Open Source Software Defined Storage: why Ceph development is now, and always will be, a team sport.

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‘‘East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet’. Rudyard Kipling

Here’s a statement of the obvious: proprietary software, and open source software have diametrically opposed business models.

The former is the traditional business model of software companies: the vendor writes the code exclusively in-house, defines the roadmap, and then sells it on to you, the end customer, at as high a price as the market (you) can stand, often bundled with their proprietary hardware (which, ironically is often commodity hardware with a corporate logo on the box – a bit like those ‘premium’ consumer products we all buy with Western brand names on the packaging and ‘made in China’ stamped on the actual goods).

The latter is the disruptive new kid on the block, tearing up the old business model and approach to writing code by getting lots of different companies and individuals to contribute – a joint endeavour in pursuit of better code, written faster, deployed more widely, and most importantly to you in the end user world, given away free. With open source software you’re free to use the cheap commodity hardware of your choice (without paying the big brand price tag – whether made in China or not) free from vendor lock down, and free to tinker directly with the code yourself – you can even get your tailored alterations written back into the source code of new releases, when the ‘community’ likes it. You become part of the team.

Ask a few developers working on Open Source communities why they do it when they don’t get paid, and you’re likely to hear comments like ‘software should be free’ and that ‘proprietary ownership of code holds back progress’. There’s a strong feeling that they are doing something altruistic which aids the scientific progress of mankind, which is helping to drive us all together forward into a better future, a future not owned by a cartel of proprietary vendors; at heart, this is a belief that knowledge should be shared, not owned. Of course there are still costs – still things you have to pay for: open source is more like a free recipe than a free lunch, but the cost of a good home-cooked meal is always less than one cooked by a chef in a restaurant.

Open Source wins because it isn’t a fair match. On one side, you’ve got a highly motivated community of developers using the software in real-world scenarios, plus a number of supporting vendors contributing development time, marketing clout (back to the labels again), and their sales channels. The proprietary vendor is good, don’t get me wrong. But, even Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi or even both of them together can’t beat the worst conference team.

Ceph_logoSo, who decides the future of open source projects like Ceph?

Ceph, like football, is a team sport. As Tim Burke, vice president of Infrastructure Engineering Development at Red Hat said, its about “collaboratively working among communities to accomplish vastly more than any single company could do alone”.

SUSE is proud to be part of the team, with our very own Lars Marowsky-Bree joining the advisory board, working alongside the other corporate sponsors, Canonical, Cisco, Intel, Fujitsu, and the academic representation from the legendary Swiss physics lab at CERN. We’re playing a major part, the first in this ecosphere to deliver a Ceph version that supports heterogeneous networks with iSCSI support in vs 2.0 – with more leadership and innovation to come in June with vs 3.0.

Want to know what the future of Ceph is? Then watch this space.

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Jason Phippen
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