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Learning Ceph. - Second Edition
Learning Ceph. - Second Edition

Learning Ceph.: Unifed, scalable, and reliable open source storage solution, Second Edition

By Karan Singh , Bryan Stillwell , Anthony DAtri , Vaibhav Bhembre
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Book Oct 2017 340 pages 2nd Edition
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Learning Ceph. - Second Edition

Chapter 1. Introducing Ceph Storage

Ceph is an open source project that provides a solution for software-defined, network-available storage with high performance and no single point of failure. It is designed to be highly scalable to the exabyte level and beyond while running on general-purpose commodity hardware.

In this chapter, we will cover the following topics:

  • The history and evolution of Ceph
  • What's new since the first edition of Learning Ceph
  • The future of storage
  • Ceph compared with other storage solutions

Ceph garners much of the buzz in the storage industry due to its open, scalable, and distributed nature. Today public, private, and hybrid cloud models are dominant strategies for scalable and scale-out infrastructure. Ceph's design and features including multi-tenancy are a natural fit for cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) deployments: at least 60% of OpenStack deployments leverage Ceph.


For more information regarding the use of Ceph within OpenStack deployments, visit

Ceph is architected deliberately to deliver enterprise-quality services on a variety of commodity hardware. Ceph's architectural philosophy includes the following:

  • Every component must be scalable
  • No individual process, server, or other component can be a single point of failure
  • The solution must be software-based, open source, and adaptable
  • Ceph software should run on readily available commodity hardware without vendor lock-in
  • Everything must be self-manageable wherever possible

Ceph provides great performance, limitless scalability, power, and flexibility to enterprises, helping them move on from expensive proprietary storage silos. The Ceph universal storage system provides block, file, and object storage from a single, unified back-end, enabling customers to access storage as their needs evolve and grow.

The foundation of Ceph is objects, building blocks from which complex services are assembled. Any flavor of data, be it a block, object, or file, is represented by objects within the Ceph backend. Object storage is the flexible solution for unstructured data storage needs today and in the future. An object-based storage system offers advantages over traditional file-based storage solutions that include platform and hardware independence. Ceph manages data carefully, replicating across storage devices, servers, data center racks, and even data centers to ensure reliability, availability, and durability. Within Ceph objects are not tied to a physical path, making objects flexible and location-independent. This enables Ceph to scale linearly from the petabyte level to an exabyte level.

The history and evolution of Ceph

Ceph was developed at University of California, Santa Cruz, by Sage Weil in 2003 as a part of his PhD project. The initial implementation provided the Ceph Filesystem (CephFS) in approximately 40,000 lines of C++ code. This was open sourced in 2006 under a Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL) to serve as a reference implementation and research platform. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory supported Sage's early followup work from 2003 to 2007.

DreamHost, a Los-Angeles-based web hosting and domain registrar company also co-founded by Sage Weil, supported Ceph development from 2007 to 2011. During this period Ceph as we know it took shape: the core components gained stability and reliability, new features were implemented, and the road map for the future was drawn. During this time a number of key developers began contributing, including Yehuda Sadeh-Weinraub, Gregory Farnum, Josh Durgin, Samuel Just, Wido den Hollander, and Loïc Dachary.

In 2012 Sage Weil founded Inktank to enable the widespread adoption of Ceph. Their expertise, processes, tools, and support enabled enterprise-subscription customers to effectively implement and manage Ceph storage systems. In 2014 Red Hat, Inc.,the world's leading provider of open source solutions, agreed to acquire Inktank.

The term Ceph is a common nickname given to pet octopuses; Ceph and is an abbreviation of cephalopod, marine animals belonging to the Cephalopoda class of molluscs. Ceph's mascot is an octopus,referencing the highly parallel behavior of an octopus and was chosen to connect the file system with UCSC's mascot, a banana slug named Sammy. Banana slugs are gastropods,which are also a class of molluscs. As Ceph is not an acronym, it should not be uppercased as CEPH.


For additional information about Ceph in general, please visit

Ceph releases

Each release of Ceph has a numeric version. Major releases also receive cephalopod code-names in alphabetical order. Through the Luminous release the Ceph community tagged a new major version about twice a year, alternating between Long Term Support (LTS) and stable releases. The latest two LTS releases were officially supported, but only the single latest stable release.


