European Ceph day at CERN

Welcome to Ceph day at CERN in Switzerland

Every year since 2012, the Ceph community (now supported by Red Hat after the Inktank acquisition) has been running day long workshops in all corners of the world to educate, promote and foster understanding of Ceph.

These events provide a platform for all interested Ceph Developers and Users to meet, share information and to help achieve the project objectives of providing a massively scalable, open source, software-defined storage system that will radically improve the economics and management of enterprise data storage.

Here at System Professional, we got very interested in the project in 2012 due to the obvious benefits of a combined Object, Block and File storage platform that would allow us to drive down the cost of our hosting operations, pass on cost savings to clients and allow us to develop a best of breed hosting service that included free replication (amongst other benefits), yet still be able to provide a super-resilient service with the right performance to boot.

So since 2012, we have been tracking Ceph development closely and our attendance at (our) first Ceph Day in London 2014 really demonstrated to us that this was a real project and a real product with serious interest from large-scale clients such as CERN and Yahoo!.

In 2014 we built our first Ceph cluster in our DR site and it has been operational ever since we simply ramp up our implementation every time we need to bolt on additional storage.

From the early days, we have seen the community expand massively – the development “muscle” has increased (to over 300 contributors of which 60-ish are full time on the project) along with client uptake to the point where now not only Academia and Research organisations (who were the early adopters for the project originally due to massive scalable data requirements) are using the technology, but also commercial giants such as Ebay, Yahoo!, Pinterest and a whole bunch of Banking institutions in the US.

So, on the 14th June, our small System Professional delegation made the short hop to Geneva to attend this years’ European Ceph Day which was held at CERN. Obviously, the decision to attend was a bit of a no brainer as we are always excited to meet the Senior Ceph team (including the founder Sage Weil and Patrick McGarry – who heads up the project from a Red Hat perspective) along with some of the projects’ more “heavy users” such as the team from CERN who are doing pretty much everything on a massive scale! The additional bonus that we would be hanging out directly on top of the LHC experiment clinched the deal – pure geek heaven!

Let’s just say the event didn’t disappoint. We heard presentations from a wide variety of Ceph community members and it was interesting to see how much uptake the project has now got both from Users, the Open Source community but also hardware vendors who clearly see the momentum the project has now got and don’t want to be left behind in the Software defined storage world.

You can read all about the event and see the presentations at

But in terms of (my) personal highlights and key observations;

  • Ceph must surely be one of the most stress tested storage products out there. CERN have 150PB now and are adding 50PB++ per annum!
  • OpenStack is still Ceph’s killer application. Over 60% of OpenStack implementations use Ceph as a back-end.
  • CephFS is now stable!
  • Ceph iSCSI support (very handy for VMware) has improved and we run a stable “flavour” in-house.
  • Disk and Flash vendors are now heavily developing their products to be optimised for Ceph. Intel have developed Cache Acceleration (CAS), originally for Yahoo! to radically improve performance, particularly with Erasure Code configurations. This is allowing hugely improved ROI metrics. SanDisk have their own pre-built products already running Ceph. The majority of other hardware vendors (including HP, Dell, SuperMicro and IBM) also now have Ceph reference architectures.
  • It is clear from these vendors that Ceph and Software Defined Storage technologies are now much more strategically important than the older, traditional SAN/NAS appliance products.
  • The Jewel release of Ceph includes some major enhancements and the roadmap for future releases (Kraken and Luminous) is already well established (we will cover this in a separate blog post!). Ceph really is the future of storage and will prove to be hugely disruptive to the traditional SAN architecture model and pricing structure.
  • Commercial organisations are now starting to get on board (particularly in the US), Academia and Research have been benefitting for many years already. We’ve seen how commercial organisations always follow slightly behind the “bleeding edge” Users, mainly due to resilience, resource and support challenges.
  • Ceph consultancy businesses (for commercial clients) are still in their infancy, but hopefully more service providers will embrace the technology (like we have at System Professional!) to drive more early adoption in the UK and steal some competitive advantage too! This is particularly relevant for customers who want to get on board but don’t necessarily want to pay for supported software licences as pilots and Proof of Concepts can be delivered with a pure Open Source play, converting installations to supported Red Hat versions etc. later on in the project.

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