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SwiftStack emerges with OpenStack Swift private cloud platform

Startup SwiftStack goes GA with its OpenStack Swift-based object storage platform for customers who want to build private storage clouds.

SwiftStack today launched its first product: a private storage cloud system built on OpenStack Swift open source software and commodity hardware.

The SwiftStack storage system uses a software-defined controller and scalable hardware nodes. The startup positions the object storage platform as a lower-cost alternative to public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

SwiftStack is a core contributor to the OpenStack Swift community. OpenStack Swift, also known as OpenStack Object Storage, is used by cloud providers such as Rackspace and HP Cloud.

SwiftStack CEO Joe Arnold said his company's platform has been in beta with about six customers. He said the customers include service providers and enterprises.

Some customers first deployed an application in AWS, and migrated to a private cloud to keep costs down after the application started to grow, Arnold said.

"It's not uncommon for large, popular applications to cost $100,000 a month in Amazon bills," he said. "Once the AWS bill goes into tens of thousands of dollars, it's not uncommon for customers to start thinking, 'We can build our own infrastructure and have more control.' That is when we get involved in the conversation."

A SwiftStack subscription starts at $249 per month per 25 TB in use.

SwiftStack's storage system consists of a controller and storage nodes. The SwiftStack Controller operates, manages and monitors hardware, storage software and middleware. It automates configuration, expansion and failure handling for the private clouds. The controller has a browser-based dashboard to manage the distributed system.

The controller is out-of-band and supports Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.

SwiftStack nodes are integrated stacks built on commodity hardware. A stack includes OpenStack Swift, monitoring agents and a package-based installer that drops directly onto the customer's Linux distribution of choice: Red Hat, CentOS or Ubuntu.

The nodes also include a SwiftStack runtime and drag-and-drop Web interface that allows users to manage files through a Web-based console.

"To get the cloud up and running, we have streamlined and standardized the process with our software to make it a simple install," Arnold said.

Customers choose a cloud-hosted controller or an on-premises controller. With the SwiftStack hosted controller, the storage nodes run in the cloud for quicker deployment and easier management. The data remains in the data center. The SwiftStack on-premises controller allows for full management of the storage behind the firewall.

Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said OpenStack faces the typical challenge that most open source software encounters: lack of support and services. SwiftStack is trying to do for open source object storage what RedHat did for Linux, she said.

"It needs what it took for Linux to take off -- an organization that gives support, services, implementation and configuration," she said. "In general, a lot of large companies are not comfortable with the public cloud, so many are deploying private clouds. Public clouds can be a tough challenge. You really have to know your workloads with Amazon because you are going to pay for every transaction."

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