In a move that underlines the growing importance of distributed storage systems to the growth of open source in the Big Data and cloud computing worlds, Red Hat (RHT) announced this week the launch of the Gluster Community, a new consortium of organizations with stakes in open storage systems. And the identities of the charter members say a lot about where exactly this niche is headed.

The Gluster Community is an outgrowth of the GlusterFS project, which released the first production version of its open source distributed file system in October 2012. Alongside a handful of other open source storage systems, GlusterFS is a vital component of the rapidly evolving open source software stack for Big Data and cloud projects. Apache Hadoop and OpenStack are the other two major parts.

In addition to Red Hat, DataLab, Hortonworks, Intel (INTC), The Linux Foundation, NTTPC and the Open Source Lab at Oregon State University have signed on as charter members of the consortium. The group's mission, according to a statement from Red Hat, is "to govern the community and provide guidance for the community at large." It will also "decide which projects reach the milestones required for inclusion in the official Gluster Software Distribution and identify areas of innovation to address open technology advancements of open software-defined storage."

Building Fences

The Gluster Community already counts some big-name members (not the least of which is Red Hat, arguably the most powerful open source vendor), and more organizations will likely sign on as the group gains momentum. But the establishment of the consortium is also notable for who's not in it. And the name that stands out most at the moment is that of Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux.

Canonical's absence is not surprising, since the company has thrown most of its weight behind Ceph, another open source distributed storage system. In this respect, the contours of the Gluster Community seem to signal what could become heated competition within the open source ecosystem to see which storage technology will prevail—or whether Ceph and GlusterFS can coexist over the long term.

There are plenty of other important free agents out there in the open source world, such as SUSE and scores of channel partners, who will play the most important role in determining the outcome. And the competition is far from over. Stay tuned.