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Rackspace Cloud Block Storage: Making Progress Towards A Fall Release

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Rackspace Cloud Block Storage is part of our next generation Rackspace Cloud and is now in Preview testing. We have received a huge amount of interest and several questions on this offering so we want to give some additional details.

Two Flavors To Pick From

Rackspace Cloud Block Storage has been designed to serve two very distinct use cases:

1. customers who need to scale their attachable storage independently from their Cloud Servers
2. customers who need high performance storage for databases or I/O intensive applications

Because these use cases have different needs, Rackspace built two solutions that make up the Cloud Block Storage product. The basic performance tier gives customers that simply need more attachable storage a low cost solution based on commodity drives. The high performance tier will allow customers to take advantage of speedy solid-state drives.

How Rackspace Cloud Block Storage Works

The diagram below illustrates the Cloud Block Storage architecture:

For Cloud Block Storage, we started with the Nova Volume API of OpenStack as the core interface. We then created an internal storage system called Lunr as the storage system behind the Volume Manager API. This storage system builds on top of standard Linux technologies and commodity hardware. Lunr integrates with OpenStack Nova through a nova-volume driver. Cloud Block Storage API requests are made through the OpenStack Nova Volume API and passed on to the Lunr API.

Volumes are provisioned in Lunr and attached to the Cloud Servers Compute host via iSCSI. The host then exposes the volume to the guest as a virtual device. Backups of the volumes can be made as snapshots and are stored in Rackspace Cloud Files (Swift Storage). Our storage nodes can be populated with either high performance solid state drives (SSD) or standard hard drives.

Features & API Operations

Cloud Block Storage uses the following API operations to attach volumes to Cloud Servers powered by OpenStack and manage the volume attachments:

  • Create/Delete Volume
  • Attach/Detach Volume
  • Volume Snapshots
  • List Volume Snapshots
  • List Volumes
  • Create Volumes From Snapshot
  • Choose Volume Type
  • Choose Volume Size

Simple Pricing

We built a unique and simple pricing approach for Cloud Block Storage. Unlike other cloud providers, our simple pricing model is not based on input/output operations per second (IOPS), since the vast majority of businesses don’t know and often can’t control their IOPS. We will offer a flat rate per GB of storage. Final per GB prices are not set yet, but will be very competitive.

Currently In Preview (Beta) Testing

Rackspace Cloud Block Storage is now in Beta/Preview stage which means our Engineering and Product teams are gathering feedback, tweaking system performance, fixing any bugs and perfecting our Fanatical Support for the product.

We’ve had an overwhelming response to the CBS Preview so we are asking customers (which have been invited to the Preview) to complete a survey and we are using the survey responses to prioritize a good mix of use cases, performance testing, etc. We still have a number of customers in our queue to get access to Cloud Block Storage Preview and may invite more customers if needed.

We are very excited about this offering and we’re working hard to launch it into Unlimited/General Availability soon after the August launch of our open cloud based on OpenStack.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Jose Malacara.

Jose Malacara is a Product Manager on the Big Data team at Rackspace. Jose has 12 years of broad IT experience working in various engineering, sales and product roles. Jose holds a bachelor's degree in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from Concordia University Texas. Jose joined Rackspace in 2012, excited to be part of a world-class organization that shares his passion for building great technology products. When he isn't chasing his two little ones around the house, Jose enjoys restoring his 1969 Ford Bronco and is an avid woodworker.


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24 Comments

Cloud Block Storage is an excellent innovation, and we are developing new solutions that will make extensive use of it. Can not wait for it!

avatar Paulo Coghi on August 2, 2012 | Reply

Thanks Paulo! It is a very exciting time as we launch the Rackspace Open Cloud and continue to rollout new cloud products over the next few months. We have received some great feedback during Preview which will help us translate Rackspace Cloud Block Storage into a great customer experience when we go GA later this year.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on August 2, 2012

Sounds great . Will we be able to attach 1st generation VM’s to the block storage?

avatar James on August 3, 2012 | Reply

Great question James. Cloud Block Storage will only be available to Next gen Cloud Servers.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on August 3, 2012

Can’t wait for this – Will there be a migration path to move first gen servers to the openstack setup so we can take advantage of these new features?

