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DRBD/LINSTOR vs Ceph – a technical comparison

INTRODUCTION

The aim of this article is to give you some insight into CEPH, DRBD and LINSTOR by outlining their basic functions. The following points should help you compare these products and to understand which is the right solution for your system. Before we start, you should be aware of the fact that LINSTOR is made for DRBD and that it is highly recommended for you to use LINSTOR if you are also using DRBD.

DRBD

DRBD works by inserting a thin layer in between the file system, the buffer cache, and the disk driver. The DRBD kernel module captures all requests from the file system and splits them down into two paths. So, how does the actual communication occur? How do two separate servers optimize data protection?

DRBD facilitates communication by mirroring two separate servers. One server, although passive, is usually a direct copy of the other. Any data written to the primary server is simultaneously copied to the secondary server through a real-time communication system. The passive server immediately replicates any changes made in the data.

DRBD 8.x works on two nodes at a time. One is given the role of the primary node while the other is given a secondary role. Reads and writes can only occur on the primary node.

THE BENEFITS OF DRBD 9

The features of DRBD 9.x are a vast improvement over the 8.x version. It is now possible to have up to 32 replicas, including the primary node. This gives you the ability to build your cluster setup with what we call diskless nodes, meaning you don’t have to use storage on your primary node. The primary node in diskless mode still has a DRBD block device, but the data is accessed on the secondary nodes over the network.

The secondary nodes must not mount the file system, not even in read-only mode. While it is true to say that the secondary nodes see all updates on the primary node, they can’t expose these updates to the file system, as DRBD is completely file system agnostic.

One write goes to the actual disk and another to the mirrored disks on a peer node. If the first one fails, the file system can be displayed on one of the opposing nodes and the data will be available for use.

DRBD has no precise knowledge of the file system and, as such, it has no way of communicating the changes upstream to the file system driver. The two-at-a-time rule does not actually limit DRBD from operating on more than two nodes.

Moreover, DRBD-9.x supports multiple peer nodes, meaning one peer might be a synchronous mirror in the local data-center while another secondary might be an asynchronous mirror in a remote site.

Again, the passive server only becomes functional when the primary one fails. When such a failure occurs, Pacemaker immediately recognizes the mishap and shifts to the secondary server. This shifting process, nevertheless, is optional – it can be either manual or automatic. For users who prefer manual, one is required to authorize the system to shift to the passive server when the primary one fails.

LINSTOR

In greater IT infrastructures, cluster managing software is state of the art. This is why LINBIT developed LINSTOR, a software on top of DRBD. DRBD itself is a perfect tool to replicate and access your data, especially when it comes to performance. LINSTOR makes configuring DRBD on a system with more than a few nodes an easy task. LINSTOR manages DRBD and gives you the ability to set it up on a large system.

LINSTOR uses a controller service for managing your cluster and a satellite service which runs on every node for deploying DRBD. The controller can be accessed from every node and enables you to monitor and configure your structure quickly. It can be controlled over REST from the outside and provides a very clear CLI. Furthermore, the LINSTOR REST-API gives you the ability to use LINSTOR volumes in Kubernetes, Proxmox VE, OpenNebula and Openstack.

LINSTOR has a feature to maintain the system at work: There is a separation of control plane vs. data plane. If you wanna upgrade or maintain LINSTOR, there is no downtime of the volumes. In comparison with Ceph, DRBD & LINSTOR are easier to troubleshoot, recover, repair, debug, and easier to intervene manually if required, also mainly due to its simplicity. For sys admin the better maintainability and a less complex environment can be crucial. The higher availability also results in a better reliability. For instance DRBD can be started/stopped manually even if LINSTOR is offline, or, for recovery purposes, even without DRBD installed (simply mount backend storage) – compared to that, trying to find any of your data on disks managed by Ceph can be a quite challenge if your Ceph system is down.

In summary, if you’re looking for increased performance, fast configuration, and filesystem-based storage for your applications, use LINSTOR and DRBD. If you’re looking to run LINSTOR with HA, however, you must use a third-party software such as Pacemaker.

