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Linux-Powered Enterprise Storage: Openfiler

High-Powered Open Source Storage

  • June 24, 2009
  • By Jennifer Schiff

Open source software is hardly a new concept, but it has only recently begun to make significant inroads into the world of enterprise data storage, where the big name proprietary vendors have (at least until now) had the advantage.

But as the open source community has grown and code has matured, with Linux taking root in more and more enterprises large and small, storage vendors, including big names like Sun Microsystems, have been developing open source networked storage solutions.

One network storage software vendor, Openfiler, never needed to be convinced of the benefits of offering enterprises an open source network storage operating system.

Openfiler saw open source - the Linux kernel - as a way for enterprises to inexpensively yet efficiently deploy and manage their storage networks years ago. And it developed an open source network storage operating system with a Web-based GUI that worked with any industry standard x86 or x86/64 server, which enterprises could download for free. Several years later, Openfiler boasts more than 1,000 customers and is busy developing new features to serve its growing customer base - and both enterprises and vendors have taken notice.

iSCSI, NAS, FC, RAID...

In addition to the Linux kernel, Openfiler uses open source technologies such as Samba CIFS fileserver and LVM2 block device virtualization to give small and large enterprises the ability to do file-based network attached storage (NAS) and block-based storage area networking (SAN) "in a single cohesive framework."

For enterprises seeking a file-based storage networking solution, Openfiler provides CIFS and NFS support to ensure cross-platform capability. And for enterprises with virtualization environments such as Citrix XenServer and VMware, Openfiler provides both Fibre Channel and iSCSI (target and initiator) support. Openfiler also supports RAID.

While some storage administrators may be hesitant to try an open source network storage solution, even one with an unbeatable price tag, Rafiu Fakunle, the co-founder and project lead of Openfiler, said they shouldn't be.

"Open source has been around for a while, and it has built up a level of credibility," he said. Indeed, Openfiler software has been around for more than six years now and has amassed more than 1,000 customers. "So you don't have to worry that if the software breaks, there's no one to fix it, because you have a vendor backing you up."

Fakunle said that with open source software, you don't have to wait for the next release or upgrade to get a problem fixed or get the feature you really want. For example, if a user has downloaded Openfiler and wants a specific feature, he can submit a request, "and if it's not too difficult, we'll implement it within a few days, or sometimes within hours," he said.

And because Openfiler is based on the Linux kernel, "it's compatible with most operating systems out there in terms of hardware," Fakunle added. "So even if a specific vendor doesn't sell the driver for their hardware, we have folks in the open source community who can reverse engineer stuff to get it to be compatible with a specific piece of hardware."

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