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Ceph-starter Suse to enter software-defined storage market

Linux vendor aims to take on EMC with commodity storage

Linux vendor Suse has kicked off this year's SuseCon in Orlando, Florida by announcing that it's getting into the software-defined storage business, starting early next year.

The company made a new offering, known simply as Suse Storage, available in private beta beginning on Tuesday, with general availability expected for the first half of 2015.

That the chameleonic Linux vendor should want a piece of the storage market should come as no surprise. In a statement announcing the new offering, Suse Storage product manager Larry Morris said the storage market is "poised for disruptive change, just like the server market was 15 years ago."

But what is somewhat unexpected is that Suse has chosen to hitch its storage ambitions to the open source distributed block, object, and file storage system Ceph. Inktank, the company behind Ceph, was acquired by Suse rival Red Hat in April for $175m, and is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

While Red Hat still offers Inktank Ceph Enterprise as a commercial product, however, the core Ceph software remains open source, meaning there's nothing preventing Suse or other companies from rolling distributions of their own.

A pure-software offering, Ceph is designed to run on commodity servers and disk arrays as an alternative to costly equipment from traditional storage vendors like EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, and NetApp.

In a recent report, Gartner said it expects Ceph and similar open source storage systems to reach 20 per cent market share by 2018, as escalating enterprise data retention drives up demand for cheap and reliable storage systems.

The first version of Suse Storage will be based on the "Firefly" release of Ceph, the company said. Pricing was not discussed and no ship date was given, but companies that would like to participate in the beta program can contact Suse to get on the list.

Suse also said it has teamed up with SAP to help lure Suse customers to the SAP HANA data analytics platform. Under the new program, qualifying startups will be able to download a virtual machine that comes preloaded with a developer edition of HANA running on Suse Linux Enterprise Server and try it out for six months at no charge. They'll also be eligible for free training from Suse's Certified Linux Administrator (CLA) Academy.

More uptime, greater flexibility in the cloud

Suse threw a couple of bones to Suse Linux Enterprise customers during Tuesday's SuseCon keynotes, too. The first is that live kernel patching based on the kGraft project is now available on a subscription basis for every maintenance release of Suse Linux Enterprise Server 12 for the 64-bit Intel architecture. The tech allows admins to apply patches to production servers without rebooting or stopping the system.

"It's a fully open source solution that features zero-interruption interaction with the system and a familiar deployment method," Suse product manager Matthias Eckerman said in a statement. "It's ideal for mission-critical systems, in-memory databases, extended simulations or quick fixes in a large server farm."

Suse has also adjusted its licensing terms to allow customers to migrate their existing Suse subscriptions to virtual machine instances running in the public cloud, at no additional cost. The subscriptions can be used to migrate existing workloads to the cloud or to spin up entirely new ones. The only catch is that the bring-your-own-subscription option is only available with Suse Certified Cloud Providers. ®


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