 

CEPH

CEPH is an open source software intended to provide highly scalable object, block, and file-based storage in a unified system.

CEPH consists of a RADOS cluster and its interfaces. The RADOS cluster is a system with services for monitoring and storing data across many nodes. CEPH/RADOS is an object storage cluster with no single-point of failure. This is solved by using an algorithm which cuts the data into blocks and spreads them across the RADOS cluster by using self-managing services. The CRUSH algorithm is used to spread the data on upload and to put the blocks together if an object is requested. CEPH is able to use simple data replication as well as erasure coding for those striped blocks.

On top of the RADOS cluster, LIBRADOS is used to upload or request data from the cluster. CEPH uses LIBRADOS for interfaces CEPHFS, RBD and RADOSGW.

CEPHFS gives you the ability to create a filesystem on a host where the data is stored in the CEPH cluster. Additionally, for using CEPHFS, CEPH needs metadata servers which manage the metadata and balance the load for requests among each other.

RBD or RADOS block device is used for creating virtual block devices on hosts with a CEPH cluster, managing and storing the data in the background. Since RBD is built on LIBRADOS, RBD inherits LIBRADOS’s abilities, including read only snapshots and reverts to snapshot. By striping images across the cluster, CEPH improves read access performance for large block device images. The block device can be virtualized, providing block storage to virtual machines in virtualization platforms such as Apache CloudStack, OpenStack, OpenNebula, Ganeti, and Proxmox Virtual Environment.

RADOSGW is the REST-API for communicating with CEPH/RADOS when uploading and requesting data from the cluster.

In general, CEPH is an object storage cluster with the advantage that you do not have to worry about failing nodes or storage drives, because CEPH recognizes failing devices and replicates the data instantly to another disk where it will be accessed. This also leads to a heavy network load if the devices fail.

Striping data comes with a disadvantage in that it is not possible to access the data on a storage drive by mounting it somewhere else or without a working CEPH cluster.

In conclusion, CEPH is the right solution if you are looking for object storage in your infrastructure. Due to its complexity, you have to expect less performance in comparison to DRBD which is only limited by your network speed. 

Daniel Kaltenböck on Email
Daniel Kaltenböck
Software Engineer at LINBIT HA Solutions GmbH
Daniel Kaltenböck studied technical computer science at the Vienna University of Technology. He is a software engineer by heart with a special focus on software defined storage.
mission-critical-10yr-linbit

LINBIT USA Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

LINBIT US is celebrating a decade of service and growth. 10 years ago, we started our journey with you from a newly established office in the pacific northwest. In that time, we have moved into new offices, grown our team 4 times in size, built some really great software, and most importantly, met, collaborated with, and served some of the most sophisticated customers along the way. Here’s a snapshot of some of the major milestones told in the present tense.

2010: Our bread and butter has always been High Availability. LINBIT HA software, DRBD, is now in the Linux mainline kernel since 2010, as of release 2.6.33. This promises to be a standout event that makes enterprise-grade HA a standard capability within Linux and puts the open source community on par with the best of proprietary systems out there.

2015: Fast forward to 2015. LINBIT is a company that is actually being talked about as the best solution for huge enterprises! Hundreds of thousands of servers depend on the replication that DRBD provides. All our customers are doing really cool work. And some of them are very well known, such as Cisco and Google. We are forming strong partnerships across North and South America– think RedHat and Suse.

New Horizon: Disaster Recovery

2016: Not only is the LINBIT HA product a success, but our new product focused on disaster recovery, DRBD Proxy, is  proving to be incredibly useful to companies who need to replicate data across distances. LINBIT is having wonderful success in providing clients peace of mind in case a disaster strikes, or perhaps a clumsy admin pulls on some cables they weren’t supposed to be pulling on! Oh, and we can’t forget our fun videos that go along with these products: LINBIT DR, LINBIT HA, and LINBIT SDS.

More in 2016: The official release of DRBD9 to the public. A huge move for enterprises looking to have multiple replicas of their data (up to 32!). Now, companies can implement software-defined storage (SDS) for creating, managing and running a cloud storage environment.

