Gartner on OpenStack Swift

In their September 14, 2012 report on OpenStack, Gartner made a notable observation on OpenStack Swift:

“Swift originated as the software behind Rackspace’s Cloud Files offering. It is the most stable and widely-adopted part of OpenStack, with a successful operational track record at scale, commonly used by cloud IaaS providers and has become the most common implementation of object-based, S3-style (but not S3-compatible) storage.”

After working with many organizations on their Swift deployments and contributing to the development of Swift, we here at SwiftStack couldn’t agree more as this statement nails some of the key characteristics of Swift and reflects our experience helping customers deploy, manage and operate large-scale Swift clusters. While this statement is a pretty succinct summary on some of Swift’s benefits, we thought it would be helpful to provide some additional context on the key points that Gartner made on Swift:

Stability – Swift is extremely stable. Not just how it has been architected to withstand hardware failures, but as Gartner noted, “Swift storage has a solid track record and code-base longevity”, which is a key requirement for any storage system that is used in production. When designing an extremely durable storage system like Swift, the starting point needs to be what actually works in production, not just in the cluster run by the team who wrote the code – but in thousands of nodes managed by IT teams with varying degrees of experience.

By focusing on being a great web-based storage system, Swift can optimize for that use case. Trying to unify all storage needs into one system increases complexity and reduces stability.

Wide adoption – As one of the two initial components of the OpenStack project, Swift is used for a variety of use-cases. Swift’s usage range from small deployments for “just” storing VM images, to mission critical storage clusters for high-volume websites, mobile application development, custom file-sharing applications, data analytics and private storage infrastructure-as-a-service.

Operational track record at scale – What differentiates Swift from many other storage systems is that it originated in a large-scale production environment, which means that it was architected to withstand hardware failures without any downtime and provided operations teams the means to maintain, upgrade and enhance a cluster while in flight. Swift also scales linearly so operations can just add storage capacity when it is needed.

The final point Gartner made is that Swift is “S3-style (but not S3-compatible) storage”, which is technically correct since the OpenStack Swift API differs from the S3 API in some ways and for good reason. For users who do desire to use the S3 API, however, there is an optional contrib module for Swift which provides an S3 compatible API.

We look forward to seeing more on OpenStack Swift from Gartner and will keep you posted when we do.

Anders Tjernlund

Anders Tjernlund

COO, SwiftStack


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