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Open Source Ceph Storage Filesystem Goes Commercial

When open source software gets used in production grade environments, commercial support businesses tend to show up. That's exactly what is now happening with the open source Ceph distributed storage filesystem.

Ceph is now backed by Inktank, a commercial venture led by Sage Weil, founder of Ceph. The company had originally incorporated under the name Ceph Inc, but it decided to take a different route to help preserve the integrity of the open source project.

"To name the company after the project gives the company a short-term advantage in terms of visibility," Sage Weil, founder of Ceph and CEO of Inktank, told InternetNews.com. "But it steals from the project's long-term viability as an open source project that is tied to one company's fate."

Ceph is competitive in some respects to the open source Gluster project, which was backed by a company known as Gluster Inc. Red Hat acquired Gluster Inc. in 2011 for $136 million. Weil said that the Gluster naming is an example of what he didn't want to do. In his view, whenever anyone thought of Gluster they thought of the company and not the community of open source contributors.

"We want Ceph to live on no matter what company gets involved, " Bryan Bogensberger, president and COO of Inktank, told InternetNews.com. "We want it to be a strong open source project, and we don't want the community to have questions about governance."

According to Bogensberger, people all over the world are currently using Ceph in real deployments. Ceph has been part of the mainline Linux kernel since the 2.6.34 release in May 2010. The purpose of Inktank is to help support Ceph deployments.

As a company, Inktank is still in the process of figuring out all of its strategy in regards to some kind of enterprise long-term support release. Weil expects that the company will maintain all of its efforts as open source, although he stressed that the company could have non-open vertical solutions, such as specific billing system integrations.

"Ceph delivers object, block and file storage, but everything is really built on file storage," Bogensberger said. "You have things built on top of the object store called RADOS."

RADOS is solid already, and the plan is for the filesystem to be stable by the end of the year with clustered metadata servers.

Currently, the Ceph open source project is at the 0.46 release and with Inktank, development will accelerate as more resources are brought in. Although it's not a 1.0 release, Weil noted that 1.0 doesn't really matter for Ceph. In many open source projects, a 1.0 release signifies a commitment to backwards binary compatibility. In Ceph's case, binary compatibility has been enabled since version 0.42.

"The goal is that every version will be forward and backward compatible unless there are exceptional circumstances," Weil said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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