SwiftStack Review

We are able to dynamically grow storage at a lower cost

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is general purpose object storage for preproduction types of test and development. We use it in research, development, test, and evaluations (RDT&E) for software development.

We are using it for the backup and recovery and object storage. We use the Swift and NFS. We have a NAS gateway such as Avere in front of it. So, it is multipurpose. I would like to use it for more direct NFS, if that feature does become available.

How has it helped my organization?

We are able to dynamically grow storage at a lower cost. We can repurpose hardware and buy commodity hardware. There is a huge cost savings, on average $100,000 a year compared to traditional storage for what we have at our size.

What is most valuable?

The SwiftStack Controller, which is the web UI, provides out of band management. This has been one of the best features of it. It allows us to be able to do upgrades and look at performance metrics. It is a top feature and reason to choose the product.

What needs improvement?

The file access needs improvement. The NFS was rolled out as a single service. It needs to be fully integrated into the proxy in a highly available fashion, like the regular proxy access is. I know it's on the roadmap.

With some of the hierarchy, old management storage policies, I would like to be able to move data between different types of storage policies. One of the things that has come up before was being able to do distributed erasure coding. Right now, erasure coding is only supported locally redundant. Products, like Scality, support the ability using multiple rings to do erasure coding that's globally redundant.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the product since 2015.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The hardware stability is independent of SwiftStack. However, the way the durability is configured, it is quite impressive. We have had three years of 100 percent uptime on the system. 

SwiftStack is able to offer a level of availability beyond using basic hardware. We don't need special-purpose hardware in order to achieve that level of availability.

The performance is limited to what our hardware is, so the software performs as expected. I have not found any reason to believe that the software has had any performance limitations.

I have a storage administrator who manages SwiftStack. I know we are on the latest version.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It easily scales. We have about 500 users with the majority being software and systems engineers.

We are at a half of one petabyte range. We do find that data can be ingested and accessed a fast rate.

If you were to do gigabyte per person, we can store more data per person than we used to with traditional storage by at least 200 percent.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is pretty good. I haven't had any issues with the support. We have had some challenges sending certain types of information because of they outsource support to other countries. 24-hour US-only support would probably be my recommendation as room for improvement. Other than that, the support that we do get has been really good.

The outsourced support has been helpful. We have been limited in what we can send, but in one case, they were able to allow us to recover our data quickly.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

It was the first object storage product that we ever installed. We had more traditional storage, like a NetApp or a Dell-type solution with a traditional NAS or SAN. 

This was our first object storage solution. We decided to move to it because of the cost savings associated with having unstructured data being stored on deep, dense storage than using commodity hardware. Even when you look at the traditional filer, there's a lot more cost that goes into it. It's less flexible. So it was really to provide that flexibility of what you get in an Amazon or Microsoft Cloud to be able to run that on-premise.

How was the initial setup?

They have made improvements to the product since we first initially installed it. Previously, it didn't have a packaged installer. However, they've since done a packaged installer of the Controller. Beyond that, it's pretty nice because the Controller handles the installation. Relative to some of the other software that we have done of this nature, it was easier.

The initial Controller install was probably the most complex part. Once you got that going, getting it onto individual nodes was straightforward.

Our deployment took a day or two. We deployed it as quickly as possible, then figured it out as we went along. It was an initial proof of concept that we just rolled out into production.

We repurposed existing servers for our initial deployment of SwiftStack, then for our expansion, we bought new servers. It was a positive benefit for scalability, flexibility, and cost savings. This was a primary reason that we chose the product. It had a lower cost of entry versus comparable solutions. We could repurpose hardware at a small capacity license, then we were able to incrementally grow, which saved us a lot of money over the years.

What about the implementation team?

We had SwiftStack engineers onsite for a day or two. They worked alongside a few other engineers and myself to do the install. Our experience with them was great.

It requires about half the time of a FTE (systems administrator) a year to manage and maintain it. We do have engineers who might come in if there are high priority issues, configurations, etc. However, the average cost equivalent is probably a thousand hours a year, and that might be on the upper end.

What was our ROI?

Dollar per gigabyte, it costs us more because we are storing more. However, if you look at it from a cost per gigabyte perspective, we have dropped our costs significantly.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The pricing model is great and makes sense. We have talked about how to get into more of a frequent billing cycle than once a year. That would be an interesting concept to add into the product, having the ability to have monthly billing instead of having to do a one-year licensing renewal. However, the way the license works by charging for storage consumed is definitely what makes them the most competitive.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We have looked at IBM Cleversafe, which is now IBM Cloud Object Storage

We had discussions about Scality and Cloudian. 

We looked at NetApp StorageGRID Webscale, which was the vendor who we were considering since NetApp has a large presence in the government space and we wanted to look at something familiar. 

We had a history of working with the Dell EMC ECS product, which was originally called Atmos, then ViPR. We didn't buy the hardware appliance. We bought the software only. The hardware being used is our Dell hardware. 

We talked about Ceph because they do have object storage interfaces, but decided not to go with them for lack of product maturity.

Looking at these vendors gave us some metrics to compare against. The primary reason for going with SwiftStack was the low cost of entry. They had comparable features to other vendors, but won out on price.

What other advice do I have?

Give it consideration. A lot of people don't know about it or how it works. The biggest advice: You don't require OpenStack to run SwiftStack. That is the biggest product confusion issue that SwiftStack has to deal with that you can deploy them independent of OpenStack. A lot of customers may think that because it's based on OpenStack, you will need this complex OpenStack deployment, which is not true.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

Swift 2.21
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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