For more information on Ceph releases please visit

The release numbering scheme has changed since the first edition of Learning Ceph was published. Earlier major releases were tagged initially with a version number (0.87) and were followed by multiple point releases (0.87.1, 0.87.2, ...). Releases beginning with Infernalis however are numbered as shown:

The major release number matches the letter of the alphabet of its code name (for example I is the ninth letter of the English alphabet, so 9.2.1 was named Infernalis). As we write, there have been four releases following this numbering convention: Infernalis, Jewel, Kraken, and Luminous.

The early versions of each major release have a type of 0 in the second field, which indicates active pre-release development status for early testers and the brave of heart. Later release candidates have a type of 1 and are targeted at test clusters and brave users. A type of 2 represents a general-availability, production-ready release. Point releases mostly contain security and bug fixes, but sometimes offer functionality improvements as well.

Ceph release name

Ceph package version

Release date


0.48 (LTS)

July 2012


0.56 (LTS)

January 2013



May 2013


0.67 (LTS)

August 2013



November 2013


0.80 (LTS)

May 2014



October 2014


0.94 (LTS)

April 2015



November 2015


10.2.3 (LTS)

April 2016



January 2017


12.2.0 (LTS)

August 2017








Note that as this book was being readied for publication in October 2017 Sage announced that the release cycle has changed. Starting with Mimic there will no longer be alternating LTS and stable releases. Each release henceforth will be LTS at a roughly 9 month cadence. For the details visit

New since the first edition

The Jewel LTS release brought a number of significant changes:

  • Unified queue of client I/O, recovery, scrubs, and snapshot trimming
  • Daemons now run as the ceph user, which must be addressed when upgrading
  • Cache tier improvements
  • SHEC erasure coding is no longer experimental
  • The SWIFT API now supports object expiration
  • RBD improvements (now supports suffixes)
  • rbd du shows actual and provisioned usage quickly via object-map and fast-diff features
  • New rbd status command
  • deep-flatten now handles snapshots
  • CephFS snapshots can now be renamed
  • And CephFS is considered stable!
  • Scrubbing improvements
  • TCMalloc improvements
  • Multisite functionality in RGW significantly improved
  • OpenStack Keystone v3 support
  • Swift per-tenant namespace
  • Async RBD mirroring
  • A new look for ceph status


More details on the Jewel release can be found at

As we write, the major Luminous LTS release has just reached general availability. Early experiences are positive and it is the best choice for new deployments. Much-anticipated features in Luminous include:

  • The BlueStore back end is supported
  • In-line compression and read checksums
  • Erasure coding for RBD volumes
  • Better tools for uniform OSD utilization
  • Improved tools for the OSD lifecycle
  • Enhanced CLI
  • Multiple active CephFS MDS servers are supported


The release notes for Luminous 12.2.0 can be found at

The future of storage

Enterprise storage requirements have grown explosively over the last decade. Research has shown that data in large enterprises is growing at a rate of 40 to 60 percent annually, and many companies are doubling their data footprint each year. IDC analysts estimated that there were 54.4 exabytes of total digital data worldwide in the year 2000. By 2007, this reached 295 exabytes, by 2012 2,596 exabytes, and by the end of 2020 it's expected to reach 40,000 exabytes worldwide

Traditional and proprietary storage solutions often suffer from breathtaking cost, limited scalability and functionality, and vendor lock-in. Each of these factors confounds seamless growth and upgrades for speed and capacity.

Closed source software and proprietary hardware leave one between a rock and a hard place when a product line is discontinued, often requiring a lengthy, costly, and disruptive forklift-style total replacement of EOL deployments.

Modern storage demands a system that is unified, distributed, reliable, highly performant, and most importantly, massively scalable to the exabyte level and beyond. Ceph is a true solution for the world's growing data explosion. A key factor in Ceph's growth and adoption at lightning pace is the vibrant community of users who truly believe in the power of Ceph. Data generation is a never-ending process and we need to evolve storage to accommodate the burgeoning volume.

Ceph is the perfect solution for modern, growing storage: its unified, distributed, cost-effective, and scalable nature is the solution to today's and the future's data storage needs. The open source Linux community saw Ceph's potential as early as 2008, and added support for Ceph into the mainline Linux kernel.