avatar Aaron on August 3, 2012 | Reply

Aaron, we are currently working on migration tools from first generation to next generation cloud servers. Please keep an eye on the blog for updates.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on August 6, 2012

Will I be able to mount the cloud block storage device to a cloud server? For example the storage device would appear as a mounted volume such as /Folder/storage/ ?

avatar sood on August 6, 2012 | Reply

Sood, once you have created and subsequently attached to a cloud server, the new cloud block storage volume will show up as an available device (/dev/xvdd, for example). It would then need to be partitioned, formatted and mounted prior to use by that cloud server.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on August 7, 2012

Will the pieces necessary to redirect snapshots to the object store be made available as a submission back to OpenStack? BTW, how does one get an invite to the beta?

Thanks!

avatar Rob Esker on August 8, 2012 | Reply

Hi Rob. It really hasn’t been determined yet if/when that piece (Lunr) will be open sourced. Our hope is that we will be able to contribute either in parts or in whole Lunr back to the community.

To request access to the CBS Beta, please send a request to CBSPreview@rackspace.com.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on August 13, 2012

thanks for the insights. like this post

avatar Online cloud backup on August 9, 2012 | Reply

I have two questions

How many VMs will be able to connect to one Cloud Block Storage (I’m looking to have X amount of servers share the same block)?

Any idea when this might officially release? I heard it might be pretty soon.

avatar Duane Larson on September 17, 2012 | Reply

Hi Duane. Rackspace Cloud Block Storage is not a shared filesystem/shared file storage solution so you will not be able to attach multiple Cloud Servers to a single Cloud Block Storage volume. You could potentially do something like run an NFS server on the VM that has the block storage volume attached in order facilitate sharing. You can however attach multiple block storage volumes to a single Cloud Server.

We will be making a release announcement very soon.

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on September 19, 2012

For Duane and others that need the same storage volumes mounted to multiple VMs (either iSCSI or NFS), you can use Zadara Storage. It is available at Rackspace cloud.

avatar Nelson Nahum on September 20, 2012 | Reply

Zadara looks like a great service with a lot of features, but they’re pretty expensive if you don’t need all those features. We’re setting a system similar to the NFS server Jose suggested. I only looked at Zadara’s hourly rates, but unless I’m mistaken, a 600GB NFS server could be created for about the same cost of the smallest Zadara solution.

avatar Jon Goode on October 1, 2012

Thanks Jose and Nelson for the info.

avatar Duane Larson on October 11, 2012

Would you happen to have an ETA on when this is due to be released to the general public?

avatar Jason Hyatt on September 28, 2012 | Reply

We are in the final stages of prepping the system for general availability and will be launching Rackspace Cloud Block Storage very soon!

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on September 28, 2012

Would you be able to give any ETA when this will be available to the public?

avatar Jason Hyatt on September 28, 2012 | Reply

Jose, I’m trying to decide whether to scale one of my servers just to get more disk space or wait for this block storage to be available, so I’m echoing Jason’s request for an ETA. I’d even be happy with a vague one like, next week or next month?

Also, when this is available, where will we find the settings for it? By itself in the top row of the Mycloud portal like the backups, or some setting within the individual server settings like the monitors?

avatar Jon Goode on October 1, 2012 | Reply

I’ll switch to Rackspace the minute this is available.

avatar Dave on October 16, 2012 | Reply

Cloud Block Storage is available now:

http://www.rackspace.com/blog/cloud-block-storage/

avatar Andrew Hickey [Racker] on October 23, 2012 | Reply

Hi.. I would like to know how will we create and attach a new volume to a server. I am not being able to do so using the v2 API as I am always getting bad request while I am using https://ord.blockstorage.api.

avatar Jimmy on January 14, 2013 | Reply

There is a v2 Cinder API, but we currently only have v1 implemented for Cloud Block Storage. Please use https://ord.blockstorage.api.rackspacecloud.com/v1

CBS API Guide with instructions on creating and attaching volumes:
http://docs.rackspace.com/cbs/api/v1.0/cbs-devguide/content/volume.html

avatar Jose Malacara [Racker] on January 24, 2013

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