New Kid on the Block: LINSTOR

2018: Now that SDS is a feature, many clients are looking for it. LINBIT is making it even easier, and plausible, with the release of LINSTOR. With this, everything is automated. Deploying a DRBD volume has never been easier.

2018: At this point we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that LINSTOR has Flex Volume & External Provisioner drivers for Kubernetes. We now provide persistent storage to high performance containerized applications! Here is a LINSTOR demo, showing you just how quick and easy it is to deploy a DRBD cluster with 20 resources.

Now: A new guide describes  DRBD for the Microsoft Azure cloud service. We have partners and resellers who have end clients running Windows servers that need HA. One of our engineers even created a video of an NFS failover in Azure!

What else? There is almost too much to say about the past 10 years and the amount of growth and change is astonishing. However, at our core, we are the same. We believe in open source. In building software that turns the difficult into fast, robust, and easy. In our clients. In our company.

“We are grateful”

During a conversation at Red Hat Summit this year, LINBIT COO Brian Hellman was asked how long he had been at LINBIT.  “I replied ‘10 years in September.’ The gentleman was surprised; ‘That’s a long time, especially in the tech industry’.  To which he replied, ‘I love what I do and the people I work with — Not only the members of the LINBIT team, but also our customers, partners, and our extended team.  Without them we wouldn’t be here, they make it all possible and for that we are grateful.”

To whomever is reading this, wherever you are, you were part of it. You ARE part of it! So a big thank you for reading, caring, and hopefully using LINBIT HA, LINBIT DR, or LINBIT SDS. Cheers to another 10 years!


Kelsey Swan
Kelsey turns her personal passion for connecting with people into a supporting LINBIT clients. As the Accounts Manager for LINBIT USA, Kelsey engages with customers to provide them with the best experience possible. From Enterprise companies, to Mom and Pop shops, Kelsey ensures the implementation of LINBIT products goes smoothly. Doing what is best for the client is her #1 priority.

LINBIT’s DRBD ships with integration to VCS

The LINBIT DRBD software has been updated with an integration for Veritas Infoscale Availability (VIA). VIA, formerly known as Veritas Cluster Server (VCS), is a proprietary cluster manager for building highly available clusters on Linux. Examples of application cluster capabilities are Network File Sharing databases or e-commerce websites. VCS solves the same problem as the Pacemaker Open Source projects.  

Yet, in contrast to Pacemaker, VCS has a long history on the Unix Platform. VCS came to Linux as Linux began to surpass legacy Unix platforms. In addition to its longevity, VCS has a strong and clean user experience. For example, VCS is ahead of the Pacemaker software when it comes to clarity of log files. Notably, the Veritas Cluster Server has slightly fewer features than Pacemaker. (With great power comes complexity!)

Gear-drbd-integration-VCS

The gear runs even smoother. DRBD has an integration for VCS.

VCS integration for DRBD

Since January 2018, DRBD has been shipping with an integration to VCS. Users are now able to use VCS instead of Pacemaker and even control DRBD via VCS. It consists of two agents: DRBDConfigure and DRBDPrimary that enable drbd-8.4 and drbd-9.0 for VCS.

Full documentation can be found here on our website:

https://docs.linbit.com/docs/users-guide-9.0/#s-feature-VCS

and

https://github.com/LINBIT/drbd-utils/tree/master/scripts/VCS

Besides VCS Linbit DRBD supports variety of Linux software so you can keep your system up and running.

Besides VCS Linbit DRBD supports variety of Linux software so you can keep your system up and running.

Pacemaker 1.0.11 and up
Heartbeat 3.0.5 and up
Corosync 2.x and up

 

Reach out to [email protected] for more information.

We are driven by the passion of keeping the digital world running. That’s why hundreds of customers trust in our expertise, services and products. Our OpenSource product DRBD has been installed several million times. Linbit established DRBD® as the industry standard for High-Availability (HA) and data redundancy for mission critical systems. DRBD enables disaster recovery and HA for any application on Linux, including iSCSI, NFS, MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, Virtualization and more.