Ceph as the cloud storage solution

One of the most problematic yet crucial components of cloud infrastructure development is storage. A cloud environment needs storage that can scale up and out at low cost and that integrates well with other components. Such a storage system is a key contributor to the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the entire cloud platform. There are traditional storage vendors who claim to provide integration to cloud frameworks, but we need additional features beyond just integration support. Traditional storage solutions may have proven adequate in the past, but today they are not ideal candidates for a unified cloud storage solution. Traditional storage systems are expensive to deploy and support in the long term, and scaling up and out is uncharted territory. We need a storage solution designed to fulfill current and future needs, a system built upon open source software and commodity hardware that can provide the required scalability in a cost-effective way.

Ceph has rapidly evolved in this space to fill the need for a true cloud storage backend. It is favored by major open source cloud platforms including as OpenStack, CloudStack, and OpenNebula. Ceph has built partnerships with Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE, the giants in Linux space who favor distributed, reliable, and scalable Ceph storage clusters for their Linux and cloud software distributions. The Ceph community is working closely with these Linux giants to provide a reliable multi-featured storage backend for their cloud platforms.

Public and private clouds have gained momentum with to the OpenStack platform. OpenStack has proven itself as an end-to-end cloud solution. It includes two core storage components: Swift, which provides object-based storage, and Cinder, which provides block storage volumes to instances. Ceph excels as the back end for both object and block storage in OpenStack deployments.

Swift is limited to object storage. Ceph is a unified storage solution for block, file, and object storage and benefits OpenStack deployments by serving multiple storage modalities from a single backend cluster. The OpenStack and Ceph communities have worked together for many years to develop a fully supported Ceph storage backend for the OpenStack cloud. From OpenStack's Folsom release Ceph has been fully integrated. Ceph's developers ensure that Ceph works well with each new release of OpenStack, contributing new features and bug fixes. OpenStack's Cinder and Glance components utilize Ceph's key RADOS Block Device (RBD) service. Ceph RBD enables OpenStack deployments to rapidly provision of hundreds of virtual machine instances by providing thin-provisioned snapshot and cloned volumes that are quickly and efficiently created.

Cloud platforms with Ceph as a storage backend provide much needed flexibility to service providers who build Storage as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions that they cannot realize with traditional enterprise storage solutions. By leveraging Ceph as a backend for cloud platforms, service providers can offer low-cost cloud services to their customers. Ceph enables them to offer relatively low storage prices with enterprise features when compared to other storage solutions.

Dell, SUSE, Redhat, and Canonical offer and support deployment and configuration management tools such as Dell Crowbar, Red Hat's Ansible, and Juju for automated and easy deployment of Ceph storage for their OpenStack cloud solutions. Other configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef, and SaltStack are popular for automated Ceph deployment. Each of these tools has open source, ready made Ceph modules available that can be easily leveraged for Ceph deployment. With Red Hat's acquisition of Ansible the open source ceph-ansible suite is becoming a favored deployment and management tool. In distributed cloud (and other) environments, every component must scale. These configuration management tools are essential to quickly scale up your infrastructure. Ceph is fully compatible with these tools, allowing customers to deploy and extend a Ceph cluster instantly.

Ceph is software-defined

Storage infrastructure architects increasingly favor Software-defined Storage (SDS) solutions. SDS offers an attractive solution to organizations with a large investment in legacy storage who are not getting the flexibility and scalability they need for evolving needs. Ceph is a true SDS solution:

  • Open source software
  • Runs on commodity hardware
  • No vendor lock in
  • Low cost per GB

An SDS solution provides much-needed flexibility with respect to hardware selection. Customers can choose commodity hardware from any manufacturer and are free to design a heterogeneous hardware solution that evolves over time to meet their specific needs and constraints. Ceph's software-defined storage built from commodity hardware flexibly provides agile enterprise storage features from the software layer.

In Chapter 3, Hardware and Network Selection we'll explore a variety of factors that influence the hardware choices you make for your Ceph deployments.

Ceph is a unified storage solution

Unified storage from a storage vendor's perspective is defined as file-based Network-Attached Storage (NAS) and block-based Storage Area Network(SAN) access from a single platform. NAS and SAN technologies became popular in the late 1990's and early 2000's, but when we look to the future are we sure that traditional, proprietary NAS and SAN technologies can manage storage needs 50 years down the line? Do they have what it takes to handle exabytes of data?

