Open source storage is software that has been developed in a collaborative, public format for the purpose of data storage. The term “open source” means an item is free to use and modify. It is licensed in a way that allows for its free use and distribution and can be altered and modified to fit the needs of its user.
Hadoop, for example, is a popular open source storage platform designed for processing data. It provides massive amounts of storage for any type of raw data and powerful processing abilities. Hadoop runs applications on clusters and is supported by the Apache Foundation and works with Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems (OSs).
Why is open source storage becoming popular?
There are several reasons open source storage has been gaining popularity. Its price (often free) is one good reason, and increased control over your own stored data is another. Some open source storage can also provide significant scalability. Another interesting feature is the ability to avoid vendor lock-in for data storage.
It can also be used for a variety of business needs, including file and print services, encryption, and array clustering. Moreover, open source storage can be supported on your own servers or the cloud, either by choosing from a number of cloud providers or creating your own self-hosted cloud storage.
Open source storage is also gaining popularity because it can be used to create network-attached storage (NAS), a storage area network (SAN), or object storage. Compared to commercial vendors, like NetApp and EMC, which tend to be expensive, open source storage offers a more affordable option for businesses looking for SAN and NAS solutions.
Network-attached storage (NAS)
NAS is data storage which is accessed through a network rather than connecting directly using a computer. Network-attached storage devices have a processor and an operating system, allowing them to run applications and share files easily with authorized individuals.
A NAS device can be accessed easily by several people, multiple computers, and mobile devices. Some open source storage options that support NAS include:
- FreeNAS, a is Linux-based solution
- OpenMediaVault, a solution that features services such as RSync, DAAP media server, and BitTorrent client
- Openfiler, a solution that supports both NAS and SAN and comes with a range of features
Storage area network (SAN)
SAN uses block-level data access. A storage area network is a high-speed computer network that interconnects shared pools of storage with multiple servers. Each server has access to the shared storage. It is a network offering access to block-level data storage. Although a storage area network only provides block-level access, file systems can be built on top of a SAN to provide file-level access.
Some open storage options that support SAN include:
- Libvirt Storage Management, a Linux-based solution that manages storage networks and supports a large number of storage pool types including directory pools, filesystem pools, logical volume pools, and NAS pools.
- Openfiler, a solution that supports both SAN and NAS and comes with a range of features
Object storage systems provide storage for massive volumes of unstructured data. Examples of object storage include Facebook for storing photos, Spotify for songs, and Dropbox for files used in online collaboration services.
Other open source storage options for object storage include:
- Ceph Object Storage Gateway, a scalable software solution that provides object, file, and block interfaces
- OpenIO, a solution used to manage large amounts of unstructured data
The benefits of open source storage
Open source storage has become an important tool for many organizations. It is fairly easy to integrate open source code with low-cost, highly standardized platforms (Apple, PCs). Generally, the uniformity that is customary for commodity hardware also makes the majority of open source code a plug-and-play process. Using open source software provides a number of advantages.
Licenses for open source storage software are typically free. A company can, however, improve on or add to open source software and charge for the alterations. Cost savings is the primary benefit for most open-source users. Free use or lowered costs allow organizations to operate on smaller budgets.
Total control and privacy
Open source storage provides more control and privacy than commercial software, which often ties companies to a cloud, requiring internet access to use the service and offering less privacy. Open source storage can also help to avoid the costs of dealing with vendor lock-in and allows customization that would not be possible with commercial or cloud-based software.
The community of open source supports creativity. It makes finding niche solutions easier to find, as members share their solutions and successes. Because community members are often quite comfortable with experimenting — they aren’t completely focused on profit — creative and innovative solutions are much more common. Often, solutions for an organization’s specific needs are already available.
Open source storage solutions offer a reasonable amount of support, which can be accessed for free through online community forums. GlusterFS provides an example of an open source storage community that provides reasonable support. They provide three internet relay chats (IRC) channels, or chat rooms, which is similar to the support offered by Apple and other large service and product providers.
There are two ways to add storage capacity to distributed storage systems. The first involves replacing the old, existing disks with newer ones having more storage capacity, or adding more disks. The other technique involves adding nodes, providing ”scale out” capacity. Whenever hardware is added, the whole system’s performance increases. Open source storage systems with built-in scalability are:
- Apache Hadoop
- StackSync (scalable personal cloud)
Also read: Ceph vs. Gluster: 2022 Review
Best practices and security
Most organizations prioritize some of their data for long-term storage. The question to ask is: “What kind of data should be stored, and what can be deleted instantly?” A generalized hierarchy can provide a ranking system that determines the kinds of data to keep stored and available.
Open source systems are less likely than closed source commercial software to contain bugs and security vulnerabilities. This is because, as a community, they are likely to have repaired any vulnerabilities, and typically release fixes much faster than commercial software competitors. On the other hand, open source software can be hacked more easily than commercial software.
Scanning for viruses and malware before storing
Files should be scanned for viruses and other malware before entering the network and its storage or cloud storage. It is best to scan files using different anti-malware engines and virus scans, such as machine learning-based, a combination of signatures, and heuristics.
Important data should be stored
- Some data and information is required by law to be saved or retained, such as data that communicates regulatory policies
- Contracts, business documents, etc.
- Data describing customer behavior and preferences, and data that helps to engage them
Not-so-important data might not be stored
- Non-regulated and non-vital data generated by daily business operations
- Machine data transmitted by equipment, sensors, or other sources. While useful in real time, machine data is generally redundant and not useful long term
- Newsletters that can be accessed from another source
- Advertisements from other businesses
Masking proprietary and private data before storing
Sensitive data, such as bank account details and social security numbers, should be blocked, masked, or redacted using data loss prevention technologies.
Using virus scans for possible infections
If there is a concern that storage has been compromised, initiate a virus scan immediately. The sooner the scan, the less damage and potential fallout.
Removing possible embedded threats
Images, PDF files, and even Microsoft Office files can contain embedded threats which may not be detected by anti-malware. Removing these threats can be accomplished with a process named “Content Disarm and Reconstruction.”
A collaborative, public format
Open source storage provides organizations with the agility and flexibility needed to control their data storage. The open source community supports the evolution of software, developing new features through a combination of community demand and individual creativity. Open source storage can be free, or privately updated versions can be accessed at low prices. This allows organizations to increase both the volume and the variety of the data being stored. The financial savings can be directed to other projects or needs.