Philipp Reisner on Linkedin
Philipp Reisner
Philipp Reisner is founder and CEO of LINBIT in Vienna/Austria. His professional career has been dominated by developing DRBD, a storage replication for Linux. Today he leads a company of about 30 employees with locations in Vienna/Austria and Portland/Oregon.

 

Don’t Settle for Downtime

Innovative Data Storage Can Save Cash, Headaches, and Your Data

Storage Downtime is Unacceptable

When the network goes down, everyone is mildly annoyed, but when the storage goes down,  “Everyone loses their mind, ” as the Joker would say.  And for good reason. No one likes losing payroll data, shipments, customer information, financial transactions, or CRM information… And they certainly don’t like waiting while you roll back to your latest backup. Internally and externally, data-loss and downtime wastes valuable resources and it hurts company reputation. Downtime is becoming less acceptable every day, and data-loss, even more so. Stable, safe, and secure storage should be a priority for those responsible for protecting their business (just ask Equifax).

Traditional Solutions

Due to the increasing need for high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR), proprietary storage companies like NetApp and Dell EMC have provided SAN and NAS technologies to protect your organization’s most important data. These hardware appliances, many times, have no single point of failure, synchronous data replication and even a nice GUI so that users can point-and-click their way around. The downside? These storage appliances aren’t scalable and they are expensive. Really expensive.

The Obvious (or not so obvious) Alternative

Did you know that resiliency is built into your Linux OS? That’s right, built into the mainline linux kernel is everything you need to replace your shared storage. For over 15 years, LINBIT has been creating the DRBD software, designed to synchronously replicate data between Linux servers seamlessly just like your SAN. It can even trick the application above to believing they are writing to a SAN, when in reality, it is standard X86, ARM, or Power boxes. The full LINBIT HA solution combines the DRBD software with open source fail-over software as well. This combination eliminates the need for proprietary shared storage solutions. So, why aren’t you using it? You probably didn’t know that it existed.

 

For the past 20 years, those with IT know-how, and small budgets found that HA clustering, using commodity off-the-shelf hardware, was an affordable alternative to traditional storage methods. This crowd consisted of the standard Linux hacker rolling out a home-brewed web-server, and the hyperscale players who didn’t want to rely on outside vendors to build their cloud. Being that these hyperscale companies are using the software to create a competative advantage against their competitors they aren’t all-that-eager to share their stories. They have kept the mid-market in the dark.

Almost all of the major players (including Google, Cisco, Deka Bank, HP, Porsche, and the BBC) have realized that using standard hardware instead of proprietary appliances creates a competitive advantage. Namely: inexpensive resilient storage that their competitors are paying an arm and a leg for. Now, the storage industry’s best kept secret is finally out.

It Doesn’t Stop There

LINBIT is pioneering open source SDS. In development for over 7 years, the new solution will create standard High Availability clusters like described above, and also work perfectly for cloud storage. The LINBIT SDS software introduces performance advantages scalability to the  design. LINBIT’s created a sort of “Operating System based,” Open Source, Software Defined Storage technology that is already built into your existing operating system and ready to use with any Linux system.

The Default Replication Option

LINBIT’s DRBD software receives about 10,000 confirmed downloads per month (people who opt-in to show their statistics). LINBIT is far more engineering and development focused than sales focused so if you aren’t solving a real-world problem you have probably never ran into them. LINBIT’s software popularity is user driven, and due to 3 main reasons:

Flexibility: Since the DRBD software replicates data at the block level, it works with any filesystem, VM, or application that writes data to a hard drive. It can replicate multiple resources simultaneously so users don’t have to choose different replication technologies for every application/database running on the server.

Stability: Being accepted into the mainline Linux kernel is a very stringent process. DRBD has been in the kernel since 2009, version 2.6.33

Synchronous: Prior to DRBD’s availability (no pun intended), the only option for synchronous replication was hardware (SAN, NAS devices). The DRBD software can run in synchronous or asynchronous mode, and be used for local replication or Geo Clustering across long distances.