With Ceph, the term unified storage means much more than just what traditional storage vendors claim to provide. Ceph is designed from the ground up to be future-ready; its building blocks are scalable to handle enormous amounts of data and the open source model ensures that we are not bound to the whim or fortunes of any single vendor. Ceph is a true unified storage solution that provides block, file, and object services from a single unified software defined backend. Object storage is a better fit for today's mix of unstructured data strategies than are blocks and files. Access is through a well-defined RESTful network interface, freeing application architects and software engineers from the nuances and vagaries of operating system kernels and filesystems. Moreover, object-backed applications scale readily by freeing users from managing the limits of discrete-sized block volumes. Block volumes can sometimes be expanded in-place, but this rarely a simple, fast, or non-disruptive operation. Applications can be written to access multiple volumes, either natively or through layers such as the Linux LVM (Logical Volume Manager), but these also can be awkward to manage and scaling can still be painful. Object storage from the client perspective does not require management of fixed-size volumes or devices.

Rather than managing the complexity blocks and files behind the scenes, Ceph manages low-level RADOS objects and defines block- and file-based storage on top of them. If you think of a traditional file-based storage system, files are addressed via a directory and file path, and in a similar way, objects in Ceph are addressed by a unique identifier and are stored in a flat namespace.


It is important to distinguish between the RADOS objects that Ceph manages internally and the user-visible objects available via Ceph's S3 / Swift RGW service. In most cases, objects refer to the latter.

The next-generation architecture

Traditional storage systems lack an efficient way to managing metadata. Metadata is information (data) about the actual user payload data, including where the data will be written to and read from. Traditional storage systems maintain a central lookup table to track of their metadata. Every time a client sends a request for a read or write operation, the storage system first performs a lookup to the huge metadata table. After receiving the results it performs the client operation. For a smaller storage system, you might not notice the performance impact of this centralized bottleneck, but as storage domains grow large the performance and scalability limits of this approach become increasingly problematic.

Ceph does not follow the traditional storage architecture; it has been totally reinvented for the next generation. Rather than centrally storing, manipulating, and accessing metadata, Ceph introduces a new approach, the Controlled Replication Under Scalable Hashing (CRUSH) algorithm.


For a wealth of whitepapers and other documents on Ceph-related topics, visit

Instead of performing a lookup in the metadata table for every client request, the CRUSH algorithm enables the client to independently computes where data should be written to or read from. By deriving this metadata dynamically, there is no need to manage a centralized table. Modern computers can perform a CRUSH lookup very quickly; moreover, a smaller computing load can be distributed across cluster nodes, leveraging the power of distributed storage.

CRUSH accomplishes this via infrastructure awareness. It understands the hierarchy and capacities of the various components of your logical and physical infrastructure: drives, nodes, chassis, datacenter racks, pools, network switch domains, datacenter rows, even datacenter rooms and buildings as local requirements dictate. These are the failure domains for any infrastructure. CRUSH stores data safely replicated so that data will be protected (durability) and accessible (availability) even if multiple components fail within or across failure domains. Ceph managers define these failure domains for their infrastructure within the topology of Ceph's CRUSH map. The Ceph backend and clients share a copy of the CRUSH map, and clients are thus able to derive the location, drive, server, datacenter, and so on, of desired data and access it directly without a centralized lookup bottleneck.

CRUSH enables Ceph's self-management and self-healing. In the event of component failure, the CRUSH map is updated to reflect the down component. The back end transparently determines the effect of the failure on the cluster according to defined placement and replication rules. Without administrative intervention, the Ceph back end performs behind-the-scenes recovery to ensure data durability and availability. The back end creates replicas of data from surviving copies on other, unaffected components to restore the desired degree of safety. A properly designed CRUSH map and CRUSH rule set ensure that the cluster will maintain more than one copy of data distributed across the cluster on diverse components, avoiding data loss from single or multiple component failures.

RAID: the end of an era

Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) has been a fundamental storage technology for the last 30 years. However, as data volume and component capacities scale dramatically, RAID-based storage systems are increasingly showing their limitations and fall short of today's and tomorrow's storage needs.

