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Ceph Day Amsterdam 2012 (Object and Cloud Storage)

Ceph is used for deploying object storage, cloud storage and managed services

Recently while I was in Europe presenting some sessions at conferences and doing some seminars, I was invited by Ed Saipetch (@edsai) of to attend the first Ceph Day in Amsterdam.

Ceph day image

As luck or fate would turn out, I was in Nijkerk which is about an hour train ride from Amsterdam central station plus a free day in my schedule. After a morning train ride and nice walk from Amsterdam Central I arrived at the Tobacco Theatre (a former tobacco trading venue) where Ceph Day was underway, and in time for lunch of Krokettens sandwich.

Attendees at Ceph Day

Let's take a quick step back and address for those not familiar what is Ceph (Cephalanthera) and why it was worth spending a day to attend this event. Ceph is an open source distributed object scale out (e.g. cluster or grid) software platform running on industry standard hardware.

Dell server supporting ceph demoSketch of ceph demo configuration

Ceph is used for deploying object storage, cloud storage and managed services, general purpose storage for research, commercial, scientific, high performance computing (HPC) or high productivity computing (commercial) along with backup or data protection and archiving destinations. Other software similar in functionality or capabilities to Ceph include OpenStack Swift, Basho Riak CS, Cleversafe, Scality and Caringo among others. There are also the tin wrapped software (e.g. appliances or pre-packaged) solutions such as Dell DX (Caringo), DataDirect Networks (DDN) WOS, EMC ATMOS and Centera, Amplidata and HDS HCP among others. From a service standpoint, these solutions can be used to build services similar Amazon S3 and Glacier, Rackspace Cloud files and Cloud Block, DreamHost DreamObject and HP Cloud storage among others.

Ceph cloud and object storage architecture image

At the heart of Ceph is RADOS a distributed object store that consists of peer nodes functioning as object storage devices (OSD). Data can be accessed via REST (Amazon S3 like) APIs, Libraries, CEPHFS and gateway with information being spread across nodes and OSDs using a CRUSH based algorithm (note Sage Weil is one of the authors of CRUSH: Controlled, Scalable, Decentralized Placement of Replicated Data). Ceph is scalable in terms of performance, availability and capacity by adding extra nodes with hard disk drives (HDD) or solid state devices (SSDs). One of the presentations pertained to DreamHost that was an early adopter of Ceph to make their DreamObjects (cloud storage) offering.

Ceph cloud and object storage deployment image

In addition to storage nodes, there are also an odd number of monitor nodes to coordinate and manage the Ceph cluster along with optional gateways for file access. In the above figure (via DreamHost), load balancers sit in front of gateways that interact with the storage nodes. The storage node in this example is a physical server with 12 x 3TB HDDs each configured as a OSD.

Ceph dreamhost dreamobject cloud and object storage configuration image

In the DreamHost example above, there are 90 storage nodes plus 3 management nodes, the total raw storage capacity (no RAID) is about 3PB (12 x 3TB = 36TB x 90 = 3.24PB). Instead of using RAID or mirroring, each objects data is replicated or copied to three (e.g. N=3) different OSDs (on separate nodes), where N is adjustable for a given level of data protection, for a usable storage capacity of about 1PB.

Note that for more usable capacity and lower availability, N could be set lower, or a larger value of N would give more durability or data protection at higher storage capacity overhead cost. In addition to using JBOD configurations with replication, Ceph can also be configured with a combination of RAID and replication providing more flexibility for larger environments to balance performance, availability, capacity and economics.

Ceph dreamhost and dreamobject cloud and object storage deployment image

One of the benefits of Ceph is the flexibility to configure it how you want or need for different applications. This can be in a cost-effective hardware light configuration using JBOD or internal HDDs in small form factor generally available servers, or high density servers and storage enclosures with optional RAID adapters along with SSD. This flexibility is different from some cloud and object storage systems or software tools which take a stance of not using or avoiding RAID vs. providing options and flexibility to configure and use the technology how you see fit.

Here are some links to presentations from Ceph Day:
Introduction and Welcome by Wido den Hollander
Ceph: A Unified Distributed Storage System by Sage Weil
Ceph in the Cloud by Wido den Hollander
DreamObjects: Cloud Object Storage with Ceph by Ross Turk
Cluster Design and Deployment by Greg Farnum
Notes on Librados by Sage Weil

Presentations during ceph day

While at Ceph day, I was able to spend a few minutes with Sage Weil Ceph creator and founder of to record a pod cast (listen here) about what Ceph is, where and when to use it, along with other related topics. Also while at the event I had a chance to sit down with Curtis (aka Mr. Backup) Preston where we did a simulcast video and pod cast. The simulcast involved Curtis recording this video with me as a guest discussing Ceph, cloud and object storage, backup, data protection and related themes while I recorded this pod cast.

One of the interesting things I heard, or actually did not hear while at the Ceph Day event that I tend to hear at related conferences such as SNW is a focus on where and how to use, configure and deploy Ceph along with various configuration options, replication or copy modes as opposed to going off on erasure codes or other tangents. In other words, instead of focusing on the data protection protocol and algorithms, or what is wrong with the competition or other architectures, the Ceph Day focused was removing cloud and object storage objections and enablement.

Where do you get Ceph? You can get it here, as well as via and

Thanks again to Sage Weil for taking time out of his busy schedule to record a pod cast talking about Ceph, as well and inktank for hosting, and the invitation to attend the first Ceph Day in Amsterdam.


View of downtown Amsterdam on way to train station to return to Nijkerk
Returning to Amsterdam central station after Ceph Day

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

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