Now that DRBD has tools to provision your storage, scaling out has never been easier. Interested in how this might apply for your projects? Check out some of LINBIT’s  (free) innovative technical documents which describe how to set up a cluster for your specific environment. Have an idea that isn’t covered in the documentation? Reach out to [email protected] and ask if your idea is sane. They’ll consult the LINBIT engineering team, and will point you in the right direction. Most importantly, NEVER settle for unplanned downtime.

Find out more about the costs of downtime in the podcast, The OrionX Download with LINBIT CEO, Brian Hellman.

DRBD and Randtronics DPM

Today we’re happy to announce a new document titled “Block Replication with Filesystem Encryption” which showcases another wonderful use case for DRBD.

Block Replication with Filesystem Encryption

At Hosting Con, back in April of this year, some colleagues of mine ran into some representatives from Randtronics. Randtronics is the company responsible for the DPM (Data Privacy Management) software suite. This software suite provides file encryption, user management, ACLs, and more. I could imagine this software would prove useful to those in fields where data privacy is an absolute must. Fields such as the medical, legal, human resources, or intellectual property, quickly come to mind.

(Graphic is property of Randtronics)

After a brief discussion with us regarding just how versatile DRBD can be it was decided to see if perhaps DRBD could work seamlessly with DPM. Randtronic’s DPM can help protect your data from prying eyes, or those who may wish to steal it, but can it protect your data from system failures? When teamed up with DRBD you can be assured that your data is both secure and available.

I worked briefly with Gary Lansdown of Randtronics to introduce him to asciidoc, but I must give credit to Randtronics for this document.

FINALLY! Open Source Deduplication for Linux!

We’ve been working with our partner, Permabit, for a couple of years now. Permabit is the author of VDO, a block level deduplication software for Linux. Pair this deduplication software (which also has optional compression) with our DRBD software, and you get extremely efficient, low overhead, data replication.

The problem is Permabit built a solution that isn’t Open Source. Due to proprietary licensing, many users were instead deciding to install the ZFS filesystem on top of RHEL. This was the “free” way to gain Unix feature-sets on the Linux platform. We understand that ZFS has its benefits, but from the block level, installations can get sticky since it isn’t “just” a filesystem; it’s also a volume manager (zpool). ZFS likes to control the whole stack, which doesn’t play well with our DRBD replication software in some use-cases.

This is why we were ecstatic when Red Hat just announced that LINBIT partner, Permabit, was acquired by Red Hat. Red Hat hasn’t announced news of Open Sourcing the VDO solution yet, but they do have a very strong track record (100%) of doing so for products that they purchase.

“We are so excited to see that Linux will soon have a native deduplication and compression option,” said LINBIT CEO, Philipp Reisner. “We know that users who want seamless data-replication, deduplication, and compression, now need to look no further than their Operating System.”

As a strong Red Hat partner, we look forward to continuing to make the Linux platform the best it can possibly be. LINBIT recently announced Geo Clustering with automatic Oracle Dyn DNS failover and ActiveMQ High Availability and Disaster Recovery. Open Source VDO is one more tool which will help LINBIT build better availability solutions for our end clients.

Would you want to be your own car mechanic?

Data seems to be on everyone’s mind these days.  From employee to financial data, your company has to keep it available through seamless replication — without downtime. LINBIT DRBD is the open source software that ensures High Availability for your enterprise.

Read more

Testing SSD Drives with DRBD: Intel DC 3700 Series

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting results from tests that we’ve run against various manufactures SSD drives; including Intel, SanDisk, and Micron, to name a few.

The first post in this series goes over our findings of the Intel DC S 3700 Series 800GB SATA SSD drives. Read more

Maximum volume size on DRBD

From time to time we get asked things like this:

I want to use a 100TiB volume with DRBD, is that supported”?

The biggest public device size with DRBD known to LINBIT is currently ~600TiB. (JUNE 2019 UPDATE) Read more

DRBD causes too much CPU-load

The TL;DR version: don’t use data-integrity-alg in a production setup. Read more