Disk technology has matured over time. Manufacturers are now producing enterprise-quality magnetic disks with immense capacities at ever lower prices. We no longer speak of 450 GB, 600 GB, or even 1 TB disks as drive capacity and performance has grown. As we write, modern enterprise drives offer up to 12 TB of storage; by the time you read these words capacities of 14 or more TB may well be available. Solid State Drives (SSDs) were formerly an expensive solution for small-capacity high-performance segments of larger systems or niches requiring shock resistance or minimal power and cooling. In recent years SSD capacities have increased dramatically as prices have plummeted. Since the publication of the first edition of Learning Ceph, SSDs have become increasingly viable for bulk storage as well.

Consider an enterprise RAID-based storage system built from numerous 4 or 8 TB disk drives; in the event of disk failure, RAID will take many hours or even days to recover from a single failed drive. If another drive fails during recovery, chaos will ensue and data may be lost. Recovering from the failure or replacement of multiple large disk drives using RAID is a cumbersome process that can significantly degrade client performance.

Traditional RAID technologies include RAID 1 (mirroring), RAID 10 (mirroring plus striping), and RAID 5 (parity).

Effective RAID implementations require entire dedicated drives to be provisioned as hot spares. This impacts TCO, and running out of spare drives can be fatal. Most RAID strategies assume a set of identically-sized disks, so you will suffer efficiency and speed penalties or even failure to recover if you mix in drives of differing speeds and sizes. Often a RAID system will be unable to use a spare or replacement drive that is very slightly smaller than the original, and if the replacement drive is larger, the additional capacity is usually wasted.

Another shortcoming of traditional RAID-based storage systems is that they rarely offer any detection or correction of latent or bit-flip errors, aka bit-rot. The microscopic footprint of data on modern storage media means that sooner or later what you read from the storage device won't match what you wrote, and you may not have any way to know when this happens. Ceph runs periodic scrubs that compare checksums and remove altered copies of data from service. With the Luminous release Ceph also gains the ZFS-like ability to checksum data at every read, additionally improving the reliability of your critical data.

Enterprise RAID-based systems often require expensive, complex, and fussy RAID-capable HBA cards that increase management overhead, complicate monitoring, and increase the overall cost. RAID can hit the wall when size limits are reached. This author has repeatedly encountered systems that cannot expand a storage pool past 64TB. Parity RAID implementations including RAID 5 and RAID 6 also suffer from write throughput penalties, and require complex and finicky caching strategies to enable tolerable performance for most applications. Often the most limiting shortcoming of traditional RAID is that it only protects against disk failure; it cannot protect against switch and network failures, those of server hardware and operating systems, or even regional disaster. Depending on strategy, the maximum protection you may realize from RAID is surviving through one or at most two drive failures. Strategies such as RAID 60 can somewhat mitigate this risk, though they are not universally available, are inefficient, may require additional licensing, and still deliver incomplete protection against certain failure patterns.

For modern storage capacity, performance, and durability needs, we need a system that can overcome all these limitations in a performance- and cost-effective way. Back in the day a common solution for component failure was a backup system, which itself could be slow, expensive, capacity-limited, and subject to vendor lock-in. Modern data volumes are such that traditional backup strategies are often infeasible due to scale and volatility.

A Ceph storage system is the best solution available today to address these problems. For data reliability, Ceph makes use of data replication (including erasure coding). It does not use traditional RAID, and because of this, it is free of the limitations and vulnerabilities of a traditional RAID-based enterprise storage system. Since Ceph is software-defined and exploits commodity components we do not require specialized hardware for data replication. Moreover, the replication level is highly configurable by Ceph managers, who can easily manage data protection strategies according to local needs and underlying infrastructure. Ceph's flexibility even allows managers to define multiple types and levels of protection to address the needs of differing types and populations of data within the same back end.


By replication we mean that Ceph stores complete, independent copies of all data on multiple, disjoint drives and servers. By default Ceph will store three copies, yielding a usable capacity that is 1/3 the aggregate raw drive space, but other configurations are possible and a single cluster can accommodate multiple strategies for varying needs.

Ceph's replication is superior to traditional RAID when components fail. Unlike RAID, when a drive (or server!) fails, the data that was held by that drive is recovered from a large number of surviving drives. Since Ceph is a distributed system driven by the CRUSH map, the replicated copies of data are scattered across many drives. By design no primary and replicated copies reside on the same drive or server; they are placed within different failure domains. A large number of cluster drives participate in data recovery, distributing the workload and minimizing the contention with and impact on ongoing client operations. This makes recovery operations amazingly fast without performance bottlenecks.

