under a global name space. It can scale to multiple petabytes, supports NFS and works with a number of networking configurations, including 10GbE, 1GbE and Infiniband. The software lets users back up the storage and restore VMware-based VMs by copying a snapshot to the VM folder and restarting the machine. VMStor integrates with vSphere, VMware's management console.
Having the ability to deploy its software stack inside a virtual machine creates a number of opportunities for desktop virtualization deployments as well as virtualization on NFS deployments, says Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager at IDC. Because the architecture is highly scalable and can be tuned to a variety of performance parameters, it creates an opportunity for different types of deployments. She anticipates that other vendors may follow Gluster's lead in allowing its software to be deployed inside a virtual machine as well as on a physical host.
Gluster claims that using NAS is preferable to SANs because SANs are too siloed and require too much management. The economics of open source software coupled with commodity hardware are compelling, says Jack O'Brian, VP of marketing for Gluster. While SANs can be a more efficient way to store data, virtualization is more agile and flexible and makes it easier for administrators to start up additional Web servers or move workloads around for disaster recovery.
Mike Taggart, chief technical officer for the Envoy Media Group, who has been using other Gluster products for about two years, says he is not sure to the extent Envoy would be able to take advantage of the VMStor functionality because his company currently uses Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud service for its networking and storage. However, the new functionality would let him diversify backups by downloading copies offsite as well as using backups built into the Amazon service. He does like that Gluster is adding storage virtualization to its product. "It's amazing how much redundancy you can get doing virtual machines on top of hardware," he says.
The product is currently in limited beta testing, which will be opened up further in September. The production version is expected in the fourth quarter of this year. The company would not reveal pricing, but the Gluster Storage Platform currently starts at $4,500 to $8,500 per storage node per year, depending on what level of support users choose. The VMStor functionality will be an incremental cost on top of the base price.