Ceph: tickling my geek genes

Posted on Thu 08 March 2012 in blog

Haven't heard of Ceph, the open-source distributed petascale storage stack? Well, you've really been missing out. It's not just a filesystem. It's a filesystem, and a striped/replicated block device provider, and a virtualization storage backend, and a cloud object store, and then some.

Most of you will, by now, probably have heard of the Ceph filesystem, a distributed, replicated, extremely scaleable filesystem that went upstream with the 2.6.34 kernel release. But that filesystem is really just a client to something that happens server side, which is much more than just file storage.

RADOS, the reliable autonomic distributed object store is a massively distributed, replicating, rack-aware object store. It organizes storage in objects, where each object has an identifier, a payload, and a number of attributes.

Objects are allocated to a Placement Group (PG), and each PG maps to one or several Object Storage Devices or OSDs. OSDs are managed by a userspace daemon – everything server-side in Ceph is in userspace, really – and locally map to a simple directory. For local storage, objects simply map to flat files, so OSDs don't need to muck around with local block storage. And they can take advantage of lots of useful features built into advanced filesystems, like extended attributes, clones/reflinks, copy-on-write (with btrfs). Extra points for the effort to not reinvent wheels.

The entire object store uses a deterministic placement algorithm, CRUSH (Controlled Replication Under Scaleable Hashing). There's never a central instance to ask on every access, instead, everything can work out where objects are. That means the store scales out seamlessly, and can expand and contract on the admin's whim.

And based on that basic architecture, there's a number of entry points and deployment scenarios for the stack:

  • radosgw provides a RESTful API for dynamic cloud storage. And it includes an S3 and Swift frontend to act as object storage for AWS/Eucalyptus and OpenStack clouds, respectively.

  • Qemu-RBD is a storage driver for the Qemu/KVM hypervisor (fully integrated with libvirt) that allows the hypervisor to access replicated block devices that are also striped across the object store – with a configurable number of replicas, of course.

  • RBD is a Linux block device that, again, is striped and replicated over the object store.

  • librados (C) and libradospp (C++) are APIs to access the object store programmatically, and come with a number of scripting language bindings. As you've probably guessed, Qemu-RBD builds on librados.

  • Ceph (the filesystem) exposes POSIX filesystem semantics built on top of RADOS, where all POSIX-related metadata is again stored in the object store. This is a remarkably thin client layer at just 17,000 LOC (compare to GFS2 at 26,000 and OCFS2 at 68,000).

In short: it's cool stuff. And it's 100% open source, it's all under the LGPL 2.1, and the developers have made a point of not creating any closed-source "enterprise" features – in short, they're not shipping "open core".1

We've recently started contributing to the Ceph project to improve its high-availability cluster integration: we've submitted Pacemaker agents to monitor the Ceph daemons proper (a pretty trivial wrapper for a script that ships with Ceph, for now). And we've also contributed a resource agent to manage an RBD device as a Pacemaker resource. The latter gives Pacemaker users the ability to use RBD devices as a drop-in replacement for iSCSI devices, MD devices under Pacemaker control, or DRBD. The Ceph community has been exceptionally welcoming and has made contributing a pleasure – there's no copyright assignment nonsense, no CLAs, just a very positive attitude toward outside contributions.

And in case you want to use a Ceph filesystem as a generally available file system in your Pacemaker cluster (as you would with NFS, GlusterFS, GFS2, or OCFS2), you can do that now, too. However, please be cautioned that that should be considered an experimental feature: the Ceph devs have made it very clear on numerous occasions that they're currently focusing on making RADOS and RBD rock solid, and then they'll tackle the POSIX filesystem layer to get it out of experimental mode.

This article originally appeared on my blog on the hastexo.com website (now defunct).

  1. The original version used the term crippleware here, which I now consider highly inappropriate. (The term open core, to the best of my recollection, wasn't particularly current in 2012.) I would like to apologize for my use of the previous term. The article contains no other edits in comparison to the 2012 original.