142: GreyBeards talk scale-out, software defined storage with Bjorn Kolbeck, Co-Founder & CEO, Quobyte

Software defined storage is a pretty full segment of the market these days. So, it’s surprising when a new entrant comes along. We saw a story on Quobyte in Blocks and Files and thought it would be great to talk with Bjorn Kolbeck (LinkedIn), Co-Founder & CEO, Quobyte. Bjorn got his PhD in scale out storage and went to work at Google on anything but storage. While there, he was amazed by Goodle’s vast infrastructure being managed by only a few people and thought this could should be commercialized, so Quobyte was born. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Quobyte is a scale out file and object storage system with mirrored metadata and data which is 3-way mirrored or erasure coded (EC). Minimum cluster is 4 nodes (fault tolerant for a single node failure.). Quobyte has current customers with ~250 nodes and ~20K clients accessing a storage cluster.

Although they support NFSv3 and NFSv4 for file (and object) access, their solution is typically deployed using host client and storage services software accessing the files with Posix or objects via S3. Objects can also be accessed as file within the file system directories.

Host client software runs on Linux, Mac or Windows machines. Storage server software runs on Linux systems bare metal or under VMs in user space. Quobyte also support containerized storage server software for K8s but their bare metal/VM storage server software option doesn’t require containers.

Quobyte is also available in the GCP marketplace and can run in AWS, Azure and Oracle Cloud.

Their metadata service is a mirrored key-value store distributed across any number of (customer configured, I believe) storage nodes. Metadata resides on flash and distribution is designed to eliminate the metadata service as a performance bottleneck.

Their data services supports (any number of) storage tiers. Storage policies determine how tiering is used for files, directories, objects, etc. For example, with 3 tiers (NVMe Flash, SSD, and disk), file data could be first landed on NVMe Flash, but as it grows, it gets moved off to SSD, and as it grows, even more, it’s moved to disk. This could also be triggered using time since last access.

Bjorn said anything in file system metadata could be used to trigger data movement across tiers. Each tier could be defined with different data protection policies, like mirroring or EC 8+3.

Backend storage is split up into Volumes. They also support thinly provisioned volumes for file creation.

Unclear how tiering and thin provisioning applies to objects with much richer metadata options but as they can be mapped to files, we suppose that anything in the object file metadata could conceivably used to trigger tiering as a bare minimum.

As for security, 

  1. Quobyte supports end to end data encryption. This is done once and the customer owns the keys. They do support external key servers.  I believe this is another option that is enabled by file based policy management. It seems like different files can have different keys to encrypt them.
  2. Quobyte supports TLS. Depending on customer requirements data may go across open networks and this is where TLS could very well be used. And Quobyte supports user X.509 certificates for users, devices and systems authentication. 
  3. Quobyte supports file access controls. They support a subset of Windows capabilities but have full support for Linux and Mac access controls.

Quobyte also supports two forms of cluster to cluster replication. One is event driven where event occurrence (i.e. file close) signals data replication and another which is time driven (i.e., every 5 minutes) but both are asynchronous.

Quobyte was designed from the start to be completely API driven. But they do support CLI and a GUI for those customers that want them. 

They have a Free (forever) edition, a downloadable version of the software without 24/7 support and minus some enterprise capabilities (think encryption). This is gated at 150TB disk/30TB flash with limited number of clients and volumes.

The Infrastructure edition is their full featured solution with 7/24 enterprise support. It’s comes with a yearly service fee, priced by capacity with volume discounts.

Bjorn Kolbeck, Co-Founder & CEO, Quobyte

Bjorn Kolbeck, Co-Founder and CEO of Quobyte attended the Technical University of Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin.

His PhD thesis dealt with fault-tolerant replication, but he gained several years’ experience in distributed and storage systems while developing the distributed research file system XtreemFS at the Zuse Institute Berlin.

He then spent time at Google working as a Software Engineer before he and fellow Co-Founder Felix Hupfield decided to combine the innovative research from XtreemFS and the operations experience from Google to build a highly reliable and scalable enterprise-grade storage system now known as Quobyte.