[Gluster-users] I'm new to Gluster, and have some questions

Daniel Mons daemons at kanuka.com.au
Fri Oct 22 00:03:09 UTC 2010

On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 6:09 PM, Rudi Ahlers <Rudi at softdux.com> wrote:
> 1. Which option is better? I already have a few CentOS 5.5. server
> setup. Would it be better to just install GlusterFS, or to install
> Gluster Storage Platform from scratch? How / where can I see a full
> comparison between the 2? Are there any performance / management
> benefits in choosing the one of the other?

Gluster Storage Platform is near zero effort to set up.  Literally
boot from the provided USB stick image, and follow your nose.  From
there, all setup is via a GUI, and it's easy to see what's going on
for novices.

The downside is for all of that GUI management stuff, you lose a lot
of low-level control (and IMHO understanding of what's going on).  So
the trade off there is whether you want a graphical management tool
where a lot of the "black magic" is hidden, or whether you want to
roll up your sleeves and control the system yourself.

As a long-time Linux sysadmin, I prefer the GlusterFS option on a
Linux distro of my choice.  Pretty GUIs are nice for Windows and
VMWare users who generally fear keyboards, but give me a CLI (and SSH
access!) any day.  Personal preference caveat emptor.

> 2. I need reliability and speed. From what I understand, I could setup
> 2 servers to work similar to software RAID1 (mirroring). Is it also
> correct to assume that I could use 4 servers in a RAID10 / 1+0 type
> setup? But then obviously serverA & serverB will be mirrored, and
> serverC & serverD together? What happens to the data? Does it get
> filled randomly between the 2 sets of servers, or does it get put onto
> serverA & B first, till it's full then move over to C & D?

There's no right and wrong here.  You can set up individual disks as
bricks if you like (multiple bricks per server), or you can LVM/JBOD
them up and present one big brick per node, or you can use RAID per
node.   Performance and reliability ratios of each really are up to
your own personal need.

Speaking for myself, I currently use RAID5 for nodes with 6 or fewer
disks, and RAID6 for 7 or more disks, presenting a single logical
storage brick per node regardless of how many physical disks are in
each.  My GlusterFS setups are replicate+stripe across the whole
cluster.  So there's multiple levels of redundancy (within the node,
and within the cluster) which lets me sleep easier at night.

As for how the data gets shuffled about inside GlusterFS, that depends
really on how you've set it up.  For distributed data, there are
various thresholds you can set to make sure that once a limit is hit,
data will be written to other servers by preference.  Obviously with
replicate and stripe that isn't so much of an option, as technically
data will roughly fill all nodes evenly.

A lot of the technical detail (including how Gluster chooses nodes) is
covered in the doco:

> 3. Has anyone noticed any considerable differences in using 1x 1GB NIC
> & 2x 1GB NIC's bonded together? Or should I rather use a Quad port NIC
> if / where possible?

Simply put, the more NICs the better.  If you start to get a lot of
clients hitting the storage, you really want a lot of bandwidth to
serve it.  Plus 2 NICs per box give you redundancy as well, which is
an added plus.

A quad port NIC per node could get costly once you add up switch ports
and the like.  Depending on your vendor of choice, the jump to 10GbE
may be worth it.

It's probably also worth remembering that you need to make sure your
disk can feed the network well enough.  With 8 commodity 1TB SATA
7200RPM disks and Linux software RAID6, I get about 500MB/s serial
reads on a single node (verified by both "dd" and "bonnie++").  That's
enough to saturate 2x 1GbE cards, but 10GbE would probably be a waste.
 If I had larger storage systems (SAS/FC 10K or 15K RPM drives, or
even SAN-backed storage), then 10GbE or even Infiniband would start to
come into consideration.

> 4. How do clients (i.e. users) connect if I want to give them normal
> FTP / SMB / NFS access? Or do I need to mount the exported Gluster to
> another Linux server first which runs these services already?

Yes, you need other services in front of GlusterFS.  These don't
necessarily need to be on separate machines - there's nothing stopping
you running Samba/NFS/whatever on one of the Gluster nodes with a
locally mounted GlusterFS and re-exporting from there.  Obviously that
means something else could potentially eat into the performance of
that node, which is something to consider on large sites.

Remember too that you can spread your services.  If you have 4
GlusterFS nodes, you could put Samba/NFS/whatever on all 4, and via
some scripting (or even network/DNS/VLAN) magic ensure that all of the
users/machines in your org are spread somewhat evenly across all four
nodes.  That also means that if a single Samba/NFS/whatever
server/service dies, only part of your network goes down, and affected
users/machines could be migrated to other systems quickly.  There are
still advantages to having GlusterFS-backed storage even with "legacy"
file sharing protocols in place over the top.

> 5. If there's 10 Gluster servers, for example, with a lot of data
> spread out across them. How do the clients connect, exactly? I.e. do
> they all connect to a central server which then just "fetches and
> delivers" the content to the clients, or do the client's connect
> directly to the specific server where their content is? i.e. is the
> network traffic split evenly across the servers, according to where
> the data is stored?

Some explanation here:

The client side of Gluster does a lot of work to decentralise the
system.  There's no "master node" per se, and the Global Name Space
allows the client to see all servers at once:

This is quite a bit different to clusters of old, but the advantage is
native Gluster clients will fetch data direct from the storage node
that has it (or if it's striped/replicated, then it will split across
them via various load balancing algorithms defined by you - these can
be "least busy", "round robin" and others).  There's no need for
native Gluster clients to fetch data through a single master node,
which alleviates bottlenecks.  Obviously this isn't the case for
people accessing data through Samba/NFS in front of Gluster, but as
before there are things you can do to spread that load and network
traffic as well.

The whole concept of Gluster is very clever, and makes a lot of sense.
 The huge advantage of all of it, of course, is that for every node
you add, you're also adding bandwidth to the overall cluster.  This is
the polar opposite of traditional centralised storage systems (SANs,
etc) where adding storage blocks reduces the average bandwidth per
client, making performance worse as you scale (don't say that to a SAN
vendor though, because they'll get very upset and red faced, as it's
the dirty little secret of the SAN business).

Particularly for sites that require consistent storage growth over
time (and lets face it - who doesn't?), Gluster a fantastic idea.
Let's just say that traditional SAN and NAS solutions are now at the
bottom of my shopping list when it comes to storage rollouts for
business technology infrastructure I'm in charge of designing.


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