Moreover, recovery does not require spare drives; data is replicated to unallocated space on other drives within the cluster. Ceph implements a weighting mechanism for drives and sorts data independently at a granularity smaller than any single drive's capacity. This avoids the limitations and inefficiencies that RAID suffers with non-uniform drive sizes. Ceph stores data based on each drive's and each server's weight, which is adaptively managed via the CRUSH map. Replacing a failed drive with a smaller drive results in a slight reduction of cluster aggregate capacity, but unlike traditional RAID it still works. If a replacement drive is larger than the original, even many times larger, the cluster's aggregate capacity increases accordingly. Ceph does the right thing with whatever you throw at it.

In addition to replication, Ceph also supports another advanced method of ensuring data durability: erasure coding, which is a type of Forward Error Correction (FEC). Erasure-coded pools require less storage space than replicated pools, resulting in a greater ratio of usable to raw capacity. In this process, data on failed components is regenerated algorithmically. You can use both replication and erasure coding on different pools with the same Ceph cluster. We will explore the benefits and drawbacks of erasure-coding versus replication in coming chapters.

Ceph Block Storage

Block storage will be familiar to those who have worked with traditional SAN (Storage Area Network) technologies. Allocations of desired capacity are provisioned on demand and presented as contiguous statically-sized volumes (sometimes referred to as images). Ceph RBD supports volumes up to 16 exabytes in size. These volumes are attached to the client operating system as virtualized disk drives that can be utilized much like local physical drives. In virtualized environments the attachment point is often at the hypervisor level (eg. QEMU / KVM). The hypervisor then presents volumes to the guest operating system via the virtio driver or as an emulated IDE or SCSI disk.Usually a filesystem is then created on the volume for traditional file storage. This strategy has the appeal that guest operating systems do not need to know about Ceph, which is especially useful for software delivered as an appliance image. Client operating systems running on bare metal can also directly map volumes using a Ceph kernel driver.

Ceph's block storage component is RBD, the RADOS Block Device. We will discuss RADOS in depth in the following chapters, but for now we'll note that RADOS is the underlying technology on which RBD is built. RBD provides reliable, distributed, and high performance block storage volumes to clients. RBD volumes are effectively striped over numerous objects scattered throughout the entire Ceph cluster, a strategy that is key for providing availability, durability, and performance to clients. The Linux kernel bundles a native RBD driver; thus clients need not install layered software to enjoy Ceph's block service. RBD also provides enterprise features including incremental (diff) and full-volume snapshots, thin provisioning, copy-on-write (COW) cloning, layering, and others. RBD clients also support in-memory caching, which can dramatically improve performance.


An exabyte is one quintillion (1018) bytes, or one billion gigabytes (GB).

The Ceph RBD service is exploited by cloud platforms including OpenStack and CloudStack to provision both primary / boot devices and supplemental volumes. Within OpenStack, Ceph's RBD service is configured as a backend for the abstracted Cinder (block) and Glance (base image) components. RBD's copy-on-write functionality enables one to quickly spin up hundreds or even thousands of thin-provisioned instances (virtual machines).

Ceph compared to other storage solutions

The enterprise storage market is experiencing a fundamental realignment. Traditional proprietary storage systems are incapable of meeting future data storage needs, especially within a reasonable budget. Appliance-based storage is declining even as data usage grows by leaps and bounds.

The high TCO of proprietary systems does not end with hardware procurement: nickle-and-dime feature licenses, yearly support, and management add up to a breathtakingly expensive bottom line. One would previously purchase a pallet-load of hardware, pay for a few years of support, then find that the initial deployment has been EOL'd and thus can't be expanded or even maintained. This perpetuates a cycle of successive rounds of en-masse hardware acquisition. Concomitant support contracts to receive bug fixes and security updates often come at spiraling cost. After a few years (or even sooner) your once-snazzy solution becomes unsupported scrap metal, and the cycle repeats. Pay, rinse, lather, repeat. When the time comes to add a second deployment, the same product line may not even be available, forcing you to implement, document, and support a growing number of incompatible, one-off solutions. I daresay your organization's money and your time can be better spent elsewhere, like giving you a well-deserved raise.

