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Gluster prepares clustered NAS virtual appliance for VMware

Dave Raffo, Senior News Director

Open source storage startup Gluster Inc. this week launched a clustered NAS virtual

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appliance. Gluster's VMStor supports the VMware API, and the vendor claims it scales to petabytes and can store an unlimited number of virtual machine (VM) images.

Gluster has been shipping a clustered NAS platform that runs on commodity hardware since 2007. Jack O'Brien, Gluster's vice president of marketing, said NAS is the most efficient way to manage VMware images because it treats them as files.

"NAS is built to store files and virtual machine images are just files, so why not store these things on systems built for files," O'Brien said.

VMStor supports NFS and customers can manage it through the vSphere GUI. Snapshots are performed at the individual virtual machine level, and performed by Gluster on the storage server to free CPU cycles on VMware ESX machines.

VMStor is in beta with general availability expected by the end of the year. O'Brien said Gluster expects to add VMStor versions for Citrix Xen and Red Hat RHEV/KVM hypervisors in 2011. He said there is no timetable for Microsoft Hyper-V support because Gluster customers haven't asked for it.

Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager at IDC, said Gluster is following a path that so far only iSCSI vendors such as DataCore Software Corp., FalconStor Software Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and StorMagic have taken with block storage virtual appliances.

"Gluster is creating a virtual appliance that is not for block access, but NFS access for virtualization," she said. "That creates an interesting dynamic. I wouldn't be surprised to see other vendors going in that direction."

Greyzdorf said VMStor can provide a low-cost approach to storage for virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs). "One of the barriers for VDIs has been the cost of storage to run them," she said. "A lot of desktop virtualization infrastructures are deployed over NFS, so if you could create virtual machines and cluster them together instead of using monolithic storage, it could have significant price implications."

VMStor is part of the Gluster Storage Platform introduced last December that added a new web GUI and support for virtual servers to the GlusterFS scale-out NAS product that started shipping in 2007. Gluster has also added features such as striping and replication to its original product. But Greyzdorf said Gluster is still at the early stage of development, which means its management and data protection capabilities can't yet match those of established NAS vendors.

"It doesn't have all the capabilities that somebody like NetApp has," she said. "It doesn't have the sophisticated snapshots or logical snaps or management and data protection tools that enterprises desire. There are still areas to grow and develop, but the underlying architecture is interesting with a lot of opportunity."