3 Open Source Storage Software Alternatives For Beginners

open source storage software

Build Your Own Storage Solution!

Reflecting on my trip to VMworld in 2009, I recall storage was already moving to the forefront of virtualization technologies.

Hmm…has much changed in 5 years considering VMware’s announcement at VMworld 2014 was about VSAN? But stop right there because I’m not going to talk about VSAN right now. There’s something much more important I want to share today!

Newbie Alert: This is especially important for beginners to know about!

Do you know there are 3 storage options that most vendors are not talking about?

No, these are not the traditional scale-up or scale-out storage solutions that host big booths at conferences. Nor are they the big brands that dominate Tech-blogs.

In fact these storage solutions are very low-key and their names are hardly known. And the most interesting tidbit I can say about these storage alternatives is they are free

Well, anyways the software is free.

What’s a FREE storage software include?

As I was reviewing the website of each of the 3 software options, I was surprised to find many of the key features big storage brands offer were also available, free.

Storage features such as:

  • encryption
  • snapshots
  • file sharing
  • de-duplication
  • and even an API

Actually, I found they all had a lot of interesting whistles and bells if you can handle breaking the traditional storage mold and thinking outside the box!

Here’s a thought for the IT manager reading this post. Maybe instead of donating all those old servers you should be turning some of them into storage heads and mounting them to white-box storage shelves?

Open Source Storage Software

Let’s not waste anymore words getting to why you are reading this post.

1. Ceph

Ceph has been making waves across the open source community because of its adoption by OpenStack as their De Facto Storage solution.  Source: OpenStack Summit 2013

Whether or not Ceph is the right storage software choice for you would depend on your environment. In my investigation it does seem like Ceph is very much tailored to the OpenStack platform and KVM virtualization. This combination does fit well if you are a Linux shop.

Ceph: OpenStack Summit 2013

2. FreeNAS

Next on the list is FreeNAS, which boasts on their website to be loved by: REUTERS, Disney and even Dr. Phil.

FreeNAS has a full feature set that is tailored for home and business usage. The free version of their storage software looks very user-friendly but is not certified for VMware or Citrix, but I’m guessing it will probably work okay for lab testing.

Although, I also want to note FreeNAS has a paid version, TrueNAS, which does claim to include VMware certification and Citrix validation.

open source storage software

FreeNAS Features

3. Openfiler

Finally, there is Openfiler which I have seen in action. First as a VMware Openfiler VM that was presenting an iSCSI target to MSSQL as backup storage. And second, as a dedicated ESXi storage system hosted on old Dell 2950 servers each loaded with 3TB of local storage.

Creating a Free iSCSI SAN with Openfiler


In my comparison, I did find Openfiler and FreeNAS had more in common with each other than with Ceph. Both seemed similar to the look and feel of NetApp Ontap with FreeNAS running FreeBSD and Openfiler running Linux with management through a web interface. Whereas, Ceph was all command-line for more advanced users.

Why should you care?

I know open source storage is not for everyone but big names are using innovative storage options to save money which is why beginners should at least know who’s in the game.

Let’s recap.

  • Ceph looks very sophisticated and seemed to be the most complex. From my review on their website, Ceph’s not for the newbie.
  • FreeNAS was straight forward and from the videos I viewed about the installation, it seemed easy to setup and configure.
  • Openfiler was similar to FreeNAS and had similar features as well as a simple to install wizard beginners can follow.

So there you have it – 3 FREE storage software alternatives for you to download today!

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