With Ceph new software releases are always available, no licenses expire, and you're welcome to read the code yourself and even contribute. You can also expand your solution along many axes, compatibly and without disruption. Unlike one-size-fits-none proprietary solutions, you can pick exactly the scale, speed, and components that make sense today while effortlessly growing tomorrow, with the highest levels of control and customization.

Open source storage technologies however have demonstrated performance, reliability, scalability, and lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) without fear of product line or model phase-outs or vendor lock-in. Many corporations as well as government, universities, research, healthcare, and HPC (High Performance Computing) organizations are already successfully exploiting open source storage solutions.

Ceph is garnering tremendous interest and gaining popularity, increasingly winning over other open source as well as proprietary storage solutions. In the remainder of this chapter we'll compare Ceph to other open source storage solutions.


General Parallel File System (GPFS) is a distributed filesystem developed and owned by IBM. This is a proprietary and closed source storage system, which limits its appeal and adaptability. Licensing and support cost added to that of storage hardware add up to an expensive solution. Moreover, it has a very limited set of storage interfaces: it provides neither block storage (like RBD) nor RESTful (like RGW) access to the storage system, limiting the constellation of use-cases that can be served by a single backend.

In 2015 GPFS was rebranded as IBM Spectrum Scale.


iRODS stands for Integrated Rule-Oriented Data System, an open source data-management system released with a 3-clause BSD license. iRODS is not highly available and can be bottlenecked. Its iCAT metadata server is a single point of failure (SPoF) without true high availability (HA) or scalability. Moreover, it implements a very limited set of storage interfaces, providing neither block storage nor RESTful access modalities. iRODS is more effective at storing a relatively small number of large files than both a large number of mixed small and large files. iRODS implements a traditional metadata architecture, maintaining an index of the physical location of each filename.


HDFS is a distributed scalable filesystem written in Java for the Hadoop processing framework. HDFS is not a fully POSIX-compliant filesystem and does not offer a block interface. The reliability of HDFS is of concern as it lacks high availability. The single NameNode in HDFS is a SPoF and performance bottleneck. HDFS is again suitable, primarily storing a small number of large files rather than the mix of small and large files at scale that modern deployments demand.


Lustre is a parallel-distributed filesystem driven by the open source community and is available under GNU General Public License (GPL). Lustre relies on a single server for storing and managing metadata. Thus, I/O requests from the client are totally dependent on a single server's computing power, which can be a bottleneck for enterprise-level consumption. Like iRODS and HDFS, Lustre is better suited to a small number of large files than to a more typical mix of numbers files of various sizes. Like iRODS, Lustre manages an index file that maps filenames to physical addresses, which makes its traditional architecture prone to performance bottlenecks. Lustre lacks a mechanism for failure detection and correction: when a node fails clients must connect to another node.


GlusterFS was originally developed by Gluster Inc., which was acquired by Red Hat in 2011. GlusterFS is a scale-out network-attached filesystem in which administrators must determine the placement strategy to use to store data replicas on geographically spread racks. Gluster does not provide block access, filesystem, or remote replication as intrinsic functions; rather, it provides these features as add-ons.


Ceph stands out from the storage solution crowd by virtue of its feature set. It has been designed to overcome the limitations of existing storage systems, and effectively replaces old and expensive proprietary solutions. Ceph is economical by being open source and software-defined and by running on most any commodity hardware. Clients enjoy the flexibility of Ceph's variety of client access modalities with a single backend.

Every Ceph component is reliable and supports high availability and scaling. A properly configured Ceph cluster is free from single points of failure and accepts an arbitrary mix of file types and sizes without performance penalties.

Ceph by virtue of being distributed does not follow the traditional centralized metadata method of placing and accessing data. Rather, it introduces a new paradigm in which clients independently calculate the locations of their data then access storage nodes directly. This is a significant performance win for clients as they need not queue up to get data locations and payloads from a central metadata server. Moreover, data placement inside a Ceph cluster is transparent and automatic; neither the client nor the administrators need manually or consciously spread data across failure domains.

Ceph is self-healing and self-managing. In the event of disaster, when other storage systems cannot survive multiple failures, Ceph remains rock solid. Ceph detects and corrects failure at every level, managing component loss automatically and healing without impacting data availability or durability. Other storage solutions can only provide reliability at drive or at node granularity.

