Open Storage: Early Customers

Now let's talk about what really matters when it comes down to Open Storage - customers.  Now, forgive me for repeating myself because I mentioned some of these customer testimonials in my first Open Storage blog.  But it just so happens that the ones I blogged about ended up in the Open Storage Adoption White Paper.    So, I'll talk about them (again), but also throw some new ones in... 

Customer Blog Comments:  Before I do, I want to point to a couple of blog comments.  The first one was submitted to Chuck Hollis' EMC blog post Do-It-Yourself Storage.  After Mr. Hollis finished criticizing Open Storage, an experienced storage and IT customer posted this comment in response to his critique:  

"I think you are missing the point. I did actually a price comparison. Building your storage solution (in my case several hundred TBs) from cheap disks using x86 servers + ZFS + Open Solaris + Solaris Cluster + ZFS, where all software is not only open sourced it is also for free, \*does\* make a huge difference. We actually started building our solution on EMC Symmetrix (great box) and EMC Celerra years ago and endup on really cheap storage + ZFS as a replacement and a way to move forward. Additionally all features like snapshots, cloning, end-to-end checksuming, remote replication, built-in compression, built-in cryptography, NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, ... are also for free. Better - they work exactly the same regardles what cheap storage or server we put underneath.

What ZFS brings to the market is the open sourced and free Google like approach to storage - how to cheaply build reliable storage from small to large scale installations.

Sure, especially for SMB market, what is needed is an easy GUI interface built on-top of Solaris + ZFS. I'm sury you will see one sooner or later."

I like the "Google like approach to storage" comment (and the fact that a disk + ZFS system replaced an EMC DMX and Celerra system for this particular customer!)  I also had a customer post these comments to my blog -  they just deployed a 2TB OpenSolaris ZFS + COMSTAR storage system for a VMWare Cluster with off the shelf components saving €2,000 in the process.  Cool stuff.   

Open Storage Customers:  Not surprisingly, a lot of these early adopters use open source to compete in their respective businesses.  You may also expect that early Open Storage adopters would come from Sun's Solaris install base - while true, many new customers do NOT come from Sun's current base.  In fact, a lot are Linux users.  They have chosen Sun because of...Storage. (Open Storage to be precise)

DigiTar provides messaging security and processing services over the Internet (antivirus, antispam, antiphishing, firewall, and archiving).  DigiTar is using Open Storage to improve the performance and efficiency of their database servers. They are using Sun's X4500 storage servers and ZFS to automate database storage administration - with ZFS they have reduced the identification and fixing of database corruption by days and/or weeks.   They are also an active member of Sun's OpenSolaris community and use the OpenSolaris community and SunSpectrum for tech support.

What I personally love about DigiTar's story is that they were (still are) a Linux shop.  So what made them a Sun OpenSolaris customer???  Storage!

Why? Read their CEO/CTO's blog:  Democratizing Storage.  He basically states that OpenSolaris was brought into the company because it made for a superior storage platform.  The clencher (and essence of Open Storage) for me is when he compares deploying Open Storage vs. a traditional storage architecture: 

"To replicate the level of redundancy we get with two X4500s, we’d have to install two completely separate storage arrays…not to mention also buy two very large beefy servers to run the databases. By using X4500s, we get the same reliability and redundancy for about 85% less cost. That kind of savings means we can deploy 6.8x more storage for the same price footprint and do all sorts of cool things like:

  • Create multiple data warehouses for data mining spam and mal-ware trends.
  • Develop and deploy new service features whenever we want without considering storage costs.
  • Be cost competitive with competitors 10x our size."

Want do do more with less?  DigiTar is with Open Storage...

Nexenta is unique in that they are an Open Storage customer - but they are using Open Storage to build and sell storage products of their own.  They bill their product as “Enterprise-class data storage for everyone!” Nexenta has built its NexentaOS and NexentaStor software appliance from OpenSolaris and ZFS; and they can deploy it over the Sun Fire X4500 as well as other HW.

Like DigiTar, Nexenta was founded by Linux gurus.  In fact, the Nexenta team developed the iSCSI stack that was adopted by the Linux community. So what platform did these experts in storage and open-source software choose to build a new storage offering?   OpenSolaris & ZFS - due to its advanced storage functionality and long history in enterprise environments.  

So now the company offers NexentaStor - a software-based NAS and iSCSI solution with unlimited incremental backups, snapshot mirroring and the inherent virtualization, performance, thin provisioning and ease of use benefits of ZFS.

Sapotek Inc.
Sapotek Inc. is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider that offers online desktop services to (currently) 200,000 users worldwide.  This SaaS provider had a classic Web 2.0 storage problem - how to massively scale, efficiently and affordably? 

Sapotek was running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Dell servers and had been maxing out at five concurrent threads per server. So they migrated to Sun Fire X4200 servers and the Sun Fire X4500 storage server running ZFS.  They replaced four (4) Dell/EMC storage systems with one (1) Sun Fire X4500.  Sapotek also used Sun's ZFS snapshot feature, and reported that it had reduced backup and recovery times by 99%!  (From hours/days to minutes).  Here is what their cheif tech officer,  Oscar Mondragon, said about Sun Open Storage: 

"The ZFS file system feature of the Solaris 10 OS is a marvel. It creates a common storage pool where all storage performs as fast as if it were local. Our administrators can grow, add, or remove storage on the fly in a single step. Just two people administer 24 TB."

Above is just a sampling of early customers that have deployed components of Sun's hardware and software Open Storage portfolio.  Read the Open Storage Adoption White Paper for more case studies or my previous blog post.  Additionally, take a look at these customer testimonials (Some have bought commercial versions of Sun's storage offerings and some have deployed open source offerings)

  • Dow Corning Corporation: Increased storage capacity by 50% with ZFS
  • Joyent: Sun Fire X4500 gave them a hosted storage business at $1/GB as opposed to $6-$7/GB for EMC
  • Nomura Bank: Used ZFS to create a common storage pool, with no partitions to manage. Admins can now provision or grow storage, and add or remove a file system with a single command.  ZFS also safeguards data at the bank by running 64-bit checksums
  • OmniTI: During a catastrophic accident when 1.8 TBs were lost, they restored their entire database in just seconds with ZFS
  • University of Calgary: Deployed SAM-QFS software for 229TBs of storage, moves data between Sun StorageTek Disk and Tape via policy
  • University of Oxford: Their digital library project will manage 9 million library items and support an average of 9,000 library resource requests a week
  • IN2P3/CNRS: Optimized datacenter space and reduced energy consumption with X4500


Very interesting to see how people are using open storage systems.

With a traditional hardware-based array, you get dual controllers at the least, and with the higher end ones, controllers in separate enclosures, so with the proper RAID 10 scheme you can have a failure of any unit.

Something that I'd be very interested in hearing about is your take on how to properly build a highly available iscsi target using an open storage stack. Seems like it's possible using AVS, ZFS, and VRRP-style failover. However, I haven't seen any case studies where people talk about iscsi targets that aren't married to a specific server.

Posted by Erek Dyskant on June 28, 2008 at 03:12 PM MDT #

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