OpenStack Swift Introduction

I heard about the OpenStack technology while working as an intern. My former supervisor, Kevin Stoll, introduced the interns and myself the OpenStack, with him being a huge fan of cloud architecture, automation, and other web service related technologies (He is also big on RESTful).

OpenStack technology has multiple open-source software, most of them which can be found in their own Github repository. Out of them, I will talk about Swift today.

What is OpenStack Swift?

OpenStack Swift (or just Swift, also known as StackSwift) is a powerful object storage system that is designed to store objects, such as media, documents, data, backups, projects, etc. Swift is a highly scalable software, exceptionally high that they claim it is able to “scale to thousands of machines providing hundreds of Petabytes of storage distributed in geographically distant regions.” (from https://swiftstack.com/openstack-swift/architecture) With a claim like this, it is seemingly guaranteed that Swift is able to scale horizontally with zero failures.

Swift utilizes the RESTful API (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface), which enables users to create, write (or overwrite), delete and read objects, as well as metadata, primarily for indexing and searching objects.

Now let’s talk about some of the characteristics that makes Swift attractive to big companies:

  • Swift is open-source software and freely available (https://github.com/openstack/swift)
  • Ideally runs on Linux OS and other x86 servers
  • Comparable to Amazon S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) in terms of scalability and eventual consistency
  • All objects have its own URL for access via browser
  • All objects are accessed and administered via RESTful HTTP API
  • Swift stores multiple copies of objects (to prevent loss should server crash)

How is/What makes Swift Strongly Consistent?

No one cannot stress enough how important it is for the object storage to maintain strong consistency. Swift is a prime example; it will want to prevent the loss of objects and/or data, and keep them from being corrupt as long as possible. Otherwise, it would defeat the purpose of Swift being an object storage software.

Swift protects its objects by keeping multiple copies of object throughout multiple nodes. This allows clients to access objects, should a node, or even multiple nodes fail. The way Swift is designed ensures all copies of stored objects to be most up-to-date. This way, should the node(s) fail, users will still have access to a good copy of objects. As the number and volume of objects grow, more distribution across multiple regions occur; this in turn allows Swift to maintain its already strong consistency.

What Are My Plans Regarding Swift

First things first: learn more about Swift, study the code, and probably make my own object storage server. As a developer, I would like to make some contributions, no matter how small it may be. Before working as an intern and being introduced to these concepts, I have always wanted to create my own home cloud server. Back then, I wanted to make my own tutorial videos and host them in my own server for other visitors to stream. It may be a small, but centralized start, I believe that Swift is an optimal solution for it. Being a developer, I am also planning to make contributions to this software and utilize it in my own home server later in the future. In addition to that, I will write more blog entries to talk more about Swift.

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