This post is part of the blog series related to Storage Field Day 11. Find out the entire SFD11 content, presentations, articles, presenting companies and delegates here.
I had the opportunity to attend Scality’s presentation at Storage Field Day 11, straight from their fantastic HQ looming above the Ferry Building in San Francisco’s Financial District. Besides the lovely location, fantastic coffee and the casual Blue Angels training in the vicinity, what can we learn about Scality? And how does a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings can write a post about Scality Ring without any Tolkien reference? Let’s read further!
Company & Product Presentation
Scality is an object storage startup with a solid part of it’s DNA coming from French horizons (which, obviously, I like a lot as the impenitent French guy I am). They have been around, according to their website, since February 2010 with their current name of, well, Scality.
Scality’s mission is, taken from their website, to “bridge the gap between application vendors and industry standard hardware providers to meet cost-effective storage scale, durability, cloud and performance requirements”. So how do they plan to achieve this?
First of all, Scality is a software-only company, with their RING software able to run on any commodity x86 hardware platform. It may make sense to consult with Scality to ensure that the selected hardware platform will deliver up to the expectations. In other words: commodity hardware doesn’t means cheap and/or underperforming (but you already knew this).
Unlike other SDS solutions, the RING operating system uses a specific method to communicate between nodes, which is different to the master/slave architecture. RING uses a peer-to-peer mesh communication model based on the CHORD protocol. No matter how much you scale your solution, each node is in contact with a specific set of other nodes, and the idea for this mesh architecture is to minimise the amount of traffic and to locate objects very quickly.
The Scality RING can be looked at like an onion: it is made of three layers, of which the outer one manages connectivity protocols (a.k.a. Connectors), the middle one takes care of data routing, high availability, self-healing and data reliability, while the inner one provides data placement (distributed storage) and abstraction between the RING and the actual physical storage.
The RING OS, now in version 6.0, offers file (NFS, SMB, Fuse) and object (S3, Native Scality REST API) capacities. It is also useable with OpenStack through Cinder, Glance and Swift. These access methods are defined at the Connector level (upper layer). This level provides a persistent shared cache and shared namespace across all connectors.
The system leverages SSD to store metadata in a logical ring, and HDD spindles to store actual objects in yet another logical ring. Most of the operations are performed at the metadata level, the goal being to touch the data residing on HDDs at the very last moment.
If we look at the middle layer, data protection is configurable up to the individual object level through to policies, with up to 6 replicas per object. In terms of data durability, I recommend to watch Giorgio Regni’s presentation at Storage Field Day 11. Finally, the RING is self-healing with rebuild processes & operations happening in the background. To avoid rebuilt performance penalties, data is served temporarily from a healthy node until the rebuild has completed.
The bottom layer, finally, takes care of distributing storage between nodes and of low level I/O operations.
I could go on and on but still wouldn’t make justice to the entire solution. Instead, I recommend to check out the “Further Reading” section below, as well as downloading Scality Technical Whitepaper & of course watching the videos available on Scality’s Tech Field Day Page.
A look at Scality economics
As said before Scality RING is a software-based solution, they are therefore not bound to a specific hardware platform and the logistics/economics that come with this. They currently partner with Cisco, Dell and HPE, but in theory any hardware platform could be used. It’s worth to mention that Scality is present in HPE portfolio under the HPE Scalable Object Storage with Scality RING solution.
Besides that partnership, HPE is also an investor in Scality, having first participated in Series D funding (an overall USD 45M round with 10 investors) and an additional injection of USD 10M at the end of 2015, reported by the good folks at El Reg. Considering all investments in Scality since the beginning, that would make for an overall funding of USD 112M if we consider the data available at Crunchbase (total USD 92M) + the additional HP investment of USD 10M.
Per Jerome Lecat (Scality CEO), Scality’s exit strategy is to go public, with an IPO by the end of 2017. I found this statement online from a video published on 30-Oct-15 so this statement may be subject to caution. In any case, make sure to watch this space.
With the choice of being a pure software player in the Object Storage market, Scality is eliminating at the very least the tedious issue of maintaining a hardware supply chain with all its inconvenients: sourcing, lifecycle refreshes, logistics & customs, inventory, RMAs.
This software strategy is likely to pay off because in the object storage area commodity hardware is more or less the norm. Furthermore, the primary requirement of an object store is not performance, but data reliability (shall we add durability/retrievability) and the capacity to ingest huge amounts of data, at low prices and on standard 10 GbE network interfaces. A smart move is their open-source Scality S3 Server: it allows to get access to Scality’s S3 implementation in a docker container environment and is a good entry point to test the features of Scality.
In terms of differentiators, their Active Directory and AWS IAM integration is an important aspect. Why Active Directory and IAM matter, since we are here to talk storage? Building a system with integrated Identity and Access Management makes the solution work better in enterprise environments where AD integration is often a requirement.
In my opinion, Scality will face the fiercest competition from the other software players in the object storage space. I am tempted to say that appliance or hardware-backed object storage providers are likely to lose ground in this area. Software capabilities is where the money is made, and in object storage we can expect bring-your-own-hardware to become the standard.
With steady funding and a “more than just best friends” partnership with HP, Scality seems to be well equipped for success -and potentially also leadership- in the object storage world.
- S3 object storage on Digital Ocean with Scality’s S3server – Enrico Signoretti
- S3, to rule them all! (storage tiers, that is) – Enrico Signoretti
- Scality S3 server, because small is cool! – Enrico Signoretti
- #SFD11 – Scality – One Ring To Rule Them All? – Ed Morgan
- CFD1 Prep: Scality – Justin Warren
- More links on Scality’s Tech Field Day Page
SFD11 Disclosure: this post is a part of my SFD11 post series. I am invited to the Storage Field Day 11 event by Gestalt IT. Gestalt IT will cover travel, accommodation and food during the SFD10 event duration. I will not receive any compensation for participation in this event, and I am also not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I may produce are the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. I will commit to share only my own point of view and analysis of the products and technologies I will be seeing/listening about during this event. Also, I got some Scality stickers if I remember well.