Big storage is still a big problem. But Gluster is hoping its open-source, commodity hardware-based NAS solution will entice developers to get more involved in their storage systems.

Gluster has been in development for three years. It combines an open-source file system with administration tools and handlers for managing enterprise-sized storage archives. Ben Golub, CEO of Gluster, said that the Gluster file system started without the features of most enterprise storage systems, but thanks to open-source contributions from its customers, many of those features have been built on top.

“It’s a file system for clustering with a storage platform built around it. In combination with commodity hardware, we provide a global namespace that enables people to build out a whole storage environment,” said Golub. “We get about 5,000 downloads a month of the open-source version of the file system.

“There are about 1,000 developers we think of as active. Initially, they were using us in a whole bunch of large-scale environments. They were filing bugs. Now they’re fixing bugs. We’re seeing folks contribute code. What they tend to contribute are modules we haven’t built. One of our users wanted to be able to do charge-backs. We didn’t have a module that did that. They wrote it themselves.”

Golub pointed out that, typically, it takes a special kind of developer to work on a file system. Most file systems are kernel-based, and thus to be modified, they require a developer with intimate kernel knowledge, a somewhat rare breed.

But Gluster is a user-space file system, and as such it functions in the same way as any application. Developers do not need any special kernel knowledge to write Gluster modules, said Golub. He added that even the interns at Gluster are writing code for the file system.

Golub said that storage systems have lagged behind the rest of computing in the rush to open-source commoditization. While Dell and Linux are viable choices for almost any computing task, he said that storage systems are still highly proprietary and extremely expensive.

Golub said Gluster hopes to commoditize the NAS market with the help of its open-source developers. He said that the next step for the company is to improve the GUI for administration. He said that most storage systems are complex by design, but that Gluster is aiming to solve this problem with an easier-to-use administration console.