Ceph also scales easily from as little as one server to thousands, and unlike many proprietary solutions, your initial investment at modest scale will not be discarded when you need to expand. A major advantage of Ceph over proprietary solutions is that you will have performed your last ever forklift upgrade. Ceph's redundant and distributed design allow individual components to be replaced or updated piecemeal in a rolling fashion. Neither components nor entire hosts need to be from the same manufacturer.

Examples of upgrades that the authors have performed on entire petabyte-scale production clusters, without clients skipping a beat, are as follows:

  • Migrate from from one Linux distribution to another
  • Upgrade within a given Linux distribution, for example, RHEL 7.1 to RHEL 7.3
  • Replace all payload data drives
  • Update firmware
  • Migrate between journal strategies and devices
  • Hardware repairs, including entire chasses
  • Capacity expansion by swapping small drives for new
  • Capacity expansion by adding additional servers

Unlike many RAID and other traditional storage solutions, Ceph is highly adaptable and does not require storage drives or hosts to be identical in type or size. A cluster that begins with 4TB drives can readily expand either by adding 6TB or 8TB drives either as replacements for smaller drives, or in incrementally added servers. A single Ceph cluster can also contain a mix of storage drive types, sizes, and speeds, either for differing workloads or to implement tiering to leverage both cost-effective slower drives for bulk storage and faster drives for reads or caching.

While there are certain administrative conveniences to a uniform set of servers and drives, it is also quite feasible to mix and match server models, generations, and even brands within a cluster.


Ceph is an open source software-defined storage solution that runs on commodity hardware, freeing organizations from expensive, restrictive, proprietary storage systems. It provides a unified, distributed, highly scalable, and reliable object storage solution, crucial for today's and tomorrow's unstructured data needs. The world's demand for storage is exploding, so we need a storage system that is scalable to the exabyte level without compromising reliability and performance. By virtue of being open source, extensible, adaptable, and built from commodity hardware, Ceph is future-proof. You can readily replace your entire cluster's hardware, operating system, and Ceph version without your users noticing.

In the next chapter, we will discuss the core components of Ceph and the services they provide.





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Key benefits

  • •Explore Ceph's architecture in order to achieve scalability and high availability
  • •Learn to utilize Ceph efficiently with the help of practical examples
  • •Successfully implement Ceph clusters to scale-out storage solutions along with outstanding data protection


Learning Ceph, Second Edition will give you all the skills you need to plan, deploy, and effectively manage your Ceph cluster. You will begin with the first module, where you will be introduced to Ceph use cases, its architecture, and core projects. In the next module, you will learn to set up a test cluster, using Ceph clusters and hardware selection. After you have learned to use Ceph clusters, the next module will teach you how to monitor cluster health, improve performance, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. In the last module, you will learn to integrate Ceph with other tools such as OpenStack, Glance, Manila, Swift, and Cinder. By the end of the book you will have learned to use Ceph effectively for your data storage requirements.

What you will learn

  • •The limitations of existing systems and why you should use Ceph as a storage solution
  • •Familiarity with Ceph s architecture, components, and services
  • •Instant deployment and testing of Ceph within a Vagrant and VirtualBox environment
  • •Ceph operations including maintenance, monitoring, and troubleshooting
  • •Storage provisioning of Ceph s block, object, and filesystem services
  • •Integrate Ceph with OpenStack
  • •Advanced topics including erasure coding, CRUSH maps, and performance tuning
  • •Best practices for your Ceph clusters

Product Details

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Publication date : Oct 13, 2017
Length 340 pages
Edition : 2nd Edition
Language : English
ISBN-13 : 9781787127913
Languages :

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Product Details

Publication date : Oct 13, 2017
Length 340 pages
Edition : 2nd Edition
Language : English
ISBN-13 : 9781787127913
Languages :

Table of Contents

18 Chapters
Title Page Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Credits Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
About the Authors Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
About the Reviewer Chevron down icon Chevron up icon Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Customer Feedback Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Preface Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
1. Introducing Ceph Storage Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
2. Ceph Components and Services Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
3. Hardware and Network Selection Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
4. Planning Your Deployment Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
5. Deploying a Virtual Sandbox Cluster Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
6. Operations and Maintenance Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
7. Monitoring Ceph Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
8. Ceph Architecture: Under the Hood Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
9. Storage Provisioning with Ceph Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
10. Integrating Ceph with OpenStack Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
11. Performance and Stability Tuning Chevron down icon Chevron up icon

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