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Top Open Source Software in Enterprise Storage

Top Open Source Software in Enterprise Storage

August 13, 2009

When entertaining the idea of using open source software, many businesses might readily consider it in their instant messaging system, word processors, intranet, and other low-risk computer applications. Few, however, would use it in their enterprise storage.

But all that is changing. More and more businesses today are finding out that open source software can reduce IT costs and improve security. Because open source software is distributed for free, businesses do not have to pay for licenses. Additionally, due to the small number of open source users, there is less risk of a system attack. Gone are those days when using ‘open source’ and ‘enterprise storage’ in the same sentence will elicit sarcasm.

Open Source Storage Landscape

Adding to the viability of open source tools for enterprise storage is the burgeoning freeware landscape. The IBM-backed Aperi system and the OpenSolaris system from Sun Microsystems are two of the preeminent names that have made significant inroads in the industry. These traditionally pay-per-license software developers have embraced open source, and are now used by numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Why would these companies share their expensive software with the rest of the open source community? For sure, they get something in return. With more users comes greater control of the technology. And as the technology matures, the potential for profit is there. Different software suites from several companies are currently fighting for this control. Here are some of the best among them, divided into categories of enterprise storage management.

File System

ZFS, or Zettabyte File System, is a feature-packed file system from Sun Microsystems. It was introduced along with Solaris 10, and it is considered to have started the movement of simplified storage administration. ZFS allows IT administrators to manage RAID and logical volumes, stretch storage capacity, and hide the numerous ‘dirty details’ of datacenter management. IT folks don’t need to check data integrity anymore, because the ZFS automates that procedure efficiently.

File Server

When it comes to file servers, there is probably no platform more mature than FreeNAS. It is built on a FreeBSD base, and enjoys support from a massive community of software developers. The server supports CIFS, NFS, FTP, iSCSI, RSYNC, and Apple File Protocol—virtually all storage bases that are used today. The server has an intuitive web interface that makes it easy for system administrators to manage the datacenter across different protocols. Also, FreeNAS can be installed on a USB-connected external hard drive, which can prevent hardware failure since the core OS is not on the storage drives.

Storage Networking

AoE, or ATA over Ethernet, is an effective and cost-efficient way to transfer data between a host and a target device. It has a protocol mechanism that prevents conflicts among multiple users when they gain access to the same data at the same time. AoE tools are also easy to deploy in different types of businesses because they usually come in bundled suites from Linux distributors. In addition, these types of tools are free, but will require certain hardware.


As for benchmarking, stalwart names Iometer and IOzone remain the best tools for block and file I/O tracking. Both benchmarking tools are available on multiple platforms and by far the easiest to use in gathering I/O reports.

Bottom-Line Impact

Can anything free be good? Fortunately, yes! Open source programs are more efficient in using computer resources. They pose virtually no risk of attacks from spyware and malware. There is an active community that can provide support to any software issues. Best of all, open source software can be run on any type of existing computer hardware.

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