The buzz in the open source world last week centered around OpenStack, the cloud computing operating system. But OpenStack depends on many other pieces to run, one of which is scale-out storage from platforms such as Red Hat's (RHT) GlusterFS. With that fact in mind, the VAR Guy recently chatted with Gluster project lead Dave Mcallister about Gluster's present and future, which stands to have important impacts on the cloud and more.

Red Hat rolled out the latest edition of Gluster, version 3.6.0, on Oct. 31, just ahead of the OpenStack Summit which wrapped up on Friday in Paris. And although the latest iteration of the scale-out storage system is technically a point release, it introduces several key new features. Chief among them, in Mcallister's estimation, are:

  1. Volume snapshots, allowing GlusterFS users to back up entire volumes even while the volumes are online.
  2. Erasure coding across GlusterFS volume, which provides better redundancy and more cost-efficiency.
  3. Improved SSL support, with SSL now available on both the data pathway and the management pathway for GlusterFS.
  4. Completely rewritten automatic file replication replication code, which makes this part of GlusterFS "substantially faster and eliminates some features that were causing performance headaches," according to Mcallister.
  5. A meta translator that allows administrators to view the internal translators on GlusterFS client volume in a way similar to that offered by the /proc virtual file system on Linux.

Mcallister also shared thoughts about where Gluster—which, by the way, is the project behind GlusterFS, not a synonym for it—is headed in the future. "We already have pretty good plans in place for 3.7," such as netgroup-style authentication, he said. And at the rate Gluster has been pushing out new versions—3.6 is the second release to appear this calendar year—those features are likely to be available sooner rather than later.

But beyond the 3.7 release, the Gluster team is looking to the open source community to plan the next phases of GlusterFS, according to Mcallister. "We want to make sure the community gets involved in helping us decide where Gluster goes after that," although he added that the Gluster team envisions playing an increasingly important part in the OpenStack ecosystem as the latter evolves. The latest OpenStack User Survey, out this month, indicates that Gluster is currently the third most popular block storage system for OpenStack, and McAllister believes its importance in that space will continue to grow, particularly because GlusterFS allows OpenStack users to maintain a "single-namespace file system."

"Gluster has features in it that really work well with a cloud-enabled environment," McAllister said.

McAllister himself is still relatively new to the Gluster project. He joined Red Hat in August after an eight-year tenure as director of Open Source Standards at Adobe (ADBE), with extensive experience before that time working with a range of open source projects.