Inside the Aquarium: Investigating a storage appliance built on Ceph

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A long, long time ago, a young man named Sage Weil had a doctoral dissertation to complete. He sat in his living room (I presume) and thought to himself, “How can I improve Software-Defined Storage?”*

And so, Ceph was born.

But the perception is that Ceph is too complex to use for the average user. I get it. There’s a lot going on there.

This complexity stems from the fact that Ceph is inherently flexible. It supports a huge matrix of use cases and the effects this has on available capacity, performance and availability. All current management tooling deploys Ceph bottom-up. For example, the user must specify deployment patterns at the daemon level, create pools and CRUSH maps (which encode various availability and performance requirements) and only then can a user deploy their workload.

 

A short, short time ago, a young team (young in spirit, shall we say) had an internal project to complete. They sat on their laptops (I’m definitely sure of this) and thought to themselves, “How can we simplify Ceph?”

​And so, we investigated the beginnings of a new storage appliance and Aquarium was born in March 2021.​

Aquarium is a SUSE-sponsored open source project that aims to be an easy to use, rock-solid storage appliance based on Ceph. Aquarium was split into two clearly defined workstreams within the team: glass (frontend) and gravel (backend).

We were pretty happy with our naming scheme at this point.

Ceph is complicated, which is why we started Aquarium. But because of Ceph’s complexity, the Ceph dashboard was also too unwieldy and the aim of our game was to simplify Ceph management and day-to-day operations. So, we created Bubbles!

Bubbles is a new mgr-module we’ve developed to “plugin” to Ceph with a focus entirely on simplifying the management UI with an intuitive UI/UX experience that is primarily orchestrator centric. The user will not be exposed to Ceph-specific concepts such as pools, PGs, or the Ceph services. We’re putting a lot of effort into making operations as trivial as possible, such as recovering from disaster scenarios. ​

Aquarium and Bubbles are still in their infancy, and we’re pretty happy with how things are coming along. We’d love to invite you – the user, the operator, the reader – to come join our community. We’re friendly, fun, and write engaging blogs.

Check us out on GitHub or Slack. We welcome any questions or feedback.

If you’re interested in a little preview, you can see what we are up to here – although keep in mind, we’ve come a long way since then!

 

 

* I really don’t know if Sage Weil thought this or said this.

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Alexandra Settle
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